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How a Philly gun detection startup raised millions in a tough environment: ‘Give a damn’

ZeroEyes, an AI-powered software company, recently closed a $53M Series B.

The ZeroEyes operations center (Courtesy)

Despite a difficult fundraising environment, a local AI-powered gun detection software company is proving some startups can still raise money.

Conshohocken-based ZeroEyes repeatedly raised large sums over the last four years, including an impressive $53 million in Series B funding, the company announced in June. It will put the money toward marketing and continuing to develop its technology, Sam Alaimo, cofounder and chief revenue officer, told Technical.ly.

“The ultimate goal at this point is to get on more cameras,” Alaimo said. “The more cameras are on, the more likely we can stop a mass shooting.”

It’s generally harder to raise venture capital now than it was 10 years ago, especially because of the end of the cheap money era. In Philly, the number of venture capital raised has decreased since 2021, but the first three months of this year still saw $819 million raised across 92 deals, according to Pitchbook’s Venture Monitor report.

At the same time, excitement around artificial intelligence is causing increased investment in AI companies. This trend is contributing to an overall increase in VC funding. That’s worked out well for ZeroEyes.

The company adds its software to security cameras. An AI image classification system analyzes the video camera stream and flags if any guns are present.

If a gun is identified, the tech alerts the ZeroEyes Operation Center where military and law enforcement experts determine if there’s a threat. If there is, the proper alerts and information are sent to the location.

A group of military veterans and former Navy SEALs founded ZeroEyes in 2018. The now 180-employee company has customers in 42 states in the education, government, commercial and transit industries. Sorenson Capital led the recent Series B and Intel Capital, BroadLight Capital and existing investors also contributed.

A strong mission behind the tech fueled investor interest

ZeroEyes has had a steady upward trajectory, with a $5 million seed round, a $21 million Series A and, most recently, $23 million last year.

“The mission of the company speaks for itself,” he said. “It is a really difficult time to do a fundraise right now, profoundly grateful that we’re able to do the one that we did at the size we did.”

ZeroEyes keeps in touch with past investors and grows relationships with new ones over a long time. It’s better to use that strategy instead of just connecting when you need money, Alaimo said.

Plus, the company has no problem finding investors, Alaimo said. He credits ZeroEyes’ mission, trying to solve the issue of gun violence, as the reason investors are so interested in contributing.

Alaimo’s advice for other companies trying to fundraise right now is to show their passion and “give a damn,” he said: Investors want to know that they’re supporting something meaningful with a team that will do anything to make it happen.

“When people can match up the ability to invest their capital into a fast-growing, rapid growth, high-impact company and have that company also have a noble mission,” Alaimo said. “It speaks for itself.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: ZeroEyes

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