Shotspotter: A New Weapon To Combat Violent Crime

U.S. violent crime is near a modern day low but the events of the recent past raise disturbing questions.  How does law enforcement deal with random gun violence.  A seven-year-old company named Shotspotter Inc. (SSTI: 17) is using technology to help first responders.

Taking It To The Streets

Shotspotter claims to be the leader in being able to immediately detect the location of a gunshot and instantly relay this information to law enforcement officials.  The idea is that by cutting the response time to violent attacks lives can be saved and bad guys quickly stopped.

Shotspotter founders have created a SaaS-based subscription model that already has signed up customers in urban high crime areas of the United States as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and South Africa.

In addition the company has tailored Shotspotter for application to school and corporate campuses as well as public transportation centers.

According to their S-1 filing last June: When our sensors detect a potential gunfire incident, our software analyzes and validates the data and precisely locates where the incident occurred. An alert containing a location on a map and critical information about the incident is transmitted directly to law enforcement or security personnel through any computer and to iPhone® or Android mobile devices.

Shotspotter is not a startup.  They have been around since well before 2010 with close to $20 million in annual revenues on their books.  So far they have not turned a profit.  Proceeds from their $31 million public offering will help with working capital and other needs.

Veteran Management Should Help

Management is lead by CEO Ralph Clark who has been with the company since 2010 and a veteran of the security industry for many years.  The overall age of management is around 50 something.  In other words, they are not kids on skateboards dreaming up the latest super awesome App.

A Complex Problem Needs New Solutions

It hardly needs mentioning that the many outbreaks of gun violence create the need for new and more effective ways of dealing with this problem. A March 2016 report published by The American Journal of Medicine stated that the gun homicide rate in the United States is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries.  Recent random acts of mass violence merely add another layer.

According to a 2016 report by the FBI, the number of active-shooter events in the United States in 2014 and 2015 was among the highest for any two-year average period in the preceding 16 years.

Recent Financials Show Good Signs

Financial information shows the company revenues rising from $11.8 million in 2015 to $15.5 million in 2016.  For the nine months of last year revenues rose 57% to $17.2 million. Full year 2017 performance is due to come out on February 20th and something over $24 million is the target.

The benefits of the Shotspotter SaaS business model is generous gross profit margins and excellent cash flow it provides.  Gross margins are exploding at 49% for the nine month period of 2017 from just 36% a year earlier.  Even so there is considerable room for improvement.

Slow Adoption Process

A clue to the future may be the $16 million in deferred revenues on the company balance sheet as of September 30, 2017.  Presumably these relate to existing SaaS contracts that call for specific monthly payments over the course of the upcoming 12-month period.

Shotspotter is losing money as you might expect from any young technology company.  But this condition is the result of the heavy cost of sales and marketing of a service as unusual as gunshot location detection.  If revenue growth is a fair measure of the effectiveness of its marketing approach, things are on track for future profits.  In the meantime, like any other tech company, investors will most likely focus on top line performance.  

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.