A climate where individuals feel increasingly uncertain about their own safety has led to private security guards outnumbering U.S. police officers. The private security industry is estimated to grow by 33 percent in just the next two years, as the demographic shift towards urban environments stretches police departments’ resources — 2016 saw cities with populations over 25,000 averaging less than two public safety officers for every 1,000 residents.
That’s where Chris Rich, CEO and founder of Hawque, wants to step in. Following a home break-in that made him and his family feel vulnerable, Rich began to look into getting private security for peace of mind. However, he found it exorbitantly expensive and tedious.
That’s because the market is largely monopolized by third-party service providers. These companies employ the guards, contract with businesses and individuals and take the lion’s share of the profits, leaving most of these trained professionals with an average expected income of $9-$11 per hour.
Inspired by the on-demand economy, as well as the recent spate of startups that use technology to cut out middleman companies, Rich set out to develop a model that would do the same for private security. After talking to many in the industry, he began to conceive of Hawque, a platform that matches security professionals with clients on an on-demand basis.
First, he built his team. Hawque’s ranks grew with the additions of Jamine Moton, the founder of a private security firm and a former police sergeant, and Dave Tompkins, a C-suite technology executive and former U.S. Army Captain. They also put together a board of advisors from across the technology sector, armed forces, police force and CIA.
Rich and his team built a platform with both a mobile and web version that works on iOS and Android. The Hawque customer dashboard allows users to plug in a location, date and time to request one of three options: a security guard, off-duty police officer or executive protection provider. Your guard can arrive armed or unarmed, and even in your preferred dress code — standard security attire, business casual, tactical gear, or a black suit for business meetings or events.
Users can schedule a job in the future or request same-day service, for which there is a four-hour minimum. Once you input all the details, the platform shows you providers in your area that match your needs.
Pricing is based on the provider you select, timing, duration of the job and a few additional factors. But it’s upfront and without hidden fees, unlike many of those third-party contracting agencies. By cutting out the middleman and taking only a quarter of the total, Rich says they also pay providers significantly more; he estimates two-three times as much.
On the provider side, the platform allows them to report any incidents that occur while on a job to protect them should anything happen while they’re onsite.
Rich also has put extra measures in place to ensure safety by instituting a rigorous vetting process. While they initially considered different outside options for approving security professionals, they ultimately decided to bring the approval process in-house to guarantee quality. They partnered with a background check provider and require every provider, including current police officers, to complete a full background check, including a psychological and personality assessment.
“We needed to make sure we only had the best of the best on our platform,” says Rich. All providers have to be registered through the state with appropriate licenses and training, and providers will be kicked off the platform if they drop below a 3.5 out of 5 rating.
A few months ago, the Hawque team did a test to see how many providers would be interested in their service. Rich says he expected to get a few hundred applications.
In three days, they received 1,200 interested applicants.
Over 100 of those providers have now been approved. On June 20th, they will be available for customers to book in select Atlanta neighborhoods (Buckhead and Sandy Springs) as Hawque launches in its first market.
“We want to talk to the HOAs, to the neighborhood management,” says Rich. “Apartment and property owners also should want us on site.” Rich explains that a neighborhood or apartment could split the cost amongst residents or add it in as an optional amenity.
Though they’ve put a good portion of their time towards developing for the direct-to-consumer audience, Rich expects their services will be in high demand for businesses as well. For these larger organizations, Hawque will offer a comprehensive dashboard that allows management to see all the security professionals at their locations and manage their payment and reporting.
Rich and his team have fully bootstrapped the startup this far and are waiting to see where their first launch leaves them in terms of revenue. He anticipates they might have to raise a seed round to the tune of about $3-5 million later this year to scale to new cities, a number of which they already have planned.