Canadian Startup Awards 2013 Nominee ePACT is a Master of Disaster

ePACT has been nominated for a 2013 Canadian Startup Award in the Accelerator Graduate of the Year category. Let’s find out why.

What would you do if an earthquake/forest fire/alien invasion hit your town? You’d like to think you would Tom Cruise-it-up, dodging meteorite blasts in a Jeep while taking it off of sweet jumps (made from conveniently-angled metal debris). In reality, you’d probably just want to call your family and loved ones to coordinate their safety, and to tell anyone who’s worried that you’re okay.

Communicating during a crisis isn’t easy, as Ayumi discovered during the 2011 tsunami and resulting earthquake in Japan.  It wasn’t until 24 nerve-wracking hours had elapsed that Ayumi knew her two daughters were safe with her mother. Inspired by Ayumi’s ordeal, her friends developed ePACT, a social network designed to help people communicate and access important information in a crisis.

Individuals and organizations can use ePact to securely store emergency contact info and health records, in the hope that if a disaster hits, they can effectively communicate with their affected network. Does the world really need a specialized social network for disaster preparedness? What’s wrong with Twitter?

“Interestingly enough, over the last two years we saw events like Super Storm Sandy, the Boston Marathon attacks, the Sandy Hook school tragedy, and other crises where misinformation was rapidly disseminated via social media,” said Christine Sommers, CEO and cofounder of ePACT, which BDC Venture Capital invested in via its convertible notes program.  “We originally looked at building a Facebook App or leveraging existing networks/products, but found there were too many issues.” Sommers also cites privacy, connectivity, and social media noise as arguments for a separate network.

The ePACT team is dedicated to developing their solution on the Internet to provide a more reliable system than landline and cellular phones. “Cell and landline phone calls are generally the first to go down or be impacted in a large crisis,” said Sommers. “The Internet was built to withstand World War III.”

ePACT’s servers are currently distributed on the East and West ends of Canada. In 2014, the team plans to integrate with the new Twitter Alerts managed by FEMA, the Red Cross, and other validated organizations to improve communication during a crisis.

It would be a real crisis if you forgot to vote for your favourite company in the Accelerator Graduate of the Year category, and the five other categories on our 2013 Canadian Startup Awards voting page. (Actually, the “real crisis” was that terrible segue. Time to sign up for ePACT to break the news to my family.)