Life safety device business set to expand

  • Igniting success: Dwain Smith, right, and business partner Mandela Caesar, of ICSS (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Igniting success: Dwain Smith, right, and business partner Mandela Caesar, of ICSS (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Seven years after its launch, Dwain Smith’s entrepreneurial venture has taken on new life.

He and new business partner, Mandela Caesar, operate ICSS (Investing in Care, Safety and Security), which markets a “life safety device” that puts clients the push of a button away from help from emergency services such as police, fire, ambulance or EMS.

They are among 17 participants in Ignite Bermuda, the first privately-funded entrepreneurial accelerator to set up on-island, which wrapped up its first six-month cohort on Friday.

In partnership with UK-based Entrepreneurial Spark, the programme provides coaching and mentoring, a formalised curriculum, workspace to share and collaborate with peers, and access to a network of investors.

Mr Smith launched ICSS in 2012, marketing a “medical alert” button — but has pivoted to offer a new, more comprehensive device that is not restricted solely to medical alert situations. He has also instituted a revised pricing model of $90 per month.

Within 30 seconds of pushing the life safety device’s button, Mr Smith said, an operator will respond, identifying the client by name, and asking what the issue is.

“The client’s response dictates which service is dispatched,” Mr Smith said.

Pushing the button also simultaneously sends text messages to three family members or friends of the client, providing GPS co-ordinates for the client’s location. If necessary, Mr Smith said, the operator will call those individuals to advise them of the situation.

As the device transmits messages via Digicel’s wireless network, Mr Smith said it provides coverage “wherever you can get a cell phone signal”.

While the original medical alert business had some success — it grew to having 380 clients — Mr Smith said he found it challenging to grow the operation while working full-time at Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.

During his tenure at Ignite, Mr Smith was introduced to Mr Caesar, who has a bachelor’s degree in applied business from Toronto’s George Brown College and experience working in the wealth management and pension sectors.

Exploring possibilities, the two men discovered that each had been very close to their grandparents.

“The care and security of loved ones was a value we both shared,” Mr Caesar said. “It was a good fit, and we found that our skill sets complement each other.”

Now, chief executive officer Mr Smith handles the technical aspects and customer service for ICSS, while chief operating officer Mr Caesar takes care of administration, financials and the business’ strategic direction.

With Mr Caesar working full-time on the venture since the beginning of August, and a new business model and pricing structure in place, the business has begun to take off.

Mr Caesar said: “We have streamlined the business, we have begun to maximise revenues, and we have cut costs by 30 per cent. We have grown, and we have a lot in the pipeline.”

In future, Mr Smith said, the plan is to expand into other jurisdictions having similar legal structures to Bermuda.

Mr Caesar said the business is open to overtures from investors, but inward investment is not absolutely required.

“We are a cashflow positive business,” he said, “but we don’t want to close any doors.”

Mr Smith and Mr Caesar agreed that participation in the Ignite programme has been hugely beneficial.

Mr Caesar said: “There is a lot of positive energy, a collaborative atmosphere that makes you feel nothing is insurmountable. Running a small business at times can be overwhelming, but the collaborative atmosphere helps us to maintain focus, and the ‘pitch practice’ we do here helps you hone your craft.”

He added: “The resources are invaluable to us because of the collaboration and the access to mentors, which is definitely something that most entrepreneurs don’t have access to. Ignite has been a major stepping stone to our success.”

Mr Smith said: “Ignite is geared towards aspiring entrepreneurs — I was looking for this kind of structure to assist me to scale the business.”

He added: “I don’t want it to end. It has been incredible.”

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Published Nov 18, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 18, 2019 at 10:57 am)

Life safety device business set to expand

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