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Ted Chen '83

Co-Founder of LifeSaver, an app that automatically detects driving and blocks cell phone use without additional hardware to combat distracted driving.
What inspired you to create your app?
Five years ago I decided to do my own thing and it resulted in starting this app in Silicon Valley. I am not an engineer but I like the tech culture and Silicon Valley has a unique nature to it which I have enjoyed.

We decided if we were going to do this we didn’t want a small niche issue where we had to convince people of the problem we were trying to solve.
My co-founder and I both have teenagers who were just about to start driving. Distracted driving has been officially named a “social epidemic”, and this was five years ago so the problem has only gotten worse since then. We could already see distracted driving as a problem before our own children even started driving so we wanted to solve this epidemic, not only for our own children but for everyone.

We started with a consumer solution to a major world issue, distracted driving, and we got a lot of traction and media attention right away; we have been covered by numerous news outlets and we are now the number 1 search result for distracted driving in the app store.

But what we found along the way is that there are unique aspects of this problem--people don’t like to pay for things and that people don’t want to be helped. So we realized that the solution to this problem is only as good as the person holding you accountable, if you don’t have accountability then it doesn’t work. The natural accountability relationship here is between the parent and child and more specifically the parent and teenager. This creates a very small window for opportunity, and looking from a pure business standpoint the accountability here will only last for a short amount of time.   

Soon after, service technician companies started calling us as well, we were getting about five calls a day. These companies assume a lot of liability for having their employees drive around all day in company vans while using company phones. One small accident causes insurance rates to skyrocket, let alone the potential for any major accident taking place. The accountability here, the employer and employee contract, though is where we were able to find a more sustainable market.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of creating and marketing the app?
I think the most challenging aspect of creating and marketing the app has been distribution, scale and awareness, and the dynamic of accountability that needs to exist naturally. We are in a perfect storm, this problem is not going away anytime soon and we are seeing the demand come to us which is unique.

We are seeing lots of partnerships mainly from insurance companies where they are buying the product, this makes distribution much more efficient for us. Since the dynamic of accountability needs to exist naturally we found that the enterprise market was better for us more so than the consumer market.

What piece of advice would you give to those trying to create and market their own app?
It is extremely difficult to monetize and it is hard to catch fire unless you get the right idea. We discovered that enterprise was the best channel for us, you just have to find the right fit for what you are trying to accomplish or the problem you are trying to solve.

What do you love most about being a part of the SSSAS community?
I don’t know many people who can say that they keep in touch with their friends from high school. I can say that. While it is not on a daily basis, I certainly touch base with my high school friends at least quarterly and I really don’t see that with many of my peers who attended other high schools. My time at St. Stephen’s was really special and I absolutely loved it. I am really looking forward to my 35th reunion this fall!

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