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Carrie Gour is co-founder and CEO of PwrSwitch.
What is PwrSwitch and what does it do?
Gour: PwrSwitch is an application designed especially (though not exclusively) for anyone managing the aftermath of a high-conflict relationship, or anyone dealing with cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking.
It effortlessly creates the foundation of evidence you need to file court orders, file charges or otherwise negotiate with an opposing party.
The app does two things: it automates the ongoing collection of email, text and phone logs between you and another person, saving everything in a secure, time and date stamped, word-searchable document on the cloud; and it can pull together and consolidate the entire communications history between you and another person into a single, searchable document – years worth, even.
Why did you establish this company?
Gour: The simplest answer? To help solve my own problems.
Both my co-founder Beth Thompson and I have had very challenging divorce/separations, marked in part by a high volume of mobile communications from our respective exes. We’re ‘domain experts’ in this area, with deep empathy and understanding for people in the midst of a high-conflict separation. For people in this situation, lawyers, police, parenting co-ordinators and mediators all say you must document every communication between the two of you, either as a point of reference for them to understand what’s happening, or as evidence to take to court.
The problem is this: Imagine receiving up to 50 texts/calls/emails per day – every day, for months or even years. In a prototypical high-conflict divorce, this is not uncommon. At work, at the park, with your kids shopping, bath time – a constant drip from your phone of messages that aren’t always the most pleasant. Digital PTSD is a thing.
Between single-parenting, working and managing the rest of life, managing that many screen-shots, phone calls and emails every day is a part-time job in itself – never mind the psychological toll all of that takes. People simply can’t and don’t keep up, leaving themselves vulnerable.
By collecting and consolidating all the communications on their behalf, PwrSwitch provides security and peace of mind. A complete record means people can negotiate a fair settlement, apply for court orders or file charges if required.
Then there’s the lawyer’s or therapist’s point of view: hundreds of screen-shots and email forwards are a nightmare. Collection is typically sporadic and totally subjective; most screenshots aren’t time and date stamped, so time-sequencing is a problem and worst of all, none of it is easily searchable.
PwrSwitch solves all these problems by providing mobile evidence that’s not only comprehensive and objective but also lets counsel quickly highlight, search and redact from a single place. Better evidence is better for everyone.
How has business been since you started it?
Gour: We incorporated in January 2018 and only released the MVP Android version of PwrSwitch in May of this year. We have paying customers (hurray for early adopters!) but we’re brand spanking new and really still finding our audience.
We recently received an investment from a family law firm that specializes in high-conflict divorce. They, along with a few parent co-ordinators, have committed to writing PwrSwitch into their client agreements and court orders, which we expect will go a long way towards uptake. The caveat is that we need iOS in place first, so there’s definitely some urgency around getting that piece built ASAP.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in starting the business?
Gour: The biggest challenges have been learning an entirely new industry and raising capital. Beth and I have both held management positions in other industries and both run solo-businesses for most of our lives, but the tech startup world is something else again. The learning curve has been steep and save for the technical build, which we contracted, it’s also mostly been just the two of us, doing it all while trying to figure it out.
The PwrSwitch to-do list is relentless and there’s a unique sense of urgency in tech to move faster than you can.
On the capital front, building technology is expensive and we’re new to the game, which can be a tough combo. We’ve received federal and provincial support, which in combination with friends and family helped us build the Android version of PwrSwitch. iOS is up next. We’re currently raising on a convertible note, and in this oil and gas town accustomed to straight equity, that can also be a challenge.
Then there’s the ‘woman-thing.’ We often hear how exceptional it is to be a two-female founded company. I’m not convinced being women has negatively impacted us on the capital side, but when you consider more than a third of all tech companies in North America have at least one female founder, yet female-led ventures receive an average two per cent of all venture capital funding, it gives you pause. This, even when the data shows that venture-backed, women-led companies bring 12 per cent higher revenue and have a 35 per cent higher ROI than similar, male-led companies.
That all said, massive disruption is afoot with a growing number of women-led venture capital firms and more female angel investors than ever before, even right here in Calgary. I actually think it’s an exciting time to be a female entrepreneur generally and tech entrepreneur especially.
What’s your vision for the company in the future?
Gour: Near markets include workplace harassment (we’ve already been approached by forensics investigators in this space) and cyber-bullying amongst teens where there’s a massive need for a tool like PwrSwitch. We’ll automate the capture of additional channels – SnapChat, WhatsApp and Instagram – before appealing to teens directly and by extension to schools and school boards, but it’s on our roadmap.
Because the problems we’re solving aren’t geographically specific, scaling globally is also near term. Already today we can support users across North America.
Ultimately our goal is to be wildly, financially successful, while helping those being harassed, stalked or abused – or those simply overwhelmed with documenting a high volume of communications – reclaim peace of mind, a sense of security and a measure of control. Making money while making the world a better, safer place: how does it get better than that?
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