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How startup CrashDetech is using tech to reduce emergency response times

Founder, Jaco Gerrits on why the popular expression "If you build it, they will come" is just a startup myth and other lessons learnt


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For many of us, road accident fatalities statistics only catch our attention during the holidays and the festive season. For Johannesburg-based Jaco Gerrits (35), this is an everyday obsession.  

He will be quick to tell you that South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in which to drive with an average of 47 road accident fatalities per day.

He will also tell you that time is the critical factor in case of emergencies and delays in receiving medical attention often turns out to be fatal.

This is the reason Gerrits launched CrashDetech, a smartphone app that works to reduce emergency response times in the event of an accident.

The app, which launched last year, is able to automatically detect a serious car crash and pinpoint the location. In the event of someone needing medical attention, the app will dispatch an ambulance and provide paramedics with lifesaving information. CrashDetech also provides a number of road safety, security and legal benefits. 

We speak to Gerrits about remaining ahead of the competition and dangerous startup myths. 

Jaco Gerrits, founder of
CrashDetech. 

On gaining traction and expansion

Our distribution channels are key to acquiring new customers. We've established numerous sales channels, for example, brokers, digital/media partners, call centres etc. with a strong commission-based incentive model to help drive sales. 

We'd like to scale up operations in South Africa and also expand the service to other territories. We're exploring new features which will encourage safer driving, save our customers money and further reduce the emergency response time, although I can't disclose too much information at this stage.  

On CrashDetech's differentiator

How we differentiate ourselves from our competitors is CrashDetech is entirely smartphone based, no additional hardware has to be installed in your car.

We are not limited to detecting and responding to a serious car crash. We also provide a number of unique benefits looking after the emergency medical, security and legal needs of our members whilst on the road.

  • On starting a tech-based business

I've always found technology fascinating, it's an exciting industry which offers amazing opportunities. It's also extremely fast-paced and requires continuous innovation in order to remain ahead of the competition. 

  • On overcoming challenges

Starting a business requires hard work and you can expect numerous challenges along your way. There are external challenges such as funding, talent acquisition and technology. More importantly, there are internal challenges such as stress, fear and self-doubt.

You have to power through serious mental hurdles in order to start a business and make it a success. You're guaranteed to experience setbacks and failures along the start-up journey. Adopting a positive mindset in order to learn from and constructively deal with these setbacks is a key ingredient for success. 

  • On startup myths

If you build it, they will come – turns out it doesn't work that way. This is one of the early, and also hardest lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur. It usually takes various iterations of your original concept to start gaining traction. Nowadays I implement a lean start-up methodology, validating assumptions against my prospective market before pushing ahead with new ideas. 

  • On building a culture of entrepreneurship in SA

We need to do more in order to promote and encourage entrepreneurship as it's one of the most important drivers of economic growth. We require greater collaboration between the public and private sector, investors and higher education institutions to seize the opportunities our ecosystem presents.

  • On lessons learnt

Believe in yourself. Your limitations are determined by your perception of what you are capable of.

The importance of a mentor. Having the guidance and support from someone who has been through the same would have helped a lot in the early days.

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