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Seedfunders’ portfolio company gets national spotlight ahead of CES

Margie Manning



Mike Lally, CEO, AVidea Group

On the heels of a $350,000 investment from Seedfunders, AVidea Group Inc. has a new CEO and is preparing to roll out its gunfire detection technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

The new CEO, Mike Lally, is a veteran of the sensor industry and a good fit for AVidea, whose flagship product, dubbed “Safe Zone Gunfire Detector,” uses sensors to analyze active shooter situations and automatically alert authorities.

The technology is getting lots of attention because of the high volume of mass shootings in the past year or two, said David Chitester, CEO of Seedfunders, a St. Petersburg-based early stage investment company. AVidea has been featured in at least four industry publications highlighting the company’s upcoming appearance at  CES, the annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association. CES is among the most high-profile venues for new product launches, and is expected to attract about 180,000 people from 155 countries this year.

The company also has a new marketing plug; it can say its products are “made in the United States.” AVidea originally planned to manufacture products in Vietnam but found a plant in Melbourne, where the company is headquartered, Chitester said. While domestic manufacturing means the cost per unit is higher, it also means that the company can do quality control on site, saving time, and providing a branding advantage, he said. AVidea raised the cost of the product to $149 to cover the added manufacturing cost.

Safe Zone gunfire detector

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a small triangular unit that mounts in a ceiling corner and provides gunfire detection for an area of up 9,000-square-feet, AVNetwork reported.

AVidea Safe Zone Gunfire Detection system

The system can determine the location of shots fired, the number of shots, and the type and caliber of gun involved. It uses WiFi and cloud-based machine learning technologies and sends the information to local law enforcement and on-site administrators in less than 10 seconds, the report said.

AVidea expects to deliver its first products in January. It has at least $6 million in pre-orders and that number is expected to skyrocket after CES, Chitester said.

Seedfunders had planned to make its $350,000 investment in AVidea in two tranches, but fully funded the company based on high investor interest, including a significant investment from an acquaintance of Lally, the new CEO.

Chitester initially was reluctant to invest in AVidea because no one in Seedfunders had experience with the technology. But he changed his mind after meeting Lally, a second-generation entrepreneur whose father and uncle founded PCB Piezotronics, a Depew, New York-based firm that designs and manufactures sensors. After graduating from Cornell University in 1986, Mike Lally joined the University of Cincinnati Structural Dynamics research laboratory and later founded The Modal Shop, part of the PCB Group.

Lally, who now lives in the Tampa Bay area, has both technical and operational expertise, according to a profile on AVidea’s website.

Lally did his own due diligence on AVidea, before buying out the original investor and becoming CEO, Chitester said.

That freed Mike Anderson, co-founder, president and chief operating officer, to return to sales, which he wanted to do, Chitester said.

Irv Cohen, a Seedfunders partner who now chairs the AVidea board of directors, is overseeing financials for the company.

Note: St. Pete Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton is a partner in Seedfunders.



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