The mural painted on the entrance to Soma Global’s new downtown Tampa office has special significance for the technology firm.
The purple elephant featured in the mural is Ganesha, a Hindu deity regarded as the “remover of obstacles.”
“We help first responders and law enforcement do their jobs better by removing obstacles with technology,” said Peter Quintas, founder and CEO.
Soma Global was founded in February 2017 by Quintas, a veteran of several software startups, and by Nick Stohlman, who is the company’s chief operating officer. Soma has a full suite of technology solutions that modernize public safety. The company coined the term “public safety as a service” to describe its cloud-based technology, which integrates all the reports involved in law enforcement work, from the first 911 call to a dispatcher, to arrest reports, to jail booking and release reports.
The technology runs on Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud and can be accessed from any browser or device.
“At its core, this fundamentally changes the abilities that not only the dispatcher, but law enforcement officers and first responders in the field have to respond to emergencies and calls. They have information at their fingertips, and the more you know about any situation you are getting into, the safer you likely are going to be,” Quintas said.
Soma Global developed the technology in a partnership with four large law enforcement agencies, including the University of Kentucky, the Richmond, Virginia police department and Richmond County sheriff’s office, and Virginia Commonwealth University campus police.
“We wanted to partner with them. They’re working off 15-year-old systems, so wiping the slate clean and saying if you didn’t have the burden of old systems, how would you change your processes and the way you work to leverage modern technologies?” Quintas said. “Most of the first year we worked with these agencies building out the platform. About eight months in we signed our first county in Virginia. Now, two-and-a-half years later, we have just over 30 agencies signed, which is a feat in itself because the typical sales cycle in this industry is 18 to 24 months.”
He expects to sign another 30 agencies by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
The company has been adding staff as well and is up to 10 people now, six of them working in the new Tampa office and four who work remotely.
“We’re going to probably going to add in the next two quarters about eight people, depending on how deals come in. Through the next year I think we’ll be at 25,” he said.
Quintas was working in private equity 15 years ago, when he initially got involved with public safety technology at InterAct Public Safety. He hasn’t taken any outside investment at Soma Global, however.
“We’re profitable. We’re not beholden to outside venture capital. From a financial standpoint we can withstand any recession or downturn. We thought that was important because you are getting into a business where you are deploying software that people depend on for their own lives and the lives of the community. I didn’t want the volatility of a startup. The best way to do that is to think longer-term and to build it as a sustainable business,” Quintas said.
The need for dependable technology also was a key worry for Quintas, at least initially.
“There was a period of two or three months where I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly checking my phone to make sure all of our systems were good because if our systems go down people could die. That was a heavy burden I’d never had before in my life from any technology I’d built before,” he said.
Quintas worked in Chicago and in New York previously. He came to Tampa initially because his wife is from the area, but now sees it as a great long-term play for startups.
He credited the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development, led by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Venture. Embarc Collective, a startup hub backed by Vinik, also will elevate the opportunities for young companies.
“I am excited for SOMA’s growth in our business community,” said Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective. “Companies like SOMA are important to the Tampa Bay startup community, and increase its visibility on the international stage and help to attract top talent to the area.”
After two years of being heads down in developing Soma Global’s technology, Quintas wants to get more actively involved in the local tech community. The company has been hosting meetups in its new office.
“For me personally, calling Tampa my home for good now, I want to make sure the ecosystem here can support what I want to do in the future, and the best way to do that is to contribute as much as I can,” he said.