Interview with StreetCred Co-Founder, Nick SelbyGregory Lewis 01.26.2017
Now and then, we like to shine a light on the amazing work of our clients. Today, we’re featuring StreetCred Software, a revolutionary tool to help police agencies find fugitives.
We sat down with Nick Selby, who founded StreetCred with David Henderson in 2012, to talk about the company’s origin, offerings, and what it was like working with IdeaRocket on its animated explainer video.
GL: How did StreetCred get started?
NS: Coming from the world of enterprise technology, cybersecurity, and intelligence, I knew I wanted to give something back as public service—I wanted to make a real impact.
In terms of tech, there was an abundance of tools out there to combat terror and to support federal intelligence agencies. I saw there was almost nothing out there for local police agencies. Worse, while the feds had a ton of resources available, local law enforcement was really struggling. They didn’t have the time, money, or training to tackle everything, and the tech community wasn’t helping—it just wasn’t as sexy as fighting terrorists.
Police agencies and cops are working with tech that was either still kicking from the ‘70s and ‘80s, or new tools that were repurposed for law enforcement from other industries like school transportation, medicine and banking. I was determined to build something for local police from the ground up. I believe in technology built to solve specific problems, so I started traveling the country, interviewing officers, seeing what their most pressing needs were. That’s how I met David.
GL: Your co-founder, David Henderson?
NS: Right. I was doing research for the company—which didn’t quite exist yet. I’m riding with him in the backseat of his unmarked car; his partner, a federal agent, is in the passenger seat. They’re on a federal task force looking for some really, really bad people who need to be in jail.
My laptop’s got a bunch of open source intelligence and public records up while they’re looking for a new lead. I found a new relative and a new address related to the fugitive, we drive over, and they make an arrest. David tells me I just saved them a week of work.
I stuck around for a while longer and kept helping. After a few days, David turns to me and says, “They say when opportunity knocks, you should open the door. If you’re not opportunity, I don’t know what is.” He told me about all his problems—the tedium and detritus that get in the way of doing their job. From that day on, we were partners.
GL: And you’re actually an officer yourself, aren’t you?
NS: I am now. I realized that the only way I could truly understand law enforcement’s needs was to become a police officer. I was sworn in in 2010 and began patrol work in Dallas Fort Worth.
GL: And what does StreetCred do that’s so different?
NS: There’s really nothing like it out there. Police have some analytical tools, which have their place, but that’s strategic—it’s not tactical. That can help you with the big picture, but there wasn’t really anything to help officers on the ground, in the streets, when they’re actually interacting with their communities.
Our goal is to take this enormous pile of data from all these different sources and not just compile it, but actually make it useful—we wanted to translate raw data into actionable information.
When an officer inputs a search for a license plate, he doesn’t want every single factoid ever recorded about the car. If he’s on patrol, he’s not looking for the vehicle’s gross weight—he wants to know if the car’s stolen, if there’s a warrant, and if the driver may be dangerous. StreetCred puts that information front and center; you shouldn’t gave to scroll down to line 278 to find out that you’re dealing with a stolen vehicle.
Officers aren’t interested in raw data. There’s too much meaningless clutter. Our partner Eric Olson has a great saying: “Ask an analyst what they do, they’ll say they find actionable patterns in data. Ask what they do all day, they’ll say they throw data away.”
No one working with a gun on his hip should have to worry about pivot tables and cross tabulations. Officers need useful information that can be translated into knowledge so they can do their job better. Knowledge can be acted on, shared, institutionalized, and brought into a culture—data can’t.
GL: What kind of reactions have you gotten from law enforcement agencies?
NS: It’s like turning off a refrigerator that made an incessant grating noise, but no one ever realized it until it was off. StreetCred replaces hours of manual processes—there’s never been an alternative to that, so folks just took it for granted.
My favorite feedback was from a Texas marshal who said, “I don’t know how I did this job before StreetCred. I don’t know how I would do it if you took it away.” It removes so many troublesome, distracting processes that officers can actual get focused on the case. One of our proudest achievements came when a detective was trying to crack a series of burglaries in the Dallas area. This guy is an excellent detective, but he was just stuck. When he started using StreetCred, it put it all into context, centralized everything, and revealed new critically important leads—he solved the case in a couple days. He had the data all along, but StreetCred allowed him to see the knowledge and the connections between people that were buried in his data.
GL: What was it like working with IdeaRocket?
NS: I was amazed, honestly. In a sense, they were doing the same thing we do: I gave Will this giant data dump about our services, and he came back with a clear, succinct expression of our strongest story.
Our product solves a highly complex problem, and the solution itself is very nuanced. Will was able to pick out the most salient points and say it better than we could ourselves. The process couldn’t have gone any better. At every stage, I was shocked at how well IdeaRocket was able to capture everything we did.
Recently, a potential investor approached us and asked us to send over an executive interview. I sent the explainer video we created. It was perfect: it’s specific enough to give a clear understanding, vague enough to protect our intellectual property, and complete enough to give investors confidence.
We deal with a trifurcated sales process—I wouldn’t wish it on anybody (laughs). We need to sell to police departments, then to the courts, then to city management. Our explainer video helps us quickly cover what we do, and that allows us to talk to more people, break into new markets, and really make a bigger impact.