Founder Friday: Patrick O’Connor, 3AM Innovations

When you think of career paths that are truly selfless in nature, a firefighter is probably one of the first ones that come to mind. No day in the life of a firefighter is typical, and you have to be willing to risk your own life to save another.

But there’s much more we can be doing to keep them safe. Patrick O’Connor’s experience first-hand as a volunteer firefighter made him realize the opportunity to better protect those who serve. This led him to start 3AM Innovations, a startup developing wearable technology (called FLARE) that allows you to track a firefighter’s location in a burning building. They recently secured a patent on their technology and plan to launch FLARE next year.

Learn how Patrick O’Connor and the team at 3AM Innovations are “protecting those who protect us” in today’s Founder Friday!

How did your startup, well, start up?

As a volunteer firefighter, I experienced serious issues with the process fire departments use to track their members on the scene of a fire. So I set out to disrupt the process with modern technology. I recruited the right technologists, and together we developed FLARE: Firefighter Location and Rescue Equipment. This patented, IPS-fueled safety solution is made for firefighters by firefighters.

What do you do? Your startup?

I am the Founder and CEO here at 3AM Innovations. In the last 6 months, I’ve been focused on finding critical hires to grow the business. My main role is to find investors and cultivate our sales funnel. 3AM’s technology, FLARE, creates an onsite mesh network with wearable electronics built for each active firefighter. These wearables track and record each firefighter’s position (in or outside a burning structure). Real-time location and ambient temperature data transmit from these wearables to our tablet-optimized software application, giving a greater situational view to incident command. After the event, using our database, fire halls will be able to recreate the scene to review, critique, and develop advanced training.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

After many nights spent researching different technologies, I came across a relatively new system that could be applied to the problem of firefighter tracking inside burning buildings. My domain knowledge of the fire service and current industry procedures helped me to understand that the technology I found, paired with some other elements, is the best match for the problem I set out to solve.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

At the beginning of 2018, we were granted our first U.S. patent. This is a huge milestone and helps differentiate our technology from any competitors.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

Next year, the main goal is to launch FLARE. While we do that, we will continue to scale the Buffalo-based team, add to our IP portfolio, and innovate on the product’s feature set. In the next three years, we will focus on U.S. market penetration, development of product peripherals, and further scaling of the team.

Why Buffalo?

I was born and raised here. I was a firefighter on Grand Island. I’ve started lines of business in Buffalo. I started my family here. There’s no better community to be in, hands down. I’m committed to keeping the 3AM headquarters in Buffalo because the technology community has proven to be strong, supportive, and committed to growth.

How do you do it? What drives you?

My time as a volunteer firefighter opened my eyes to the everyday bravery of my neighbors. I took my passion for technology and problem-solving, and was able to attack a real problem in the fire service. My drive is absolutely to serve the members of the first responder community with a solution that will prevent injuries and save lives.

I love what I do and my team is amazing. I truly look forward to coming in to work every day because I’m energized by what we can accomplish together.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Best advice: think long-term, and recruit board members and advisers who are aligned with your vision.