Public Benefit for Public Safety
In June 2020 Peak Response incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). In deciding to become a PBC rather than a traditional S-corps or C-corps, we made a commitment to serving the public safety community and addressing the needs of first responders. In this post, we will explain the concept of a PBC and reflect on our decision to pledge our commitment to the public good.
What is a PBC
A Public Benefit Corporation is a for-profit corporate structure (similar to a C-corp or S-corp) available in 31 states that allows a company to commit to an impact-driven mission.
“PBCs must include in their charter one or more specific public benefits as their statement of purpose, as opposed to the typical boilerplate “any lawful purpose” usually contained in most for-profit charters. This embeds a PBC’s mission into its founding documents and provides for a North Star by which a company can navigate critical business decisions.” — Hutchinson PLLC
This mission established by a PBC does not just signal company values, it actually gives the company permission to consider the public benefit in decision making rather than prioritizing shareholder value above all else.
Some PBCs you may recognize include: Method Products, Patagonia, and Kickstarter. While Method and Patagonia have a more environmental focus in their public benefit mission, Kickstarter focuses on supporting artists and creativity. You can read the benefit statements for these companies using the links below.
Difference Between PBC and B Corp
You may have also heard of companies that are “certified B-Corps”. The B-Corps certification is an independent seal of approval that any for-profit company can work to attain through a nonprofit called B Lab. A certified B Corp must pass the B Labs Impact Assessment and is required to uphold social and environmental performance both in their product category and through their business model and operations. The three well-known PBCs listed above also happen to be certified B Corps, but B Labs also certifies other kinds of corporations as long as they pass the assessment. While a PBC is a legal corporate structure, being a B Corp is more of a stamp of approval.
To be clear, Peak Response is not yet a certified B Corp, this is usually a certification that companies pursue after several years of operations. It is something we may consider further down the line.
Why We Chose to Become PBC
In order to understand the Peak Response company values, it’s important to know that Francis (Co-Founder & CTO) and I met while volunteering as members of the Code for San Francisco brigade, a volunteer group of technologists, designers, data scientists, and activists dedicated to building technology to solve civic and social problems. Working together on projects as part of this group allowed us to see how our working styles meshed, and also highlighted our mutual interest in impact-oriented technology. Our personal shared values drove our decision to join forces on Peak Response and our decision to make Peak Response a PBC from the get-go.
If you read our recent blog about the decision to build open source software, you’ll notice similarities in the thought process that led us to form a PBC. We strive to have all our decisions (whether design, technical, or business) guided by our mission to improve the common good. Whether we’re helping speed up care for critically injured patients, alleviating first responder burnout, or providing data required to study and improve protocols, we are focused on first responders and their ability to care for patients. By forming a PBC, we are ensuring our ability to maintain this focus while still being a for-profit company.
Our Public Safety Mission
Our mission is to improve public safety using modern technology and centered design. We have three mission-driven pillars that inform our business and our product: accessible, user-centered, and collaborative.
When we first began diving into the public safety sector in early 2020, the first thing we noticed was how siloed, complicated, and inaccessible many technology tools are. Most use enterprise software models that are expensive. Agencies just miles away from each other are often using entirely different systems making interoperability impossible. We’re hoping to create a business model that makes our software affordable across agencies to bring the power of interoperable technology to public safety.
After observing the siloing of the public safety technology industry, we also noticed the complexity of many public safety products that seemed to be designed without the fast-paced emergency environment in mind. We are determined to develop both user-centered products and user-centered business models. To do this we are iteratively developing our product through user-testing and conversations with public safety experts. And we are prioritizing users in our plans to roll out the software with a scaled SaaS business model.
The public safety industry is behind the curve of technology adoption and too many tools sanction themselves off with proprietary technology. We aim to go through a collaborative process with the goal of developing a product that can work collaboratively with other tools, protocols, and processes. For example, our software works with any existing triage tags by scanning barcodes or QR codes. We acknowledge that we will need to work alongside these existing solutions to augment capabilities rather than replacing existing solutions altogether.
When we began building Peak Response, it was important for us to make a strong statement about our values from the very outset. We did not want to start a company focused on the public good and look back years later to find that we had lost sight of those values and built a less impactful business and product.