Every year, approximately 1.3 million people die as a result of road traffic crashes, according to the World Health Organization.
Barry Lunn envisions a future where technology can bring that number down to zero. His company, Provizio, built an augmented platform that uses sensors and artificial intelligence (A.I.) software to predict accidents and send preventative warnings to drivers so they can take corrective action.
The Limerick, Ireland based company, which has 21 employees, is already on the road for testing. Provizio wants the platform to be adaptable for all car models and affordable enough to be integrated into every new car that comes off the assembly line in the next decade.
Fortune recently spoke with Lunn about building a mission-driven company and how his past experience as a serial entrepreneur helped him launch Provizio.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: What inspired you to start Provizio?
Lunn: After I sold my last company (radar company Arralis) I was looking for what I could do next. It had to have a mission, it had to be a bit of me, and I’m convinced that there needs to be no more road deaths. Nobody needs to die on the roads. The reasons why we crash are the weather, the speed, we didn’t anticipate someone doing something.
I thought it would be a hell of a lot more interesting approach, rather than going from level zero to five autonomy, that you actually saw the reason we crash using sensors and software, and then use that as a path to autonomy.
What’s the driver’s experience like when they’re in a car with the Provizio platform?
I guess what’s a little bit unique about us is our approach is an augmented platform. We’re not looking to replace the driver. We’re looking to help you as a driver. We’re trying to gamify driving by adding sensors and software that are really good at the things we’re really bad at.
Humans are weaker in certain areas when driving, and we want to help remove that risk. As people, we can’t see long distances under treacherous weather conditions. We can’t judge speed from long distances. We can’t see in 360 degrees. What we’re doing is building sensors and software that give you that feedback as a driver, and allow you to see how you could improve.
You’re learning from the machine and intervening. We all get very comfortable with each other because humans, we’re not very good at handing over power to other people. The analogy I often make is like nervous fliers, right? It’s far safer to be on an aircraft than it is to be in a vehicle, but we’re all much more comfortable driving because we are in control. I think if we get this right, can you get to a place over the next couple of years where humans realize actually, in this condition, in this scenario, the machine is a better driver than me ethically and, and risk wise, it would be irresponsible for me to not listen.
You’ve founded several startups and sold your last one, radar company Arallis. What lessons from your past helped you build Provizio? Was there anything different this time?
Some things are much easier, especially if you’ve had a little bit of success. Stuff you thought was important becomes easier and then you realize it wasn’t important. As a parent, I now know that any hour spent working on my startup is time I’m not spending with my kids, so building in work-life balance is important.
Ultimately, the fundamentals are the same. Meaning and mission trump everything. That might sound corny, but it’s a reason for getting up and going after stuff every day, and it certainly trumps dollars. When we make decisions, we make it based on, “Is this adhering to our meaning and our mission rather than is this going to make us rich?” Human lives are at risk here, so I am way more circumspect. At Provizio, it’s “measure twice, cut once.” We have to be safety critical.
You raised a $6.2 million seed round last November. What was it like fundraising during lockdown?
This is where I have to add a disclaimer. Fundraising is an awful lot easier when people have made money off of you in the past, so that helped. We took meetings over Zoom and were pretty much done in two weeks. We started off with the smaller checks I knew would come in, moving on to the bigger checks that might need more diligence and paperwork. What I have learned from past experience is we wanted to have the right investors. There’s no need to pursue opportunities for the sake of a check when it clearly isn’t the right fit. We wanted to be intentional.
Where do you see Provizio in the future?
In the next five years, the goal is to get into series production on multiple OEM vehicles. Our motive is to really sell millions of units that are self safety critical devices that can be deployed across multiple models. In ten years, we want to be ubiquitous. We want it to be a ludicrous idea to put a vehicle on the road without our technology, the same way it would be wrong to manufacture a car without seat belts. The technology would be at a price point where if you can afford a car, you can afford our technology. In ten years’ time, I absolutely believe there will be zero excuse for road deaths.
This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.