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Citizen, Which Plugs People into Nearby 911 Alerts, Raises $12M

The company is only a year old, but it's moving quickly.

Citizen, an app that gives people notifications about nearby crime from 911 systems, is about a year old. It rebranded and dramatically changed its app six months ago. It only runs in two cities, one of which is in the beta phase.

And this week, it raised $12.2 million in Series A funding — led by Sequoia Capital, one of Apple’s early investors, no less. A filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission listed 32 investors in on the round.

The app pulls data from 911 systems and then gives it to users in the area, and has so far launched in New York City and San Francisco. The company’s blog said it plans to expand to other parts of the Bay Area as well.

It’s a quick turnaround for a Series A round, and TechCrunch has reported that the company already had $3 million in seed funding from other big investors such as Founders Fund, associated with Peter Thiel, and Kapor Capital, associated with former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chief Executive Officer Ben Jealous.

But the company’s chief executive officer, Andrew Frame, is used to doing things quickly. Frame founded his first company at the age of 15 and went on to work for Cisco two years later. He founded another company, focused on voice over Internet protocol, a few years later.

When he started Citizen in 2016, it was called Vigilante and its core functionality was not sending people 911 information, but rather crowdsourcing the idea of 911 itself. Through the app, people were meant to report crimes they’d witnessed.

That setup, including the name, led Apple to pull the app from its app store. After that, it re-launched with the name Citizen in March 2017 and axed the crime-reporting feature. Users can, however, still message each other and record videos from their phones to livestream through the app.

According to a blog post from the company, Citizen has 120,000 active users in New York.

“The need has never been greater for technology that informs and protects the public,” the blog post reads. “We created Citizen to drive down crime and increase accountability. When everybody does their part, Citizen is a tool that could save your life.”

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.