Business

Hiawatha Bray

At Everbridge, tracking bad news is good business

Everbridge monitors outbreaks of disaster and conflicts around the world, from tornados to terrorists, and warns corporate executives, government agencies and other clients.
Globe staff photo illustration
Everbridge monitors outbreaks of disaster and conflicts around the world, from tornados to terrorists, and warns corporate executives, government agencies and other clients.

It doesn’t print a newspaper or run a TV network, yet a Burlington company called Everbridge Inc. has quietly become one of the world’s leading bearers of bad news: Everbridge monitors disasters and conflicts around the world, from tornadoes to terrorists, as well as more mundane nuisances like airport closings and political protests. Then it sends warning texts, e-mail, or automated calls to corporate executives, government agencies, and other clients to steer clear of the hot zone.

The company counts some 3,800 customers, half of which are corporations that need instant notification of critical events, including most of the nation’s largest banks, carmakers, and health care companies. The triggering incident could range from a natural disaster such as a smoky forest fire to a hacking attack on corporate networks. Everbridge’s warnings typically trigger a response plan by the client, such as rerouting executives away from an urban center paralyzed by a street demonstration.

“Everbridge is definitely one of the market leaders, if not the primary leader,” particularly for large corporate accounts, said Stephanie Balaouras, an analyst who tracks the emergency notification market for Forrester Research in Cambridge.

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Hundreds of US municipalities, from small towns to Boston to the largest cities, also rely on Everbridge to provide residents with emergency alerts. “Every day, we’ll get a notification from a city or a parent or a family in Oklahoma that says ‘You saved us,’ ” said Everbridge’s chief executive, Jaime Ellertson.

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At the global operations center in Burlington, one wall is covered with large video monitors that project streams of news about potential hot spots: flight delays in Charlotte, N.C., for instance, or a double shooting in Chicago, or an immigration protest in Washington.

With each report, a map displayed the locations of Everbridge customers who might be affected. For instance, a package delivery company in the nation’s capital could be alerted to the location of the protest, giving it plenty of time to reroute its trucks.

The service also tracks historical data. Ellertson cited an Everbridge client that installs satellite TV dishes in Chicago. It usually assigns one worker per truck, but in areas where Everbridge has tracked high crime rates, it sends two.

Everbridge has partnerships with 7,500 US law enforcement agencies that provide constant updates, as well as with about 100 information sources from around the world, including the National Weather Service, the US Geological Survey, and newswire services. And Everbridge keeps a wary eye on Twitter for messages about the company’s clients.

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“If #mycompany is trending for all the wrong reasons,” said chief technology officer Imad Mouline, “typically they may have a problem.”

Because Everbridge has customers around the world, its operations center in Washington, D.C., is staffed with monitors who are fluent in about 10 languages. “We’ve got everything from Chinese to Arabic to French to Farsi,” Mouline said.

Everbridge was founded about 15 years ago by Los Angeles entrepreneurs who were dismayed by the poor performance of emergency communication systems during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The company built a reputation for its mass-notification systems, capable of pinging out weather warnings and missing-persons alerts to entire cities at the touch of a button.

But when Ellertson, a veteran of Boston-area tech companies like Gomez and CloudFloor, was recruited as a potential Everbridge investor, he had his doubts.

“Is messaging a big enough market to build a billion-dollar company in Boston?” he had asked. “And the honest answer we gave to ourselves is no, it’s not.”

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In 2011, Ellertson agreed to lead Everbridge as well as invest in it. He shifted the headquarters to Burlington and refocused the company on providing critical information to businesses — a market he believes could grow to $40 billion worldwide.

Companies allow Everbridge to plug into their personnel management software in order to track traveling employees. One example Everbridge pointed to is Rackspace, a Texas Internet hosting company that had employees traveling in the United Kingdom when a terrorist attack hit London last year. Rackspace activated its Everbridge system and transmitted warnings to those employees, and within eight minutes all were accounted for.

Another Everbridge service is designed for traveling workers in dangerous places: a smartphone app an employee uses to check in at regular intervals. If he doesn’t, the phone signals that the worker might be in danger. It also transmits the phone’s location and video and audio from the scene.

For now, Everbridge is sacrificing profitability in its quest for growth. Revenue increased by 36 percent in 2017, to $104 million. But the net loss increased by 75 percent. Meanwhile Everbridge has made several acquisitions of companies in Sweden, Norway, and Michigan to fill out its product portfolio.

Investors aren’t complaining. The stock had quadrupled since going public nearly two years ago, closing Friday at $49.42, with a market cap of $1.4 billion. Either they’re confident about Everbridge’s future, or convinced there’s plenty of trouble ahead in the world. Or both.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.