Scott Crouch

Year of Graduation: 
Scott Crouch

​“I wanted to do something to let the police know that someone had their backs.”

As a junior at Harvard in 2012, Scott Crouch ’09 took a course that focused on how the Massachusetts State Police were combating gang violence in the western part of the state. What he saw in the stations distressed him almost as much as the violence taking place in the streets. “Officers were working with antiquated software, Windows 95 and the like, and using databases from the early ’90s,” Crouch recalls. “They were struggling to obtain relevant information in a timely manner and spending an excessive amount of time on paperwork, taking two to three hours to complete reports that should have taken no more than 45 minutes, tops.” So the electrical engineering major and two classmates set themselves a precise, yet incredibly complicated task: reinvent the way law enforcement interacts with data.

“I come from a family of first responders, members of the NYPD and FDNY, particularly on my mother’s side,” Crouch explains, “so I’m both deeply grateful for all the good work that law enforcement does and keenly aware of the challenges they face. There are approximately 14,000 homicides and 80,000 rapes in the country every year, Crouch notes, but law enforcement is impeded in its efforts to fight these crimes by outdated software and computer systems and poor information sharing. “It’s completely unacceptable,” he says. Crouch also believes the public has in many ways marginalized the police by allowing a small number of bad cops to define the majority. “I wanted to do something to let the police know that someone had their backs.”

Crouch and his classmates wasted little time in pursuing their goal. The trio founded Mark43 in 2012 and started working at the company full time the following year, with the goal of building their flagship product, Cobalt, an innovative, cloud-based app that streamlines tasks, research and paperwork for law enforcement officials, making delivery of real-time information in the field a reality. “Our goal in creating Cobalt was to help everyone, from the officer on the street to the detective investigating a homicide,” Crouch says. “Every piece of data gathered by law enforcement goes through the system — the software platform is all-encompassing.”

It’s taken two years of hard work to build a viable product, Crouch notes, because developers have to be extremely careful with every bit of data and report they transcribe. “If one piece of data is missing or incorrect, it can blow a case,” he says. The project has been challenging, but Crouch says he and his team have succeeded because of the talent behind the company: “We’ve got an incredible group of nearly 40 employees from top-notch institutions including MIT, Harvard, Brown, Columbia and the U.S. Army and Air Force.”

The business and law enforcement communities are taking note. Mark43 has attracted an august list of investors, including Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA Director George Tenet, actress Sophia Bush, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, Spark Capital, General Catalyst Partners and Lowercase Capital, and Crouch has garnered considerable personal attention as well. Goldman Sachs recognized him as among its 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2015 and Forbes named Crouch and his co-founders to its 2015 30 Under 30 list in the Enterprise Tech division, recognizing the three as among those entrepreneurs who are “battling giants to create the billion-dollar startups of tomorrow.” Mark43 also recently announced a partnership with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, establishing Cobalt as the primary software platform for all of D.C. — serving over 10,000 users in more than 44 law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction in the District — and making the rollout one of the largest deployments of law enforcement software in the country.

Crouch is aware that he and his partners are bringing Cobalt to market at a time when law enforcement is front and center for a number of reasons, from policing controversies in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland to the mass shootings occurring with alarming frequency across the country, as well as the ongoing fight against terrorism. And he couldn’t be more excited about the software platform’s abilities to make a difference. The software combines records management — from incident, offense and arrest reports to information on recovered property and evidence — with analytical tools. Having easy access to an array of relevant data allows officers to make quick and intelligent decisions while on the job. “It may influence whether to call for backup, retain the individual for questioning, and the like,” explains Crouch.

In addition to making real-time police work more effective, Crouch believes his solution reduces the amount of time departments spend on training and record-keeping, and he and his partners have worked hard to reduce upfront costs so that purchasing Cobalt doesn’t put an undue financial burden on police departments. By reducing the number of hours spent entering and retrieving data, Crouch notes, “Departments literally stand to save hundreds of thousands of man-hours per year.”

Crouch is excited about Cobalt’s possibilities and feels confident the product will continue to evolve as a game-changing tool for law enforcement, making it easier “for officers to do their jobs with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.” That’s a prospect he finds satisfying both personally and professionally.

By Lori Ferguson