ePACT is the new standard in connecting and protecting communities. As your emergency network, ePACT connects your family, organization and entire community through any crisis, allowing you to share information and communicate anytime, anywhere.
The HIGHLINE portfolio company was co-founded by Kirsten Koppang Telford and Christine Sommers who were inspired to create an emergency solution when their friend was separated from her two daughters — and without any way to communicate — during Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. For 24 hours, she didn’t know if her children were safe. Fortunately, they were, but the situation shook Kirsten and Christine enough to research emergency management solutions in North America.
“We were surprised to find that the power of technology had not yet been fully harnessed to prepare for the unexpected,” the co-founders explain on their website. “So as technology entrepreneurs, businesspeople and parents, we knew we had a chance to make a difference — to fundamentally change how people across the globe prepare for emergencies. We developed ePACT as the ‘LinkedIn for emergencies’ to navigate unexpected events, increase safety and provide the best possible outcome in any crisis, large or small.”
About Christine Sommers, CEO & Co-Founder at ePACT Network
As the Co-Founder and CEO of ePACT, Christine brings over 15 years of experience in web program management and team leadership for brands such as TELUS, HSBC, Mercedes Benz, Best Buy, and the BC Government 2010 Olympics Secretariat (implementing marketing and web programs for 2008 Beijing Summer and 2010 Olympic Games).
Christine also ran her own web consulting firm, providing strategic direction and program management services to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and the 2010 Transportation Partners, Rogers, and Shaw Communications. Christine holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from the University of Victoria, which she insists she relies on every day!
We recently caught up with Christine to discuss her biggest challenges with ePACT to date, advice for other entrepreneurs, and the importance of taking care of yourself mentally and physically.
Q&A with Christine Sommers
What’s the most important lesson you learned as part of GrowLab (now HIGHLINE)?
Fail fast. As a startup, you will make mistakes. Surprisingly and upsettingly, it is typically the same mistakes the vast majority of startups make — despite reading articles, books and hearing warnings from others telling you to avoid those mistakes! But you learn a lot when you misstep – actually often a lot more than when you succeed – so it’s important to try something, figure out quickly it doesn’t work, then adjust accordingly based on those learnings.
GrowLab pushed us to move so hard and so fast, and in that, we learned a lot because we made mistakes, then pivoted and modified our approach.
When did you realize that ePACT had legs?
We were asked to support the Challenge Triathlon in 2013 pretty much as soon as we opened up from closed beta. It was a very short timeline to get 1,200 athletes onto our system in advance of the race, so we ended up going to the event and signing up outstanding athletes in the registration tent.
Our staff then volunteered to help in the Med Tent the day of the race, so we got to see our system in action as it helped improve the care the doctors, nurses, and paramedics could give injured or ill athletes.
When we saw staff switching out their gloves and equipment in advance of caring for someone because of a latex allergy, or prepping medication because of a known medical condition – all before the athlete had even been brought into the Med Tent – we knew ePACT was the missing solution needed in a crisis.
What has been your biggest challenge with ePact?
Focus. We can literally support infants in daycares right through to seniors in care homes, with over 16 markets that have validated needing ePACT. We are approached pretty much every month by new opportunities for our system.
The issue is we know we will probably support a lot of these potential markets in future, but turning down potential business now so we can focus on key markets with the fastest opportunity for growth is often very tough.
What advice can you give other entrepreneurs?
Focus. It’s so hard to walk away from potential opportunities, but we were told early on – and did not hear – the advice that you should own one market and just kill it before expanding to others. It sounds simpler than it is, but it really is critical.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Take care of yourself. I’ve ended up in the hospital from pushing myself too hard with no sleep, excessive work stress, not exercising, or ensuring I took time for myself. I ended up getting Norwalk – TWICE – because I had no immune system and my body completely gave up on me. I will admit I still slide into letting work take over sometimes, but quickly remind myself (or my co-founder does) how critical it is that you are OK mentally and physically, otherwise everything else – including your business – will be impacted. That is a guarantee.
Follow Christine on Twitter: @cgsommers