Local tech firm raises $750,000 for app

TapShield founder Jordan Johnson is yet another example of a Gainesville Bounce-Back, leaving Gainesville upon gradating from UF for work, but then later returning to further his career as an entrepreneur. Innovation Hub, located in Innovation Square, serves as the perfect setting for young startups to expand their ideas. 

From The Gainesville Sun - By Jeff Schweers

A company using University of Florida technology to develop an emergency and security app for smartphones has raised $750,000 in private donations and public grants to help accelerate its global business operations.

TapShield was founded by former UF student body president Jordan Johnson, who went to work for General Electric after graduating three years ago but returned in 2012 to begin his career as an entrepreneur.

TapShield is a spin-off of Totuit, Johnson's first company. Originally based in the Innovation Hub, Totuit developed mobile apps for the transportation industry, and from that experience Johnson said he saw a need in higher education for campus security.

"That went into the idea behind TapShield and we put Totuit on the shelf," he said.

TapShield recently received $300,000 in public dollars from the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research and the rest from private donations, said Necole Pynn, communications manager for the company. The money will be used to hire additional sales and marketing support to help newly hired head of technology Ben Boyd, who formerly worked for Discovery Communications in New York.

Using technology based on research by UF computer professor Xiaolin "Andy" Li, the company is developing an incident response platform for smartphones that links to the communications systems of universities and corporations. The inbound alert system uses a real-time GPS locator to speed up response time by helping law enforcement locate people calling for help more quickly, Pynn said.

TapShield's Yank feature allows the user to issue an alert without touching his or her phone screen, simply by pulling headphones from the smartphone, Pynn said.

Campus police say the greatest value this system provides is the ability for them to have instant two-way communication with anyone on campus, no matter where that person is, she said.

Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, said the institute was glad to support TapShield.

"By integrating this technology into its product offering, TapShield will be uniquely poised to better serve both higher education and enterprise customers seeking to improve public safety in complex, multi-story building locations," Grooms said in a news release.

The institute was founded by the Legislature in 2007 to work with public universities and private research institutions to help get technological discoveries to market.

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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