Startup aimed at stopping active shooters wins Glendale’s Pitchfest

Khalil Jammal from CareWell gives his presentation to judges and attendees at Pitchfest, an annual "Shark Tank"-style competition held during Glendale Tech Week. This year, Albert Stepanyan from Scylla, a threat-detection startup, took home top honors.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

A startup aimed at preventing active shooters won over a panel of judges at Glendale Tech Week’s annual “Shark Tank”-style Pitchfest competition, taking home first prize of professional services worth more than $43,000.

Powered by artificial intelligence, Scylla’s product suite connects with existing security-camera systems to detect faces, guns and vehicles, and sends alerts if a threat is identified, company founder Albert Stepanyan said during his pitch on Thursday afternoon.

As it is, identification is often done by people watching security-camera footage after an incident has occurred, Stepanyan said.

That’s “rather reactive than proactive,” Stepanyan said. “The reality is the first line of defense is usually regular citizens.”

Stepanyan, who originally hails from Armenia and has been living in Germany, said he had no expectation of winning when he was flying over for the event.

“I never saw such a welcoming community,” Stepanyan said during an awards ceremony held at the Americana at Brand after Pitchfest.

Launched four years ago, Glendale Tech Week offers a spate of tech events, including panels, workshops and networking events. It was conceived by the city’s Economic Development Division to support and connect entrepreneurs in the industry.

It’s grown significantly over the years, now attracting upward of 5,000 people, said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian during the ceremony.

This year’s Pitchfest was a close call, with the top three startups coming within a few points of each other, said Ara Aslanian, a local entrepreneur and one of the competition’s judges.

Attendees, asked to choose their own favorite, selected a startup that aims to connect attorneys with other legal professionals to provide services, such as attending hearings they can’t make and handling paperwork.

“[Let me] explain a big secret about lawyers — lawyers are people, too,” AppearMe co-founder Hovanes Margarian said, adding that they get sick, have families and get double-booked.

Currently, lawyers manually seek people to fill in for them when “life happens,” which can take two to three hours and may not be successful, Margarian said. AppearMe can reduce that time to 60 seconds.

Stepanyan and Margarian competed against six other entrepreneurs, who pitched business ideas ranging from an app that allows fans to train with professional athletes to a stem-cell bank.

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