Where it's based: Concord, Mass.
When it was founded: 2009
Why it's Fierce: Illume's iZup application was born out of a near-tragedy. In 2006, Connecticut resident Darcy Ahl was driving with her teenage son, who had just received his driver's permit, when both of their cell phones rang at the same time. As Ahl's son reached for his, he began swerving across Interstate-95. Nothing happened, but Ahl, who was part of an executive search firm, contacted some Motorola engineers in Plantation, Fla., to try and develop a technology to combat such situations--which was the genesis of Illume.
Illume's iZup application aims to tackle distracted driving concerns raised by legislators and others by essentially forcing a change in behavior. The company's app runs in the background and watches the GPS chip on a phone (Illume has a relationship with location firm Skyhook to make sure the A-GPS tracking is accurate). If the phone is detected as traveling more than 5 miles per hour, the app locks the phone down and only allows access to three emergency numbers and one white-listed app, usually a navigation app. Only those with a password are able to unblock the app. Further, the app sends incoming calls to voicemail and holds text messages when the vehicle is in motion.
iZup is ideal for parents worried about their teenagers responding to a barrage of text messages while driving.
Currently, the application only available for download from AT&T Mobility's beta app store and on the company's website, though the firm hopes to expand distribution this year. Illume is in discussions with all of the major Tier 1 carriers as well as rural carriers about supporting the app. Illume is angel-backed right now, and counts former Sens. Tom Daschle and Bob Kerrey as advisors. For individuals, the app is $50 a year or $5 per month. For a family of five, it's $79.95 a year or $9 per month. The app is available on Android, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry platforms.
What's next: Illume is pushing to get the app on the iPhone 4.0 platform this year, and hopes to announce additional deals with carriers. In the second half of the year, the company plans to launch an updated version of the app that will include a personalized emergency notification service powered by Alert Notification. The notification service informs emergency room clinicians of the user's medical history and allows emergency responders to contact the user's loved ones in an emergency.
Article updated May 20 to reflect the platform support for iZup.