- Company: Guard Llama
- Product: Safety startup & personal safety app
- Asking Price: $100,000 for 5% equity
- Final Deal: $100,000 for 18% equity + $2 royalty per sale (until investment recouped)
- Shark Who Took the Bait: Barbara
Chicago company Guard Llama, founded by business partners Joseph Parisi and Nick Nevarez, is a safety startup that fills a very particular niche in the market: the need for private information to be relayed quickly and discreetly to emergency services. The Guard Llama device sends your exact GPS location, photo ID and medical information to the nearest Emergency Dispatch center, and the authorities are dispatched – all with just two clicks of a button.
The idea is slick, the cause is noble, and the use of a live llama as a stage prop doesn’t hurt. But with emergency services adopting new technology every day, is there really a need for this product?
Read on to find out if Parisi, Nevarez and their loyal llama made the cut.
Guard Llama: A Quick Recap
Nevarez and Parisi take center stage, standing casually in traditional business suits – while their extremely unconventional business partner, a Chilean Llama, stands at stage-right, wearing a blue security vest with a badge and a muzzle. Rather than comment on their four-legged friend, the pair dives straight into the details of their business. They’ve developed a state-of-the-art safety device that is fast, efficient, discreet – and that will revolutionize emergency services. The sharks immediately start jotting down notes.
The pair is from Chicago, IL, and their company is Guard Llama. They’re seeking $100,000 for a 5% stake in their business. With introductions out of the way, it’s time to address the llama in the room. “Consider the guard llama,” Parisi says. “Docile, non-threatening, unassuming…” A spotlight goes up on the llama and Lori is seen giggling into her hands. “But when a predator approaches, everything changes. Llamas are known for charging predators head-on with deadly force.”
Much to this reporter’s disappointment, Parisi and Nevarez are not proposing the idea of giving everyone in America their own personal llama bodyguard. Rather, they’ve developed a small, portable, wireless bluetooth remote that contacts Emergency Dispatch and sends out your personal details, whenever the button on the device is pushed twice.
Lori’s intrigued but, as usual, wants to handle the merchandise. Nevarez hands out samples to the sharks while Parisi fields questions from the sharks. How does it work, exactly? Parisi answers Mark’s question: The bluetooth remote sends a signal to your phone, which initiates an app. The app then sends your pre-filled and pre-stored emergency info – including your name, photo, age, physical details and any medical conditions – to the nearest emergency dispatch center. The signal triggers a phone call from Dispatch to your phone. (Effectively, it works exactly the same as a home security system – except it’s mobile.)
The app works, Parisi says, so long as it’s within a 150-foot radius of your phone.
The Guard Llama is nothing if not clever. When Kevin asks about a hypothetical robbery scenario – wherein the person who’s mugging you picks up the phone call and tries to stop emergency services from dispatching – Parisi explains how the app knows what to do: It asks for a Disarm PIN. You can then enter any four numbers, even the wrong ones. The app will confirm that the Disarm PIN was correct and emergency services have been called off – when, in fact, emergency services are still on the way. As an added bonus, the police now have a record of you confirming an incorrect PIN, which amounts to a distress call and further proof of your need for assistance.
The sharks take a moment to digest all this, and then Mark speaks up.
“I get that this is an easy sell,” Mark says. “I like everything about your company except for the product. The product’s horrible.”
The Guard Llama went live the previous September, Nevarez and Parisi say, and since then they’ve acquired a customer base of 2,000 users. They sell their Guard Llama service – including the bluetooth remote – for $10/month or $100/year. Kevin wants to know how they’re acquiring these customers. The duo elaborates. They have two customer-acquisition strategies, says Parisi: digital marketing, and in-person sales. Parisi reveals that they have a partnership with the National Association of Realtors.
Mark, however, remains unimpressed.
“You only have two thousand users. As soon as you have two hundred thousand users, or two million users, you’re going to have serious consequences. And the minute someone has serious consequences…too many things can go wrong.” Mark is the first to drop out.
Lori continues Mark’s line of logic, and expresses that although she thinks it’s a great idea and a great product, it’s “a liability nightmare.” She’s the second shark out.
As if sensing fear in the room, the llama begins defecating on the stage. “The llama just took a dump,” says Kevin, with a sadistic gleam in his eye. “Oh..and there’s some more. How do you think your pitch is going?”
The pair looks helplessly on while Kevin cuts into their valuation math. “5% is a nothing burger, so here’s the way I would structure this. I give you the $100,000. Every time you sell a subscription, you give me $5 back, until I’ve recouped $120,000. Then the royalty goes away. And, for the trouble, I take the 5% equity, because I’m Mr. Wonderful. I’m part of your company and I’m worth it. That’s an offer.” (We are forced to agree.)
Guest-shark Chris Sacca says the direct-sales model is a nightmare and hard to scale. He thinks the brand is soft, and is careful to add that they’ve built nothing proprietary except for a button.
Barbara seems to be the only one who sees the value of – and the need for – the product. Her younger brother was in a motorcycle accident, a truck hit him, and for two days they couldn’t find him. She was shocked, she says, that they couldn’t have a local cop tap into his GPS. Federal privacy law forbade it. After sharing her story, she shares an offer: $100,000 no interest loan for 20%, plus a $2 royalty on each subscription sale until her investment is fully recouped.
Kevin says his offer still stands, and the duo haggles a bit to get Barbara to come down.
Final Deal: $100,000 for 18% equity, plus a $2 royalty until investment is recouped.
Where Are They Now?
Guard Llama is still operational, netting partnerships with the National Association of Realtors, Impact Engine, Sabre, and others. The company’s momentum, however, is up in the air. Their website is live, but their Facebook lags behind (the most recent post is from 2018) and it’s been more than three years since they last posted to Twitter.
Complicating matters, it seems one of the founders of Llama Guard has run into trouble with police – and not because he called them.
In November 2019, Joseph Parisi was arrested on drug charges. Specifically, the cops intercepted his mail and served his house with a search warrant. All in all, Parisi was charged with controlled substance trafficking, manufacture/delivery of ecstasy, possession of a controlled substance, attempt to possess ecstasy, three counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia. (What’s llama for “Yikes”?)
It remains to be seen if Guard Llama will stand the test of time, or go extinct – along with countless other safety and security products that have burned out over the past few years, as new technology and innovations continue flooding the market.
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