Inside the spaceship-themed Seattle office of Axon.
Axon has acquired Vievu, its main competitor in the police body cam industry. The deal brings together top U.S. police body cam suppliers and ends a tumultuous relationship between rivals.
Vievu originally launched in Seattle and was acquired by Safariland in 2015. Axon, previously known as Taser, is buying Vievu and entering into a strategic partnership with Safariland, a provider of police and military safety equipment, as part of the deal.
Former Axon employee and Seattle Police Department veteran Steve Ward founded Vievu in 2007 and was later sued by Axon over trade secrets. Bloomberg reported that the two companies “sparred bitterly” in recent years as they battled for body cam contracts with police departments across the country. Vievu supplies body cam technology to departments in cities like New York City, Miami, Oakland, Phoenix, and Aurora, Colo.
Axon will have 43 of 54 U.S. police department body cam contracts after the acquisition, Bloomberg reported. Shares of Axon were up more than 8 percent on Friday. Some expressed concern with the acquisition and consolidation.
This is extremely troubling news. Less competition means Axon will lack incentives to ensure its cameras provide a clear and accurate account of events, and Axon is charging forward with plans to turn body cameras into powerful surveillance scannershttps://t.co/niiMzT0TCA
— 🤔Jake Laperruque😒 (@JakeLaperruque) May 4, 2018
Axon originally launched as a business unit of Taser International, but last year Taser rebranded the company under the Axon name to reflect its focus on body cameras and the supporting evidence management software.
“As we’ve been scaling our hardware to meet customer needs, we realized that many of the software features our customers have been requesting already exist on the Axon network,” Vievu General Manager Sean McCarthy said in a statement. “Because Axon has made a significant investment in software RD, this new partnership will give our customers access to these features sooner than it would take for us to build them.”
Axon is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., but employs 150 people at its Seattle office, which recently expanded by another 12,000 square feet. A majority of Vievu’s employees are based in Seattle and will join the Axon office.
“Today’s announcement is the beginning of a long-term partnership that strengthens both The Safariland Group and Axon and better positions both companies for future growth,” The Safariland Group CEO Warren Kanders said in a statement. “We are proud of VIEVU’s accomplishments and we are confident that our camera customers are in good hands with Axon.”
Axon will discuss details of the acquisition on its earnings call on May 8.
The company last month created an ethics board focused on artificial intelligence as questions arise around how face recognition and related technology is used in police body cams.
Axon acquired another Seattle startup, Familiar, in 2013.