As sectors continue to digitize, the intelligent gathering space is also not left out in this race, however, it comes as US-based software startup JusticeText recently announced the closing of a $2.2 million seed round, which saw participation from Bloomberg Beta, Reid Hoffman, True Ventures, John Legend and Michael Tubbs.
Founded in 2019 by ‘Leslie Jones-Dove and ‘Devshi Mehrotra’, the subject startup stores, catalogs, analyses, and, in turn, share video evidence with the aim to increase transparency around criminal matters such as police interactions and improve overall judicial outcomes for low-income criminal defendants. The company’s product is geared toward public defenders for use in trials, a source familiar with the matter has confirmed.
“As a technologist, I couldn’t necessarily affect policy or legislation, especially as a young person. But when it comes to helping improve the efficiency of the work that public defenders do, that was very much within my wheelhouse”, Mehrotra said.
JusticeText co-founders Mehrotra and Jones-Dove met each other seven years ago at the University of Chicago, and both studied computer science and were passionate about campus police reform. Three months into their first year, the video of LaQuan McDonald’s murder went viral. Coincidently at the time, it was the latest clip to show a young Black man dying at the hands of the police.
The duo had grown up watching Trayvon Martin’s death sensationalized on cable TV. In the same vein, days prior to their first semester of college, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, burned as a result of the murder of Michael Brown. Based on statistics, since 2015, over 1,500 Black men have been killed precisely by the police, according to The Washington Post.
Mehrotra noted: “I spent a lot of undergrad reflecting on the role of technology in our criminal justice system and how much of the technology that’s being built is disproportionately designed to make it easier to arrest and incarcerate”. Adding that, “We wanted to do something to help our community”.
Startup JusticeText’s product automatically transcribes criminal evidence data and makes it searchable by keywords, drugs, weapons, and crimes, so attorneys can easily create videos to use in court hearings or trials. In the meantime, the company works with 50 public defender offices and has amassed about 60 clients who are private criminal defense attorneys.
In view of this development, the co-founders had started the fundraising journey in February, with Mehrotra citing that it actually took about five months to complete. When asked, she called the experience “rigorous”, noting that they depended on other founders and angel investors they met at accelerators to facilitate introductions to big-name investors. However, the company will use the new funds to continue building its advanced natural language processing and expand its sales, communication, and marketing teams.
According to ‘Roy Bahat’, the head of Bloomberg Beta: “It’s rare to see founders who are both doing something so valuable to the world, like unjamming our legal system, and already getting customers to pay them for that value”. Citing that “winning companies need to do right for the world and do well. Devshi and Leslie are doing both”.
Equally, Legend, a singer and angel investor, reportedly echoed similar sentiments.
“The American criminal justice system disproportionately harms communities of color, and we need to empower our public defenders with cutting-edge tools to prevent and mitigate that damage,” Legend said. “I’m excited to see how the JusticeText platform contributes to a world where everyone gets the representation they deserve”.
One of the co-founders Mehrotra made clear that the reception to JusticeText has been positive so far. Public defenders, in particular, have taken interest in the product, especially given the worsening judicial backlog amid the pandemic. Citing that attorneys have reached out to note that JusticeText eases the execution of their cases while expanding their bandwidth to take on more.
- What’s your view on startup JusticeText mission?