Lisa Falzone of Athena Security: “Many positive outcomes can come from disrupting an industry”

Many positive outcomes can come from disrupting an industry. But within the security industry, privacy is always a concern, so especially when it comes to surveillance and facial recognition, you don’t want to be so disruptive that you’re invading people’s right to privacy. Athena Security is dedicated to providing effective security while also maintaining customers’ […]

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Many positive outcomes can come from disrupting an industry. But within the security industry, privacy is always a concern, so especially when it comes to surveillance and facial recognition, you don’t want to be so disruptive that you’re invading people’s right to privacy. Athena Security is dedicated to providing effective security while also maintaining customers’ privacy. We do not store any personal data or use facial recognition of any kinds because the privacy concerns are too real, and we are not looking to create a privacy-violating system. Facial recognition isn’t on our roadmap, or a field we are trying to engage in.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Falzone.

Lisa Falzone is the co-founder and CEO of Athena Security and a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record of disrupting out-of-touch industries. In less than a decade, she built and scaled the first iPad-based cash register, Revel Systems, to over 800 global employees and tens of thousands of installations spanning five continents. During this time she brought on flagship customers like Royal Dutch Shell, Qantas Airlines, Cinnabon, and Estee Lauder, and led partnerships with Intuit, IBM, and Apple. Lisa has raised $200 million dollars from top tier venture capitalists and private equity firms, and has received numerous government grants based on my track record of high-growth leadership.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I decided to come out of tech co-founder retirement in 2018 based on the mass shootings chronically plaguing schools and events; the Vegas shooting was especially disconcerting to me. Together with my co-founder Chris Ciabarra, we co-founded Athena Security, an object detection security camera system capable of sending real-time alerts the moment a gun is spotted. The idea for Athena Security was inspired by wanting to create a safer world for my daughter and wanting parents everywhere to feel safer when sending their kids to school. Then, when COVID-19 really accelerated in March of 2020, Chris and I took our company and turned those cameras toward the pandemic, outfitting them with thermal cameras to accurately spot elevated temperatures and to pre-screen for COVID as people enter buildings of all kinds.

Now, our systems are being used to help keep not just schools safe, but airports, government buildings, offices, grocery stores, and even places of worship like the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where our system was installed through the Keep Mosques Safe initiative.

Some more of Athena Security’s clients include Ronald McDonald House New York, Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center, Montgomery County Jail and Courthouse, Dover Corporation, Bank of Montreal, UNC Health, Darigold, and Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At Athena Security, we are bringing innovation through technology to an industry that hadn’t really been touched or changed. The security industry is a hard industry to break into, it’s a very old industry and a lot of the key players are resistant to new ideas. You have to be prepared to face resistance and the most valued trait you can bring to this industry is innovation.

Athena Security’s temperature detection utilizes an HSRP and is extremely accurate, within .2 degrees Celsius for temperature detection. Athena also offers a combo product to target both gun violence and the COVID pandemic. On the gun detection side, Athena Security’s A.I. thermal camera software is able to spot concealed weapons and instantly alert authorities. On the people tracking side, Athena Security has added sensors that can be placed in every room to accurately track how many people are in the building or in individual rooms to avoid COVID overcrowding issues while maintaining privacy.

Our People Counting Device can identify how many people are in a room, on a floor, or in a building to help any business maintain social distancing and prevent overcrowding. Leveraging 3D LiDAR technology, Athena Security’s People Counting Device is 99% accurate and comes calibrated right out of the box. There are no cameras on the sensor itself making everyone 100% anonymous to the system.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started my first company, Revel Systems, I had $110k in seed money so I thought I could either afford to hire one more experienced person or three super junior people. I ended up hiring three junior people and it ended up being a huge mistake. The lesson I learned from that is experience pays off in the long run.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I don’t really have personal mentors other than my friends and family who I seek advice from. These people help me not to give up and give me the confidence to achieve my goals, which I sometimes lack on my own.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Many positive outcomes can come from disrupting an industry. But within the security industry, privacy is always a concern, so especially when it comes to surveillance and facial recognition, you don’t want to be so disruptive that you’re invading people’s right to privacy. Athena Security is dedicated to providing effective security while also maintaining customers’ privacy. We do not store any personal data or use facial recognition of any kinds because the privacy concerns are too real, and we are not looking to create a privacy-violating system. Facial recognition isn’t on our roadmap, or a field we are trying to engage in.

While Athena Security’s technology provides a never before ability to mitigate threats with computer vision, it’s also important to be socially responsible with such new technology that could be linked to racial, ethnic, and religious profiling. Athena has proactively taken the necessary steps to eliminate profiling of any sort by masking and blurring out all subject faces in the system before the technology analyzes any and all video for potential threats. While this happens instantaneously, the end result is that no Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is tracked or distributed by Athena Security or its customers.

It’s important to innovate in this industry, but you also have to be aware of the social impacts of your innovation and make sure that being socially responsible and ethical is your priority over being “disruptive.”

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I think the three best words of advice are just “don’t give up.”

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

The pandemic has permanently changed many industries and especially within the security industry, people are going to have to adapt quickly. With the new strands of COVID that are mutating quickly, this is going to be our new normal and the security industry will have to adjust. We’re already seeing significant growth in the sector and expect an even wider variety of industries to adopt thermal imaging detection systems like ours in the near future.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

In general, the security industry is a hard industry for anyone to break into. It’s a very old industry and a lot of the key players are resistant to new ideas and you have to be prepared to face resistance. On top of that, women in the industry also face a lot of preconceived biases that our male counterparts don’t.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

One book that has had a deep impact on my thinking and the way I run my business is “The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win,” by Steve Blank.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Gun violence in the United States and around the world is what inspired us to start Athena Security, so I would hope to inspire more people to work towards innovative solutions to gun violence within the security industry or other industries as well. We started Athena Security because we didn’t see enough being done on the legislative level to combat gun violence. I wanted to make a difference so that kids and parents across the country could feel safe walking into school, business, or even churches.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is one that my husband said to me and that’s, “You only fail if you quit.”

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us on Twitter @AthenaSecure or visit our website.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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