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A Black-owned startup in Prince George’s County aims to prevent active shooters

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A Black-owned startup in Prince George’s County aims to prevent active shooters

May 27, 2024 | 7:16 am ET
By Capital News Service
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A Black-owned startup in Prince George’s County aims to prevent active shooters
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Vennard Wright, co-founder of PerVista and Wave Welcome, speaking at an event in 2023 shortly after PerVista started. Photo courtesy of Janelle Wright/Wave Welcome

By James Matheson

A yellow bus filled with middle schoolers heading home slowed to a stop at the corner of Sutler Drive and Iverson Street in Prince George’s County. It was just before 5 p.m. on a spring Monday in May 2023.

Three young people hidden behind black face-coverings burst onto the bus, past the driver and the bus aide.

The masked juveniles held a handgun to the chest of the lone middle schooler who remained on the bus, according to Prince George’s County Police. The trigger was pulled, but the gun jammed three times. The assailants beat the boy and fled the scene.

Although disaster was averted that day, the incident weighed on Vennard Wright, a security and technology specialist who a few years earlier formed a cybersecurity firm called Wave Welcome.

As a native of Prince George’s County, Wright had seen enough gun violence and wanted to do something about it.

“Thankfully the gun jammed,” Wright said of that day last May. “But because of that, we developed a technology that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to detect firearms and notify police.”

Wright is among a growing number of African Americans who in recent years have formed companies in Prince George’s County, which has become the leading county in the state for the number of new businesses, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Wright’s newest company, which he founded last year with his wife Janelle, is called PerVista. It uses AI to scan surveillance footage alongside a database of firearms. The system triggers an alert and sends the portion of video to public safety officials and police if anything from the footage matches the database.

The company hopes to sell its services to schools, shopping malls, sporting venues and office buildings.

Wright says the technology can detect firearms if any part of the gun is showing, but won’t alert police unless the gun is produced and can accurately be verified as a weapon.

The technology also utilizes a drone called WatchWing to verify the software’s finding. Right now, PerVista does not target concealed-carry and doesn’t scan the inside of backpacks.

“Our goal is to reduce the impact and number of active shooter events in schools, hospitals and other public places,” Wright said.

Janelle Wright is now CEO of Wave Welcome while Vennard took the reins at PerVista, which has six full-time employees. The couple is committed to developing an AI workforce in the county.

Vennard Wright, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in business administration, is author of “Cracking the C-Code,” a book to help readers become C-level executives.

He was also director of technology for Hillary Clinton during her successful U.S. Senate reelection campaign in New York in 2006 and for her unsuccessful presidential run in 2008. He also served as Prince George’s County’s chief information officer from 2010 to 2017 and was honored as “Innovator of the Year” in 2023 by the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce.