While most 15 year olds are busy playing video games and watching TV, Andrew Frame had bigger fish to fry. As a teenager, he learned the art of hacking and later hacked into NASA’s Jet Propulsion. The move would come back to haunt him two years later in 1997 while he was living in Las Vegas when the FBI came to drag him from his bed.
Cutting his teeth on hacking, Andrew Frame was surprised that the agents had caught up with him. It was the last time he ever went against the law. These days, the seasoned entrepreneur is interested in protecting people through the wonders of new technology. Soon after the FBI incident, the youngster made his first waves in the realms of business.
Headhunted by Silicon Valley
When Andrew Frame was 17 years old, he moved to Silicon Valley—the heart of the technological world at the time. It was there that he was recruited by Cisco Systems, a multinational technology conglomerate specializing in networking hardware, software, and telecoms. Joining the company’s Global Center of Expertise, he traveled around the world assisting clients with complicated networking systems.
The team at Cisco Systems had headhunted Andrew Frame as a teenager for one reason. While he was still at high school, he built and ran an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Needless to say, as the ISP grew in popularity so swiftly, the teen resigned from his education and continued in his entrepreneurial pursuits.
The Creation of Citizen App
Fast-forward more than two decades, and Andrew Frame has become a serial tech entrepreneur. In early 2017, he launched the Citizen app as a beta product in New York City. The crime protection social network allows users to see real-time incidents, get the protection that they need from ‘agents’, and reach out to the wider community. As he puts it, the idea came to him when he was considering how to utilize police radios.
“And iterating through a series of ideas, it just quickly dawned on me that — the Trojan horse in building a safety app was open radios. There was this place called Radio Shack, they sold radios, police scanners, in particular, and they later sold computers. But you could listen in on what the police and the fire and the ambulance were doing,” Andrew Frame recently told Inc. in an interview.
“And it was this fascinating thing of like — oh my gosh, you’re listening to police people and there’s a kidnapping, there’s a robbery, there’s a fire — and all of that information was in these open radios that was open to the community.”
Almost five years after the initial app was launched, the Citizen app has gone from strength to strength. Powered by real-time 911 calls in cities around the USA, the network gives users the information that they need, when they need it. The network taps into the strength of the wider community. Users can add to updates, submitting their own pictures, videos, and more details. For an extra fee, users can also have the ‘agents’ on call to help them.
10 Million Users (and Counting)
The exponential popularity of the Citizen network is a credit to Andrew Frame’s genius. Back in 2021, the app doubled its signups, taking it to the 10-million users mark. It was quite the milestone. As the app continues to grow, the entrepreneur is conscious of the information shared on there. Doomscrolling (i.e. endlessly looking at negative updates) has become a mental health issue, and so Andrew Frame plans to combat that.
“We’re very cognizant of the psychological toll, not just internally, but also our external user base. We don’t want you to download this app and it makes you so paranoid and it scares you about your own neighborhood,” Andrew Frame told Inc. “You need to be informed about some of this stuff. We’re actually moving in a direction where you’re going to start to see a lot more what we call positive sentiment notifications.”
“Even a new feature announcement that protects you. That’s not negative on the psychological toll. So we’re getting much more thoughtful around the notifications and the category and compartmentalization of what is negative and what is positive.”
The Future is Bright for Citizen
The Citizen network is continually changing. Since its launch, Andrew Frame and the team have added a wealth of new features to the iOS app. Armed with decades of technological expertise and a truly original vision for how we can harness the power of communities, there is no holding the entrepreneur back. For now, it’s unclear what the future will hold for the Citizen app. However, if the current surge in users is anything to go by, it will be bright.