Earthquake Monitoring: For the People

What makes a great startup? Simply put, people. To steal from Abraham Lincoln, "[Startups] are of the people, for the people and by the people." Without people, startups don't serve a purpose. One of the reasons startups fail is that they forget this simple concept. Your customers are people. You're co-founders are people. Your investors are people. If you have a mediocre team, you will end up with a mediocre startup. So how do you get better people on your team? In response to this question, I give you three words; inspiration, perspiration, and expectations. At Zizmos we focus on these three words. They are ingrained into our thought process. They dictate how we work, plan and succeed.


Everyone loves to feel inspired to do more. We humans love to rally around a worthy cause. Zizmos started with an inspiring goal, "We save lives and property during and after earthquakes using tech already built into most phones." If you don't live in earthquake country, perhaps this doesn't inspire you. But most likely you know someone in California, Oklahoma or Missouri whose life is important to you. Simply put, people are inspired to help their loved ones. That is why Zizmos exists. We can detect earthquakes with an app running on your phone and alert your neighbors, your coworkers and your husband at work before they feel the shaking start. Our team is inspired to work harder because we want to save lives. Our customers are inspired to work with us to save lives. Yes, our investors want a profit, but they also want to invest in their family's safety.


We've all heard Edison's quote, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration." Startups are nothing if nothing is accomplished. It takes lots and lots of hard work to get a startup like Zizmos up off the ground. We wrangle in funds from investors, talk to tons of people about what they want and need, build out new technology and get some sleep on occasion. Without inspiration, we wouldn't put in the long hours and pay ourselves pennies on the dollar. The perspiration wouldn't happen if the inspiration weren't there. Our leaders work both harder and smarter, which inspires everyone else to work harder and smarter. We harness the hard work of volunteers because the public is inspired to help us solve the "Earthquake Problem."


Anyone can come up with an inspirational goal. For example, we'd love to work on immortality. The question is, "Can we achieve that goal?" At Zizmos we can't achieve immortality, but we can help save lives. It's important to have achievable expectations. Giving people a few life-saving moments during an earthquake has been done before. The problem is that it currently costs way too much for most countries, states and cities. Fortunately, with modern technology we can achieve what used to be science fiction.

When our phones are charging, we should expect them to do more for us. We should expect our phones to monitor our surroundings and provide us with warnings. Because our goal is doable, people expect our inspired, hard-working team to achieve what once seemed unreasonable. Our customers expect us to provide reliable software and hardware that can save lives.

Just like SpaceX, we're privatizing a technology that once was considered government's domain. Does the government create smoke detectors? No. Should governments manufacture carbon monoxide detectors? No. So why should governments create and maintain the only earthquake detectors? We're doing this for people. We're inspired. We're working hard, and we expect to privatize earthquake detection. What do you think?

To learn more about Zizmos and how our technology works, please visit us at

This article is being provided by Jesse Lawrence (a former Stanford professor and the CEO of Boulder Bits, a startup studio in Boulder, Colorado,


Jesse Lawrence received his PhD in Geophysics from Washington University in St. Louis (2004), and performed postdoctoral training at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He is the co-founder of the Quake-Catcher Network (founded in 2007) at Stanford University, which created the world's largest strong-motion seismic network using inexpensive seismic sensors and internet-connected computers.