"Smart gun" maker gets another $14-million investment ahead of supposed 2023 launch

"Smart gun" maker gets another $14-million investment ahead of supposed 2023 launch
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

I’m beginning to think that the easiest way to become a millionaire right now is to announce that you’re building a “smart gun” and you’re looking for investors. It seems like all you have to do is hope (don’t promise) to deliver a product somewhere in the next 12-to-18 months in order to secure cash, and once you’ve done that you can always push back your deadline.

At least that’s what the business model for most of the smart gun companies out there looks like to me, including the Colorado-based company Biofire, which announced this week that it’s received $14-million from investors in the hopes of bringing their biometric gun to market sometime next year.

The Biofire Smart Gun automatically unlocks and relocks as it is handled by its owner and put down. The company is preparing for a commercial launch in 2023, with the support of special forces, law enforcement and private security partners.

“I’m previously on record saying that Smart Gun technology is uninvestable – that it would take ‘multiple miracles’ to bring this product to market,” says Founder Fund Partner Trae Stephens. “The Biofire team has changed my mind. We need novel solutions to address firearm violence, and their technology has the potential to transform firearm safety.”

Founder and CEO Kai Kloepfer says in the announcement that Biofire “went back to the drawing board” to create a highly reliable biometric handgun with state-of-the-art authentication technology.

This isn’t the first round of funding for Kloepfer. Biofire received another $17-million earlier this year, but he’s been raising money (and promising results) for a lot longer. Here’s a breathless report on Kloepfer’s supposed innovation from July of 2018:

For six years, Kai Kloepfer has worked on trying to help solve a major problem in America: gun violence.

But his solution isn’t a call for tighter firearm laws or for taking guns away.

It is, in fact, a gun.

Kloepfer is the 21-year-old founder of Biofire, a Boston-based startup that’s creating a handgun with fingerprint-sensing technology that allows only its authorized user to fire it.

The “smart gun” could help save lives, according to Kloepfer.

“In the world where every device that we own (locks automatically) … it strikes me as a little behind the times that we have dangerous firearms that are accessible to anyone who comes across them,” he told Boston.com.

Biofire’s prototype has been in the works since 2012, when Kloepfer was a high school sophomore in Boulder, Colorado, and not long after the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater left 12 dead.

The deadly attack — which unfolded about a 40-minute drive away from Kloepfer’s hometown — prompted him to consider how technology and engineering could help prevent similar incidents, which eventually led to an early prototype as a school science fair project, he said.

The gadget snowballed into more research, and, about two years ago, the effort became Biofire, a startup company backed by California investors and one that’s a part of the MassChallenge startup accelerator program, according to Kloepfer, who took an indefinite leave of absence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a few weeks ago to pursue growing the business.

The company is now working to create a handgun to be market-ready in the next year and a half.

“We’re really trying to build something that can solve the root problems of gun violence,” said Kloepfer, who made Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list for consumer technology in 2017.

I don’t know how good Kloepfer is at actually making a smart gun, but he appears to be exceptional at convincing investors to keep pouring money into his company year after year despite his product always being about 12 to 18 months away from being ready for the market. Biofire’s current website offers little detail about the gun that Kloepfer’s been working on full time for the past five years. There are no pictures, and no specifics on how the gun will operate, price points, or even what caliber the gun will be chambered in.

Maybe Kloepfer’s just keeping all of those details a secret for now, but it should also be noted that other “smart gun” companies like SmartGunz and Lodestar have at least unveiled prototypes, even if they haven’t always performed as promised. The companies do at least have one thing in common; every one of these outfits have hinted at bringing their products to consumers without actually achieving their deadlines.

SmartGunz and Lodestar both told Reuters back in January that they hoped to have their products on the market this year; a goal that will not be met, apparently. SmartGunz’s website allows you to place an order, but there’s no sign that the company has begun shipping any product. The company put out a press release last year announcing that people could pre-order a pistol, but they haven’t issued any statements about fulfilling any of those orders. Lodestar, meanwhile, offers potential customers to sign up to be notified about future updates, but have no information about when the LS9 will start appearing in gun stores.

Maybe 2023 really will be the Year of the Smart Gun, but I’m not holding my breath. After all, we heard that about 2022, 2021, 2022, 2019… and, well, you get the idea. For something that’s supposedly such an easy and simply technology, it’s weird how it’s taken so long (and so many rounds of investment) without any real progress, isn’t it? If you don’t find that odd, and you’re looking for a place to invest several million dollars of your money drop me a line: I’ve got a great idea for a “smart gun” that should be ready to go in, say, a year and a half or so.

A note from Cam: Now that the midterms are over, we need to look ahead to the threats gun owners face in Washington, D.C. and statehouses around the country, as well as support pro-Second Amendment officials and legislation to protect and secure our right to keep and bear arms. If you want real in-depth analysis and exclusive content and wish to support our mission, join BearingArms VIP today and use promo code VIPWEEK to receive 45% off your membership!