Jason Knott sat in his car along the side of the road, just blocks away from The Canyon Inn, a bar near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. In his rearview mirror he could see ominous blue and red flashing lights.
Knott felt he’d been cautious. He’d even walked a line in the parking lot before driving away with his two friends in the car.
He would have to walk the line again and, this time around, blow into a breathalyzer.
It registered 0.081, just 0.01 over the legal limit. A second test read 0.089.
“My perception of people who got DUIs was ‘How could you be so irresponsible?’ ” Knott said. “You hear about all these horrible consequences, of people who’ve died, and there I was, about to get one.”
The officer was lenient. He allowed Knott to park his car at the nearby 7-Eleven and call a cab, but not before showing him six clipboards with six other DUIs just that night. Terrified and shaken up, Knott vowed to never go through it again.
He also saw an opportunity.
The next semester, Knott enrolled in Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship, a class offered through Westminster College’s Center for Entrepreneurship. While in the program, he created a business plan for BreathAdvisor, a breathalyzer kiosk that he hopes will reduce DUI-related incidents by providing bar patrons with an anonymous, accurate reading. If necessary, the kiosks also will be linked to a cab company to offer alternative transportation.
Knott’s efforts with BreathAdvisor recently won the company a $40,000 grant from the Technology Commercialization & Innovation Program (TCIP), a state-funded program developed by the Utah Legislature to help bring university-developed technologies to market. He hopes to use the funds toward growing BreathAdvisor and providing internship opportunities for students at Westminster.
“My time at Westminster was completely essential,” Knott said. “Having the connections there — that’s what schooling is about. It’s meeting people with like-minded aspirations and finding professors who are willing to help.”
One of his advisers was Linda Muir, director of the center. Muir met with Knott several times as he prepared for the college’s annual Opportunity Quest Business Plan competition, a contest that earned him a top-10 ranking.
“Jason was always very open-minded toward mentoring,” Muir said. “He listened and absorbed everything. His personality is in perfect alignment with successful entrepreneurs because he recognized the opportunity and he just went out and executed.”
So far, Knott has installed his kiosks in five locations, including The Canyon Inn, ONE Nightclub and Zest Kitchen & Bar in Salt Lake City. He has other locations in the works.
With more than 13,000 DUI arrests in Utah in 2012, Knott is optimistic his kiosks will change minds.
“I never would have gotten behind the wheel if I’d known I was over the limit,” he said. “My hope is that this product will make people think twice before making the wrong decision.”
At a glance
One of Jason Knott’s partners, Sebastian Hooker, also a Westminster student, started as a summer intern for the company.
The kiosks cost $2 to use and accept all major credit cards.
There is currently no cost to venue owners who choose to have the BreathAdvisor kiosks installed.