Safety In Numbers: How Four NYU Students Came Together to Bring Women Together

STEM Wavy Girl Spotlight

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If you’ve ever spent a good 10 minutes analyzing every possible route to walk back home when you’re out late at night (and even sometimes in plain daylight) then you know just how irritating it is for women and femmes to stay safe, especially if you’re alone. Unfortunately this is a reality we face on the daily that isn’t going away any time soon, and while there’s many ways to reduce risks such as travelling with a friend or spending money on a taxi, it’s just not possible to arrange for this every single time. In light of this struggle a team of four students at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering proposed a solution: what if there was an app that could bring safety through sister solidarity?

The app, safer-together, connects women and femmes with other companions that share similar commute plans for both public transit and car services. The idea is to connect women and foster safety in numbers, and while it’s not out yet it has potential to revolutionize the way we think about travel, particularly when we’re alone. I had the chance to connect with Camila and inquire more details on the start-up and what their big plans are, and what resulted was an insightful conversation on the safety of women, the future of safer-together, and being a woman in entrepreneurship.

Tell us more about safer-together and what inspired you to co-found this app.

The New York City Police Department has documented over 2,000 crime reports that have occured on the subway in 2017. These crime reports include an array of incidents, like robbery, assault, and sex crimes. In the previous year, 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that  sexual offenses on the New York City subway are up more than 50% compared with last year. In addition, there is a growing volume of incidents occurring in car services like Uber and Lyft  that often go unreported. Victims of these crimes are primarily women and trans-femmes that travel alone. To address the lack of safety and convenience current transit options provide to women and femmes, a culturally diverse team of women have made a commitment to developing a solution, called safer-together.

safer-together is a mobile application that seeks to prevent sexual assaults and violent attacks on public transportation by matching females/femmes with similar commutes (e.g. MTA line, Uber/Lyft services). This application reduces transit based fear and brings together a community of women/femmes who already recognize that that there is safety in numbers. Women and femmes can decrease the chance of harassment and violent incident with the company of a fellow user; they ought to have an inexpensive, reliable, and safe transit option, whether she is traveling home from a bar at 3:00am or just got off of a graveyard shift. At little to no cost, the safer-together app can lessen the occurrence of violent transit incidents and empower a community challenged by transit based fear, which can restrict mobility and complicate employment and leisure opportunities.

The co-founders of safer-together are passionately driven to diversity and inclusion. We are ethnically diverse, yet morally unified in our commitment to enhancing the safety of a vulnerable population of women/femme commuters. Transphobia pervasively places our trans-femmes in vulnerable environments and misogynistic environments continues to place women in vulnerable position. My co-founders and I have witnessed and experienced the uncomfortable/unsafe conditions women and femmes encounter on public transit and car services. It is important to use innovation to challenge and correct current conditions in order to procure a safe, inclusive, and respective society.

Left to right: Camila Morocho, Emily Muggleton, Brittany Kendrick, Aida Mehovic

Who is the team behind this start up?

The team consist of 4 co-founders: Aida Mehovic, Brittany Kendrick, Camila Morocho, and Emily Muggleton. The team encompasses a broad technical skill set that includes engineering, software development, data analytics, marketing, and social media outreach. Above all of the technical expertise this group collectively exhibits, additionally, it is entirely a women-led, culturally diverse team.

How did this dynamic team of four come to be?

On October 21st 2017, Forbes and Audi hosted an Idea Incubator that challenged teams of 4 young females to create a service or product that addressed violence and sexual assault on public transit. Although we had yet to meet, we were brought together by our desire to improve safety on public transit within urban cities. We believe that transphobia pervasively places the trans-femme community in vulnerable environments. Misogynistic environments continues to place women in vulnerable position. My co-founders and I have witnessed and experienced the uncomfortable and unsafe conditions women and femmes encounter on public transit and car services. This is especially true when traveling alone during high risk hours (midnight to 6 AM, as well as during train service delays during these hours). These beliefs inspired our initial motivation to create the idea. Like any other early venture, it has taken us months and various hours to get to where we are at the moment, and even after the Forbes and Audi Idea Incubator and the J-Term Start Up Sprint, we have continued our efforts to hold one another accountable for what has to be done next in terms of continuing our work.

What was the toughest challenge for you in developing this venture?

Funding has been the toughest part, but continued partnerships and outreach is what is crucial to continuing our start up. Additional funding for the website can help expand our viewership and reach in customer acquisition. The brand of safer-together becomes more legitimate when it’s a trusted resource that displays relevant and relatable content on its website. Continued partnerships with local organizations, hosting meetups, advertising, merchandise and displaying the culture and community of safer-together on our website can convey our intimate, transparent and trustworthy brand.

What are some tips you have for other young women who want to be entrepreneurs?

Our motto is By Women, For Women. I would encourage young women to be fearless and confident. Growing up and having to make a decision about what field to pursue can be intimidating, especially with the rigor that comes with STEM fields and the entrepreneur side attached to it, but women should look past their fears of entering a male-dominated field with hopes of making their own mark. Much more than that is to surround yourself among passionate members that inspire you to pursue your own journey. Be a Boss.

Are there any big things we can expect from safer-together in the future?

Safer-together’s ultimate goal is to reach every female/femme in urban cities, but for the purposes of our prototyping phase we are focusing on females/femmes in the NYC region. Our initial target market is collegiate females and femmes, aged 17-29 that utilize public transportation and car services alone to get from work to home and vice versa.

If you are interested in getting updates about the safer-together app make sure you visit the website and sign up. They are also on Facebook (safertogethercommunity) and Instagram (@safer-together). Join the community and revolutionize local travel for yourself and other strong independent women and femmes!

2 thoughts on “Safety In Numbers: How Four NYU Students Came Together to Bring Women Together”

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