We are fortunate to have serial entrepreneur Yasmine Mustafa as part of the Cheap Revolution team. Yasmine is currently working hard on her fourth startup called ROAR for Good - a social impact company that seeks to reduce violence against women. ROAR provides a device to empower women to protect themselves in dangerous situations.
Check out our 5 minute interview with Yasmine (transcript below). (Apologies for the noise near the end of the video... we were in a classroom and someone lowered the projector screen to prepare for class.)
VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION FOLLOWS...
Cheap Revolution: Please start off by telling us about what ROAR is.
Yasmine: Sure. ROAR is a social impact company. We are aimed at diminishing violence against women using technology and educational programs. We are building, as a short-term solution, self-defense wearables. So, picture jewelry that you would wear that, when you activate it, will trigger a high-frequency alarm, a bright, flashing strobe light, or you can launch a silent version as well that will message your friends and family your location and call campus security, 911, whatever you designate in the emergency line. And the idea there is, when you're threatened and when you want help, you can distract and disorient someone and instantly get help. And, then, it integrates with a mobile app that kind of acts like Waze, but for safety, so it uses crowd-sourced safety tips so you could text somebody and know if you're about to enter a dangerous area.
So, for example, let's say a mugging just happened. Everybody who’s nearby would get a push notification. The idea is you’d be more vigilant of your surroundings and know what's going on.
And the final piece of it is we are using some of the proceeds from the wearable and partnering up with non-profits that host educational programs for young boys and young girls to teach them empathy, and respect, and consent, so -- to really get to the root of the problem. And, so, then one day, this device is hopefully obsolete.
Cheap Revolution: Terrific. What gave you the idea for this?
Yasmine: A lot of things. I'm from the Middle East and, over there, women are oppressed. They don't have the same opportunities that I have here. And I feel like I cheated the birth lottery a little bit. So, I always think about how my mom had an arranged marriage, and she has to ask permission to do stuff, and her sole purpose was to have a family, and preferably boys, and of course, cover up, and what my life would have been like if I would not have come here during the Persian Gulf War. And I feel very lucky that I am here and I want to do something to shift kind of the gender inequality that exists.
And, then, the real trigger happened when -- I think it was late 2013, I had just come back from a big trip. I did a six-month solo trip through South America. A week after I came back, a woman was raped a block from our apartment, a street that I walk by all the time. She had just moved from Chicago. It was her fourth day here. She was out at a bar meeting some people and she went off to refill her meter, ten o'clock at night, when a guy grabbed her from behind, punched her, dragged her down an alley, and brutally raped her. And, when I read this news story the next day, I had the initial idea, which was taking existing self-defense tools and making them wearable. So, the initial idea was actually called the Macelet, like Mace in a bracelet.… But, then, I did some market research, talked to a lot of women, and learned they actually don't like some of these self-defense tools because they're either intimidated by them, or they're really afraid that they would be overpowered and it would be used against them. So, then, the idea shifted to what it is now.
Cheap Revolution: Okay. So, that's an interesting insight into some of the early days of the product, the concept. What are some of the things that you came across as you were building the product? What were some of the challenges?
Yasmine: Well, I've never built a hardware company before. This is new territory. It's actually my fourth company, but still…
Cheap Revolution: It's your fourth startup?
Yasmine: Fourth startup.
Cheap Revolution: Wow.
Yasmine: But, still kind of brand new in the hardware space. So, learning about that was really interesting, but a lot of fun. So, one of the earliest challenges that we had was how to design the prototype, how to make it so that it's functional, it's beautiful, it's something people would want to wear, and it's not accidentally triggered because you can just imagine that, like, someone accidentally brushes against the device and now, 911 is called and it’s not an emergency. So, how do you create it so that it works well, is easy to use, but also not so easy it’s accidentally triggered. That was our biggest design challenge within the company. And, yeah, hiring the right people helped a lot. And, then, we used is the lean startup methodologies. So, we test everything that we do. So, we've had focus groups. We've done some surveys. We held a mock self-defense class. We had people try things on to see how they may react to common moves with the device. And we even used them to help inform the process along the way.
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Thank you Yasmine! Please drop us a line letting us know what you think of this interview - or share your own startup building ideas in the comments.