Annmarie Stockinger became a victim of assault her freshman year of college. With the help of friends and family she was able to recover from the trauma — she had to transfer schools and move states, ending up at Georgia State University — but she couldn’t entirely wipe the event from her mind.
The data science major felt like there had to be a technology product to better address safety and assault protection, but existing tools weren’t where they needed to be. Stockinger’s friend since high school Koby Schmetterling, who had been helping her after the assault and throughout recovery, was studying mechanical engineering. Together, the two determined to bring to life a solution that was sustainable, usable, and actually addresses the way students behave in college.
“The reason the the system is so flawed is because it’s all been built by administrators. It wasn’t built by students for students,” says Stockinger. “And there’s a gap in technology when it’s not made by the people that it’s meant for, and that’s the real gap I was looking to fill.”
They designed a piece of hardware based off of Stockinger’s research on Amazon Dash buttons, a physical tool that enables e-commerce. Sleek and functional, the device they came up with at Emory’s HackATL competition connects to software that can geolocate users with extreme accuracy (more than anything else currently on the market) without requiring a phone, wifi or Bluetooth connection.
GoSafely was born. The SafelyTags that Stockinger and Schmetterling created cost about $100 (Stockinger says that cost will go down with increased production) and hook to a keychain or backpack. Everything about the device is designed to maximize actual use.
“We really looked at: how are you going to ensure stickiness on the students side? Because college kids are lazy as hell,” says Stockinger. “How are you going to make sure that they wearing this bracelet? Needing Bluetooth or wifi was a big no no. College students go out, we have fun and that means that phones die, get lost or are simply out of reach.”
“We did surveys and found out that 90 percent of people said that they carry their keys on them at all times, and out of that 90 percent, 80 percent of those people say they already have key chains or charms hanging on their keys,” Stockinger says.
If a GoSafely user is assaulted or observes an assault, they depress a button on the device. It immediately connects to security personnel or the local authorities and provides a location target within 1-2 feet of actual location.
Stockinger says the company may look at using that geolocation piece for a revenue stream entirely dependent from the SafelyTags.
“Right now a lot of big shipments use an ID which is not super accurate — they are within around 10-20 feet accuracy. We’re dealing with a foot to two feet of accuracy, so especially for tracking expensive things, that’s a big improvement,” says Stockinger. “That would be geared towards enterprises, giving us a stream of revenue that isn’t necessarily dependent on social impact. That will let us really focus on just helping people.”
The idea resonated with many, including the judges at the WeWork Creator Awards, a private grant program intended to catalyze creators changing the world for the better. Earlier this year GoSafely was the recipient of an $18,000 grant as a finalist in the Creator Awards South regional competition. The money will be used to hire, especially on the development side, and go towards some of the IP required for the hardware and software.
Stockinger says she would also consider working with venture investors. “I want to work with people who do want to make money and want to exit, but really care about making an actual tangible change. I think those people do exist.”
But in the meantime, the GoSafely team is continuing to develop the product. Originally the idea was to focus the SafelyTag customer base solely on students, selling the product directly to universities and partnering with campus police. They do still intend to kick off a pilot with a university in 2018. But before then, they will launch a direct-to-consumer product through a Kickstarter campaign that allows anyone — no matter what city, age, or gender — to utilize the device to contact their loved ones in the event of an emergency.
For those users, they can choose whether the device will call 911 (to route to the closest dispatch center) or to a family member or friend.
The Kickstarter will generate not only revenue, but much-needed data for potential customers or investors.
“We hope to measure things like accuracy, response time, user experience and durability as we start putting the product in consumers hands. To us, this is also an opportunity to better understand the market and figure out what people really think about our standalone product,” says Stockinger.
With a consumer line, the product expands beyond its original niche of college campuses. Parents can buy SafelyTags for children who walk home from school; corporations can purchase them for employees who work late hours.
“My goal is to put SafelyTags in the hands of as many people as possible. That extra 15 seconds saved is enough to change the course of someone’s life. To me, this company is an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons and empower people across the country. This is a movement, not just a product.”
And Stockinger’s next move? Her life has pivoted a bit as well since all this began to take off. She’s postponing her senior year, working full-time on GoSafely.
“If it blows up, I go back,” says Stockinger about taking time off of school. “But, you know, there’s things in life that are time-sensitive and there’s things that aren’t. I feel like I have an opportunity here to help a lot of people. I need to be able to say that I’m going to commit myself a hundred percent. And that’s what I want to be able to do.”