roar

A young entrepreneur heard one too many accounts of women being victimized.

What would you have if you designed a device the size of a quarter that a woman or girl could press in an emergency situation to set off a loud alarm, message family or friends, and summon the police? Especially if that device looked like a modern piece of jewelry? You’d have a wildly successful pre-ordered product that beat its crowdfunding goal by more than 500 percent. And you’d be well on your way to making the world a better place.

That’s the story of ROAR for Good, makers of a new device called Athena that should start shipping next summer if all goes according to plan. It’s the brainchild of Yasmine Mustafa, a young entrepreneur originally from Kuwait who, at 30, had already founded and sold her first company, 123LinkIt, a platform to help bloggers make ad revenue from their blogs.

Mustafa had been working since she was nine in her parents’ 7-11 franchise and at other jobs. She had discovered when she applied to college that her family had never become citizens, and so she had spent more than a decade working her way through the process of gaining citizenship while simultaneously working her way through college at the kinds of jobs an illegal alien could get. The experience had given her a fierce desire to be her own boss.

That desire was fulfilled when she created 123LinkIt, but now that company had been sold. Feeling burned out–and newly able to travel–Mustafa spent six months traveling around South America by herself. “It was life-changing,” she says now. “Everything I thought it would be and more. Unfortunately, however, everywhere I went and stayed I kept hearing of times women had been attacked or assaulted.”

When she returned to her home in Philadelphia she read a news story of a woman who was grabbed from behind while feeding a parking meter, dragged into an alley, and brutally beaten and raped. When she read that, she says, “ROAR was born.”

The company’s first device is called Athena, and it’s ingenious. Pinned to a bag or waistband, it looks like a button or brooch, or it can be worn on a chain like a pendant. A long 3-second press emits a loud alarm and sends a message to pre-designated mobile phones telling the recipient that the wearer is in an emergency situation, along with her (or his) exact location and how long it will take to get there. By the time the product ships, Mustafa hopes to have an automatic 911 call take place as well.

As a result of product research with sororities, ROAR has also built in a silent mode that the wearer can activate with three taps. The alarm won’t sound, but a message will still be sent out to the wearer’s emergency contacts. It can be used in situations where there wearer feels unsafe but there’s no immediate threat or attack, such as when he or she is being followed, or is on a date with someone who seems likely to turn violent.

Crowdfunding campaign raises more than $200,000.

Mustafa’s next step was a campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo intended to raise $40,000 to complete development of the device. She got more than 1,700 funders who, so far, have put up about $210,000.

The device is intended to empower women in an attack, but Mustafa isn’t stopping there. Ten percent of the proceeds from the Indiegogo campaign will go to the One Love Foundation, which is devoted to helping end relationship violence. Funders are also invited to spend $50 to donate a device to a victim of domestic violence, or $100 to get one for themselves and donate one as well. “We’re not just creating a wearable for good, our goal is to one day no longer need device like the ones we’re developing,” Mustafa says.

About a year ago, an acquaintance of mine was murdered during the course of a robbery. Although I only heard the details third-hand, it appears that the robber began their encounter by asking to borrow her cell phone as he had to make an urgent call and his was dead. Once she handed him her phone, she had no means of calling for help, and he was able to force her into her home, where he eventually left her to bleed to death. I can’t help thinking that if she’d had a device like this one, she might still be alive.

A $75 contribution gets you one device; $100 buys one for you and one donated to a victim of domestic violence. The Indiegogo campaign runs till November 22nd. If I had a daughter, I’d definitely want her to have one. And I just may get one for myself.