Interview with Safer-Together
By Gloria Campbell
Safer-Together is a mobility app built to ensure safe travel for women and women-identifying individuals in cities. Created by four NYU students, Safer-Together won the Forbes Idea Incubator challenge in October 2017. They were recently featured in Forbes and received a shoutout tweet from Melinda Gates.
To learn more about the app, I sat down with the team - Emily Muggleton, Aida Mehovic, Brittany Kendrick and Camila Morocho.
Who are you all?
Emily Muggleton: I’m a senior NYU Tandon Mechanical Engineering major / Aerospace Engineering minor and an aspiring entrepreneur.
Aida Mehovic: I’m a third-year NYU Tandon student studying Computer and Electrical Engineering.
Brittany Kendrick: I’m a recent graduate from NYU Tandon with a Masters of Science in Urban Infrastructure Systems.
Camila Morocho: I’m a third-year NYU Tandon student studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
What is Safer-together?
BK: Recognizing that women and trans-femmes are the most vulnerable population to sexual assault and violent incidents, something has to give. Safer-Together is a mobile application that matches women and femmes with similar commuting plans to reduce transit-based fear and optimize car service travel duration and cost efficiency.
AM: We’re also building a community. We genuinely believe that there is safety in numbers and want to be a resource for women in their efforts to safely navigate public transit.
How does the service work?
CM: Since the mobile application is still under construction, we are providing a matching service for women that subscribe to our website. We require users to submit a State ID that is verified internally before they can access the mobile applications matching service. In the event of users misrepresenting themselves, reported users are emailed a set of photos with specific gestures that they must emulate and send back to the safer-together team to be verified and re-approved. Approved users are matched based on location with a start and end point within a 0.3 mile radius as well as time of departure. The time of departure is divided into intervals of 10 minutes. The mobile application incorporates a chat component so that matched users can confirm where they would like to meet. Currently, we are coordinating the location positioning. To ensure a safe, reliable experience for users, safer-together incorporates quality assurance by allowing users to decide not to match with another user again, and to report them.
Women and femme’s can decrease the chance of harassment and/or violent incident with the company of a fellow user. Women and femme’s ought to have an inexpensive, reliable and safe transit option, whether she is traveling home from a bar at 3:00 am or a graveyard work shift. At little cost, the safer-together service 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.
What sparked the idea?
EM: All good ideas try to solve a real world problem. At the Forbes Idea Incubator Challenge we were tasked with finding a solution to provide women with safer transportation methods. We didn’t know each other until we were randomly put together as a group for the competition. After discussing multiple ideas, we became interested in a “buddy system” for commuting and worked towards developing the idea of a “dating app” style matching for commuting partners. Since the challenge day, the idea has evolved and grown through customer discovery.
Can you talk about the startup process and where you currently are?
BK: During the J-Term StartUp Sprint held at NYU eLeslie Lab, the team was able to investigate the complexity of the challenges women face in transportation, refine our value proposition, and narrow our customer segment. These objectives were accomplished by interviewing potential customers which validated our assumptions. The two week stint of the startup accelerator left us with the tools and skills to carry out more customer discovery and prototyping experiments with interested customers.
We have many working efforts operating concurrently. These efforts include the following: building a community of solution-seeking women and femme travelers, applying to grant funding, “dating” women developers, seeking advice from other women in tech, and carrying out a prototype simulation along with customer discovery interviews. Luckily it's four of us and we are all driven. We all share the urgency to bring a solution to the market that can change how women, femmes, and ourselves will use multi-modal transit options.
Beyond a transportation solution, what are the hopes for Safer-Together’s impact?
EM: Our ultimate objective is that women can use any mode of transport without a second thought about their safety. An emergent property of travel safety is greater employment opportunity, such as safely commuting during the evening hours for better-paying night shifts. I believe safer-together could even influence urban transportation design intent by designing for user experience rather than just utility.
Women can visit our website safer-together.com and add their name to our email list to join our community. They can also share any stories of when they have ever felt unsafe traveling alone.