The duo behind the Athena personal safety device had a simple goal: build something that will deter a potential attacker, house it in a piece of fashionable jewelry and, if they can get enough people to buy into their concept, use their power for good by educating young men and women about appropriate relationships.
"What really pushed us over the edge was the idea that these issues of sexual assaults against women or harassment we call 'women's issues,' but they're really societal issues and no device will solve them," Anthony Gold, co-founder of the start-up Roar For Good told MTV News. "The issue is that we need to do a better job of education and empowering people about empathy and healthy relationships."
For now, though, Gold and the company's co-founder, Yasmine Mustafa, are just trying to get to the goal line and deliver the Athena by next spring. The $100 personal safety alarm has already raised more than three times ($161,000) its original IndieGoGo goal of $40,000 in just the first two weeks after its launch.
The coin-sized pendant clips to your clothes or accessories and chirps out a loud alarm and sends the user's location to a list of pre-determined emergency contacts when pressed. You can also set it so just the alert messages go out and no alarm sounds from the device named in honor of the Greek goddess of courage and wisdom.
The Eye-Opening Trip That Inspired The Idea
Gold, 50, and Mustafa, 34, have been friends for over a decade and worked together at a health care company several years ago when Mustafa announced she was taking a break to go on a 6-month solo backpacking trek through South America.
"When she told her friends, they all said, 'that's so awesome,'" he said. "But then her friends and family said, 'that's so crazy.'" Bottom line, she had a great trip, but pretty much everywhere she went she ran into locals and travelers who shared their stories of sexual assault.
Then, one week after Mustafa returned, a woman in their hometown of Philadelphia was attacked and raped, which spurred Mustafa to action. "There were a bunch of mobile apps and other hardware devices that were similar, but we thought we could make Roar unique in several ways," Gold said. The first was building a device that was a fashionable piece of jewelry that people can use as an accessory. "It's fashionable, it's always with you and it has an alarm built in," he said.
It is a potential deterrent. But can it scare an attacker off 100% of the time? No, but the Roar team brought on some Philly police as advisers who told them that data indicates it can in some cases. Another difference is that the half-dollar-sized Athena sends out a text message with the wearer's location and, hopefully by next spring's launch, the ability to call 911 at the same time.
Going Beyond Selling Things
"Yasmine's idea was to take a percentage of the proceeds and invest in non-profits teaching young boys and girls about empathy and healthy relationships," said Gold. The idea is to get to the point where every unit sold will be matched by one that can be donated to a woman in need.
"The question is, 'who can we make a dent in the universe with regards to assaults on women?'" he said. "It's about getting to the root cause and investing in it... out goal is to make devices like Athena no longer necessary."
After 16 months of research and testing by their 12-member team, Gold said the feedback the duo have gotten so far has been surprising, with a number of respondents saying the Athena could be useful not just for women, but also for children, seniors and the LGBTQ community; the unisex device will come in black, rose gold and silver.
"Not a week goes by where someone doesn't reach out to share their story and tell us how much of a need there is for something like this," Gold said. And though the Roar team expected their Philly friends to pitch in, he and Mustafa have been blown away by the worldwide support and pre-orders from more than 20 countries. "It's very a humbling responsibility we have," he said. "It's not about getting thousands to preorder. It's about touching the lives of thousands of people."