In 2020, Harish Kolli, a highschool junior from Austin, Texas, was scrolling by means of TikTok when he got here throughout a viral pattern. The viral TikTok pattern inspired ladies to avoid wasting movies with faux conversations to make use of when feeling unsafe (for instance: when feeling uncomfortable in an Uber). These movies would have an individual speaking to you as in the event that they knew you and have been anticipating to see you quickly to be able to dissuade potential harassers.
Kolli later realized that what made the movies so widespread and useful was their preventative and discreet nature. Greater than 80% of harassment crimes are dedicated by somebody the recipient is aware of, so folks usually don’t really feel comfy calling the police or utilizing deterrents akin to pepper spray. Understanding simply how vital these underlying ideas are, Harish determined to create an improved, user-friendly answer that deters harassers earlier than they escalate their conduct. Not lengthy after, he met his teen co-founders, Mahi Ravi and Kaitlin Tan at a summer season entrepreneur incubator program.
They created Guardial, a personal-safety app that permits customers to set off an incoming simulated cellphone name that acts as a deterrent, at any time when they need. This name has a sensible caller-ID show display, a well-known ringtone, and audio with dialogue that deters, akin to “I’ve your location, see you quickly.” Moreover, color-coded buttons inside the simulated name permit customers to contact assist by means of companies akin to 911 and to file audio or video.
Regardless of the necessity for this app, the journey to convey it to customers hasn’t been simple. “As highschool college students constructing a startup, we didn’t have entry to many assets,” Kolli mentioned. ”We needed to educate ourselves abilities like app improvement and UI/UX design utilizing instruments like InVision and Figma.” Together with a steep studying curve, the early days required a variety of time and power. Harish and his co-founders interviewed their goal market, younger ladies, to raised perceive ache factors and get suggestions from Guardial’s early adopters and testers, who mentioned they discovered the expertise simple and simple to make use of.
In 2021, Kolli and Guardial skilled their first success once they posted surveys in ladies’s on-line security boards and obtained overwhelming optimistic suggestions with over 350 survey responses. Not lengthy after, the Guardial group obtained $6,400 in equity-free funding from an investor who believed within the group, their app, and the issue they have been making an attempt to unravel. Whereas Guardial isn’t the primary personal-safety app, its strategy is to be extra proactive and deter potential harassers, quite than merely offering a option to contact assist after issues start.
The pandemic gave Kolli extra time to work on Guardial. Not needing to attend in-person college, the Guardial group had extra flexibility with their schedule. Kolli made it a precedence to learn articles, watch movies, and join with different entrepreneurs to learn to finest function and develop Guardial.
In January 2022, the group obtained nice information. They have been chosen as one in all 5 finalists on the SXSW EDU Scholar Startup Competitors powered by my group, WIT, which helped the finalist groups with three months of teaching. This gave them the chance to pitch their enterprise from a stage at one of the vital prestigious conferences on the planet. It was a milestone second for the Guardial Crew because it was the primary time they’d pitched Guardial in particular person. The chance validated their arduous work and offered them a platform to showcase their firm, and gave them alternatives to progress their journeys as entrepreneurs. The group not solely benefited from the possibility to pitch at SXSW EDU, however the convention offered them networking alternatives, workshops, mentorship periods, and extra.
“We had lots of people come as much as us and inform us how highly effective our pitch was and the way vital they thought our app was,” Kolli mentioned afterward. “Having these real interactions with folks post-pitch made us wish to work even tougher. One other factor I discovered was the significance of collaboration over competitors — everybody can win and really feel fulfilled if they’re centered on uplifting one another.”
Not too long ago Guardial began working to launch their new model in app shops. The overview course of dropped at mild technical points that the group is resolving to enhance the expertise. Kolli defined, “We aren’t giving up and can proceed to iterate our app design so Guardial might be accessible for all to make use of.” The group believes this persistence will repay and save lives.
To get notified when Guardial turns into accessible in app shops, click on right here. To be taught extra try @guardialco on social media.