“Look what came today!!!”
I ordered my baby sister (age: 23) the Athena, ROAR for Good’s personal safety device for women, for Christmas 2015 when the social enterprise’s wildly successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was still going on. She finally received it last week — hence, the excited text with three exclamation points — almost 20 months later.
Yep, the Athena has officially launched, cofounder Anthony Gold confirmed in a call on Tuesday. All pre-ordered units — meaning, every one ordered before now — have been shipped, at least within the U.S.; international orders will be shipped in the next two weeks. (He couldn’t share numbers, but did say ROAR has received orders from every state in the U.S. and over 50 countries.)
“We want to be sure what we’re building meets the needs of the community,” Gold said about the product, which allows users to alert emergency contacts when they feel unsafe and raised capital from such local bigwigs as DreamIt Ventures and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
ROAR incorporated in September 2014 and kicked off its crowdfunding campaign in October 2015. The original expected ship date was Fall 2016. I reported on the app’s beta launch almost exactly a year ago. In the meantime, the company and especially cofounder Yasmine Mustafa have gotten hella accolades.
What delayed the finalization of the product?
For one, the product’s original manufacturer couldn’t handle the deluge of orders that came through ROAR’s crowdfunding campaign, which exceeded its funding goal by 566 percent, Gold said. But that turned out to be a “blessing in disguise”: The team picked FLEX, the California-based company that says it produces 75 percent of today’s wearable tech, as its new manufacturer.
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ROAR also made a handful of technical changes based on feedback from beta testers — “typical users,” which Gold said has ranged from college-age women to parents buying the Athena for their children to adults buying it for their senior parents.
Here’s what’s different from the original version of the product:
- Increased sound level of the alert buzzer
- Added vibrating motor indicating a silent alarm
- Increased battery life
- Increased strength of the magnetic clasp
- Overhaul of the mobile app
That overhaul includes curated news content focused on ways for users to get involved in reducing sexual violence and users’ ability to alert emergency contacts about their whereabouts through the app itself, without the Athena product — for instance, by sending a message saying, “I’m leaving work.” The app also randomizes users’ cellular addresses every 15 minutes, so their locations can’t be hacked.
In the coming months, more changes will be made, including a feature allowing users’ emergency contacts to call users’ local 9-1-1 call centers on their behalf, and additional product colors.
ROAR will also continue to donate proceeds and devices to organizations with similar missions, such as Women Organized Against Rape, Lutheran Settlement House, Women Against Abuse and One Love, and partnering with them on events and education initiatives.
How will the ROAR for Good cofounders know they’ve been successful? As he and Mustafa have stated before, Gold said, “Our ultimate goal is for there to no longer be a need for companies like ROAR.”
Gold wants to hear from customers who have used the device to feel safer or avoided possible attacks.
“The important thing is, when you activated your Athena, did you get the help you needed?” he said. “At the end of the day, if we sell a bunch of Athena devices but we don’t make a difference, we’ve failed.”
And here’s the best part: All new orders will be shipped within a few days.