Hillel's Tech Corner: SafeUP keeps women safe

The company mission is for women to create a safer world together. Their goal is to have safety guardians for every woman in the world just three minutes away 24/7.

SafeUp (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Do you feel safe walking the streets in your hometown? Unfortunately, many people worldwide would answer no.
Whether Jews are being attacked in the streets of Brooklyn or women are being harassed as they walk home at night, there has to be a better way to address this pervasive problem and foster feelings of safety for the general population.
Here in Israel, there is a company doing just that. SafeUP, based in Tel Aviv, seems to be doing a pretty great job at helping resolve this problem locally, although there’s much work left to do.
The first time I met the SafeUP team was at Google Israel a few years back. They told me what they were building and I was instantly impressed by the idea. Now, more than 10,000 Israeli women have joined their safety net and their vision has become a reality – albeit an early stage one, but it seems to be working.
So here is how this works. SafeUP has built a community of “Guardians,” so when a woman feels unsafe, she can initiate a phone conversation with one of those guardians in the vicinity and if need be, a video call as well.
When I asked Neta Schreiber, SafeUP’s CEO, what led her to build a women safety net, she shared an inspiring personal story: “nine years ago, I was at a house party when I suddenly noticed that one of my friends had disappeared. My friend and I searched for her in a panic, and, as we headed upstairs, we heard her voice amidst a group of men’s voices. We went into one of the rooms and there they were – the men and our friend, half-naked, fighting them. When they noticed us, the men immediately fled. We managed to get there just in time – luck and women saved my friend that night.
In 2019, I decided to develop an app that would unite women under the common goal of mutual protection and safety. I believe that together we can harness the incredible power of women in order to change the world.
“SafeUP is based in Tel Aviv, has raised seed funds from angel investors and the Israel Innovation Authority.”
The company will be raising an additional $3 million starting January in order to expand in the US and UK. SafeUP was officially founded in February 2020, and has six employees and 32 volunteers working for them. The CEO of the company is Schreiber, the CTO is Daniel Szasz and the COO is Tal Zohar.
The company mission is for women to create a safer world together. Their goal is to have safety guardians for every woman in the world just three minutes away 24/7.
How does the SafeUP mobile app work?
Users feeling unsafe can be virtually escorted and supported through a mobile conversation and, if needed, they can be joined on a video call with two or more other nearby guardians. Together they’ll help to address and assess the situation, solving it as a team, or alerting the police if necessary.
Each user goes through a verification process to ensure she is actually a woman, versus a prankster looking for a game. SafeUP utilizes business intelligence to vet and evaluate the validity of each profile before completing verification. If in doubt of a pending user’s identity, SafeUP contacts them personally and requests further proof of identification. Only after the user’s profile has been confirmed can the user access the app.
I asked the team how they make sure the network is safe and no one is attempting to abuse the app.
“We believe men should be part of the solution. Therefore we encouraged them to share SafeUP with their loved ones; however, men are not allowed into the network yet to prevent the entry of impostors, which could pose a threat to the network. We believe that men are an essential part of the creation of a safer world. In the future we plan to explore ways for men to contribute to SafeUP (with the express permission and consent of our users).”
SafeUP has four paying clients, 10 communities, 30 community managers, 500 safety ambassadors and 3000 monthly active users. To date there have been 200 safety calls on the platform. The company offers a simple business model that charges $250 per community per month.
SafeUP’s obvious partners are organizations that are responsible for a large number of residents, staff members, or students such as: municipalities, mid to large companies, universities, and other educational institutions.
“As we are a young start-up, our target market of SafeUP is first and foremost city municipalities. Together they aim to build local safety communities, and expand those into safe zones across the city.”
As far as geographies, they have 10,000 users in Israel, 200 in Boston, 100 in London and 200 in 10 other countries.
Who is set to benefit from this platform?
First of all, women all around the world will feel safer and sexual harassment will be minimized and ultimately prevented. Second, cities will be safer and the decision makers will have tools to strengthen the communities and will be able to provide their population with tools to protect each other.
In a more indirect way, children will gain access to safer streets and a less violent environment and women will feel safer to take new job opportunities such as evening shifts even in predominantly male teams.
OF COURSE, one cannot speak about safer streets without mentioning the growing number of antisemitic attacks.
SafeUP is building safety communities across Israel and the UK together with the local women leadership. They are providing them year round training and mentoring. Together they are strengthening the community with its own members.
Which brings us to today.
As a result of COVID, both demand and supply of the platform have increased.
According to the UN there is a 300% increase in gender violence due to COVID-19.
Additionally, activism is at an all-time high. Never before were there so many groups and organizations fighting for women’s rights and safety.
Interestingly, this trend comes while the streets are emptier, darker , and many of the shops and businesses aren’t fully operational.
SafeUP is one of many companies that has grown significantly due to the pandemic.
In a world where we regularly crowdsource so many aspects of our lives – from maps to major life decisions – it’s about time we tapped into the power of the collective to increase safety and make the world a better place.