Checking out SPOTTM
Beverley Paly, a local entrepreneur, co-founded SPOTTM, a homegrown neighbourhood mobile product, together with Lawrence Suss and Brett Laing. The product aims to combat crime and fortify communities in South Africa. We spoke to Paly about crime, technolo
How did the idea come about?
Being a victim of crime and living in areas where crime was on the increase, it was worrying that our communities were being ‘hijacked’ by criminals, yet we knew that when communities stand together, change happens. A multifaceted approach to combating crime is needed and that can only happen if our communities are provided with easy-to-use tools which enable that. So my partners and I decided we could either keep talking about the problems or look for solutions to help our communities reconnect and fight the scourge of crime.
Tell us more about the product.
SPOTTM has two elements to it. The first roll-out – SPOTTM Social – is a private social platform created for neighbourhoods to not only fight crime collectively but engage socially as well. This is a platform where verified members of each community can connect and share information such as reporting suspicious activity, create local community events, as well as support each other and their local businesses. We’re also excited about the second phase of our roll-out – SPOTTM Wear – a range of wearable devices that connect these neighbourhoods even further by enhancing emergency request response.
Do you believe that crowdsourcing crime alerts is the answer to finally cracking down on crime in SA?
There is the old adage that says there’s safety in numbers. We’re just using technology to enhance that. Research also shows that it’s more difficult for criminals to operate in close-knit communities and easier for neighbours to spot suspicious activity the more involved they are in their neighbourhoods.
You made a bold move and decided to expand your product offering after getting feedback from early adopters. Why did you decide to go that route?
Well, SPOTTM started off as an emergency/SOS mobile app where one could request assistance from those in the area. So we started researching and from the findings we realised that there was a definite need to create a ‘crime-fighting tool’. Great idea, we thought, however, it was not prac- tical in a real scenario when confronted with a perpetrator. So that was the first problem we were faced with. The second was that there was a diverse range of issues that led to crime incidents, some of which were community issues (lights not working in certain areas, for example) and we ended up having a very bulky offering in one app. Definitely not the solution. We went back to the drawing board and worked on it until we came up with a leaner and more
What sort of challenges and obstacles did you face while trying to get SPOTTM up and running?
Our challenges ranged from trying to figure out how we would tackle such a mammoth task without weighing down the app or our service offering, finding the right partners (those who understood the vision and had the skills, passion and networks to take SPOTTM to the next level) and bootstrapping, which is always a challenge. It’s also one that has sharpened our skills even further, by ensuring that we exhaust every possible skill set within our own ranks as far as possible before outsourcing or hiring.