The Wharf - - Style - Go to safe­ for more in­for­ma­tion

Who: Jil­lian Kowalchuk, 32, from Edg­ware, founder and CEO. Pre­vi­ously a pub­lic health con­sul­tant.

What: An app founded in Fe­bru­ary 2017, avail­able to down­load, to help peo­ple safely nav­i­gate their way around cities, avoid­ing po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous routes and ar­eas where users have re­ported ha­rass­ment.

Why: “From my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Jil­lian. “When I moved over from Canada to London, I was re­ly­ing on nav­i­ga­tion tools like Google Maps or Ci­tymap­per, which of­ten only routed me the fastest ways. That put me into en­vi­ron­ments like al­ley­ways or parks at night that made me feel un­com­fort­able.

“One night I was do­ing a short­cut through an al­ley­way in Soho to meet a friend and two men were get­ting quite ag­gres­sive in their com­ments and ges­tures.

“I was able to get out of the sit­u­a­tion but was left with this un­easy feel­ing of an­other woman hav­ing to walk there.

“I wanted to be able to leave some sort of in­di­ca­tion to her or a man in that sit­u­a­tion to fore­warn them.”

How: “The app is a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem that lay­ers on crime in­for­ma­tion from the Met Police, light­ing in­for­ma­tion, open busi­nesses and crowd­sourced in­for­ma­tion around an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour and ha­rass­ment,” said Jil­lian.

“You plan your routes like any other nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem but there are safety fea­tures like 999 on ev­ery screen so if you are in a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, you have the abil­ity to re­spond.

“In the fu­ture, we want to build that out to al­low track­a­bil­ity and an es­ca­la­tion se­quence if you aren’t where you say you are.

“We’re also work­ing with busi­nesses to iden­tify safe sites and routes. They pay us to have the ex­po­sure of be­ing listed on the app as a safe site in an emer­gency.

“They get train­ing on emer­gency pro­ce­dures that our police ad­vi­sor has cre­ated and soft skills on what sex­ual ha­rass­ment is.

“On the app, they dis­play what they can give you in an emer­gency such as a phone charge, whether they will call some­one or a cab for you.”

What’s next: “We’re go­ing to be work­ing with Old Street Dis­trict Part­ner­ship Con­nect to con­nect with a thou­sand or more busi­nesses in the area to drive com­mu­nity safety,” she said. “We will then move into an in­te­gra­tion strat­egy with other prod­ucts like Airbnb or Tin­der, to iden­tify where you would rather have your date with a stranger and also how to nav­i­gate there safely.

“And larger than that will be the in­for­ma­tion net­work, col­lat­ing user be­hav­iour within the app and whether they are rat­ing the routes safe or not so we can per­son­alise routes based on where peo­ple feel safe.

“We also want to be world­wide. At the mo­ment, it is just avail­able for London but we have 500 unique re­ports on the app and over 3,500 down­loads and have just launched on An­droid.”

On Plex­i­glass: “It’s great be­ing here,” added Jil­lian. “We have had some great con­ver­sa­tions about how we can fur­ther our busi­ness.

“Our aim while here is to close our raise of £300,000 seed in­vest­ment, make Plexal a safe site – we’re in dis­cus­sions about that – and to em­bed our­selves in east London.”

On be­ing a fe­male tech founder: “As a fe­male founder, I of­ten find I am one of few in the tech sec­tor,” she said. “I have found it a chal­lenge. I was a bit naive about the ecosys­tem I was com­ing into – I had a few sit­u­a­tions where I was sex­u­ally ha­rassed by in­vestors or de­vel­op­ers.

“Off the back of that I cre­ated a women’s col­lec­tive called Fem Tech Talks, which tries to un­pack di­ver­sity, un­con­scious bias and how we cre­ate a com­mu­nity to sup­port each other.”

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