Interview with Jillian Kowalchuk
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Canadian by birth and also the Founder and CEO of Safe & the City – A London-based technology company that uses GPS, crowdsourced information and police risk data to reduce victims of opportunistic crimes and sexual harassment that can make people feel unsafe.
I have always been deeply passionate about advocating for people’s health, well-being and global equality. I started my undergraduate studies in psychology and sociology, and then went on to pursue an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the world’s most renowned institutions.
My focus was to use both my degrees, world travel and my own personal experiences to advance universal access to health, freedom and justice. Following my study years, I worked as a global public consultant at various private and public organisations, as well as a researcher at UCL London.
My career then progressed to Tech, quite by accident, with the development of a personal safety app, Safe & the City which was officially launched on 8th March 2018. This app is free to download on Android and iOS, and uses a highly predictive algorithm to alert users in advance before approaching intersections which pose a risk.
By combining officially reported and unreported crimes, Safe & the City will complement the police intelligence picture, provide information to support urban infrastructure and help users to make informed decisions to avoid becoming victims of opportunistic crimes or sexual harassment.
There is also the added assurance that if need be they can quickly reach help to 999 emergency services.
“The more you give, the more you will receive. “Jillian Kowalchuk
What’s the story been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
Spending a lot of time abroad as a young girl – my early years were spent in Yemen, where my family was based until the Civil War of 1994 – has probably given me my biggest life lessons and shaped my life. Travelling and also working in many countries around the world meant I was exposed to many different situations and, in particular, the living conditions of many people.
I must have visited at least 50 countries as part of my career in countries such as Uganda, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This allowed me to become immersed in different cultures, but also to gain an understanding of the serious issues on the ground, not always open for discussion, but which profoundly impacts communities. The biggest life lesson is the fragility of life, but the beauty in our differences and similarities that bring people together.
What three advice tips should a startup know?
1) Invest in your personal and professional growth and share your goals and the steps you are taking to make it happen with others. This will be one of the best marketing tools to share your story to build your tribe of supporters which can be users, customers, team members, investors or other businesses.
(2) The more you give, the more you will receive. Building human-centric businesses and products where people and their talents is at the core is the best ROI.
(3) Every day there is an opportunity to learn a lesson. If you’re attuned, creatively experimenting and measuring the results this cumulative approach can build your company’s processes, systems, sales pipelines, funding pitches and relationships to a larger chance to succeed.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The people you spend your time with are directly correlated with your growth and development. It is important to select people and relationships – whether intimate, friendship or professional – who believe in you and are invested in your success, as much as you are in theirs.
What three strategies have made your business run better?
Our top three strategies are:
(1) Building a network of partnerships: In the year since our launch, Safe & the City has forged and continues to forge strong working partnerships with several key organisations which include the Metropolitan Police, our largest partner with whom we have worked closely from the beginning. We have also recently partnered with Ask for Angela, which works to prevent and reduce sexual violence and vulnerability in night-time service economies. In progress is a partnership with UN Women UK which is geared towards a pilot research project for the UN Women’s Global Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces initiative aimed at providing decision makers with the data insights essential for creating safe and inclusive spaces for women and girls.
(2) Upgrading and expansion – we have an ongoing expansion plan, creating new features designed to make the app even easier to use, faster and more accurate. These include the integration of what3words (W3W) on to Safe & the City allowing users to use a unique 3-word address of their location, with the partnership planned to also incorporate Safe & the City on to W3W. In addition, new push notifications will ‘push’ out important safety messages and reminders to users while locations of independent ‘safe’ sites’ and police stations in London have also been added to the in-app map.
(3) Social Media and Marketing – Promoting the business through PR and Social Media has ensured a consistent message gets through to media and, directly, through to our customers, while also maintaining our brand identity. With the majority of our target customer base already on social media, particularly on their mobile devices, we find this is one of the best routes to engage with them and ultimately increase traffic to our website.
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