Tech alone can’t make women safe, but tech like Epowar can help

Some people are destined to make a difference in this world, and E-J Roodt is one of them. The recent university graduate is tackling female harassment and women's safety head on as co-founder of Epowar, a smartwatch app revolutionising safety that reacts instantly and automatically if you are attacked. Epowar monitors the wearer’s heart rate and body motion to sense distress, automatically sending an emergency alert if the user is attacked.

Nine in 10 women feel afraid to walk alone. They’re scared of becoming the next Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa or Ashling Murphy. But E-J and her co-founder Maks Raham understand the importance of having an accessible solution to women’s safety. Technology alone cannot make women safer on the streets, but tech like Epowar can play its part, giving women back some power and control.

What began as E-J’s dream is now a real app on the Apple App Store, something she can’t quite wrap her head around. The team received the green light from Apple that the app was approved to go live on the app store, and two weeks later it was launched (1st June).

Epowar all started when E-J was a 21-year-old business student at the University of Bath. Inspiration for the app came to E-J whilst she was jogging in a poorly lit park, worrying about the risk of an attack.

“It’s a problem that needs to be solved and one I strongly identify with as a woman. I often feel scared walking or running alone, and I’ve always wished I could do something about it.

“When I heard that Apple Watches could detect heart attacks, something just clicked. It was incredibly exciting,” she explains.

Epowar uses cutting-edge tech to address the fear that women feel when walking alone, giving women back some power and control. It eliminates the major issue with rape alarms and other conventional safety products: they need to be physically activated, which is often not an option in the event of an attack.

In the event of an attack, the smartwatch app senses distress, sends an alert to the wearer’s contacts, sets off a loud alarm, and records evidence that will be stored immediately in a cloud system.

The launch

Epowar’s launch event was a phenomenal success, and of course in true Epowar style, it was as pink as possible.

Epowar launch

E-J says: “We are so excited that after three years of continual research, painstaking experiments and trials, we can finally launch the Epowar app. We believe it will make a major contribution to women’s safety. The key is that it all happens automatically - an assailant would have little or no time to prevent this, which is not always possible with conventional panic buttons, rape alarms or your mobile phone.”

“Many women feel scared to walk or run alone - we’re afraid of becoming a victim of violence against women. Technology alone cannot make women safer on our streets, but tech like Epowar can play its part, giving women back some power and control. I am so incredibly excited to launch Epowar.”

The launch was also the perfect opportunity to bring together long standing supporters of Epowar, including those who have been on the waitlist from the beginning.

Raising funds as a female founder

98% of all startup funding goes to male founded startups, explains E-J, who experienced the fundraising gender gap first hand. “People are doubtful about the market potential and how sticky the product will be,” she says.

“Cold emails are soul crushing and result in way more rejections than you need. I’d say focus on trying to get warm introductions from your nwteork, and if you don’t have a very extensive network then build one. You can go to different networking events for investment, apply to pitch competitions and take part in incubators/accelerators. The list is endless,” explains E-J.

Despite the very evident funding gap, E-J has received overwhelming support from her incredible friends and family, and of course the University of Bath where it all began.

From day one, E-J has been part of the university’s Enterprise Scheme. She had an amazing mentor, Lawrence James, received access to an office space, mentorship and funding, and was able to work on Epowar full time on her placement year.

For her 21st birthday, E-J’s parents helped to fund the first few payments for Epowar’s patent, a true testament to the dedication from E-J and her co-founder.

E-J has also been part of the Safe Circles Hackathon, resulting in continued support, as well as the Vantage Female Founder Accelerator, and Innovate UK.

Next steps

Now the app has finally launched to the public on the Apple Store, the team are full steam ahead to make Epowar available on new devices. Another fundraising round is on the cards, as well as team expansion and a greater marketing budget to spread the word.

One thing’s for sure. E-J won’t stop until women feel safe: “I’m so passionate about what I do, I will die on this hill. And, I’ll continue to use my voice to talk about women’s safety."