Interview: ROAR For Good Co-Founder Talks Sexual Assault Prevention And Social Impact Entrepreneurship

Interview: ROAR For Good Co-Founder Talks Sexual Assault Prevention And Social Impact Entrepreneurship

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Social impact entrepreneurs Yasmine Mustafa and Anthony Gold want to make being safe fashionable. The duo founded ROAR for Good, a Philadelphia-based startup that produces wearable technology that empowers women and helps prevent sexual assault, in 2014. The company’s current flagship product is Athena, a fashionable pendant that emits an alarm, messages loved ones with your location, and calls the authorities for immediate help when activated. ROAR for Good also invests in early sexual assault prevention by donating a portion of its proceeds to non-profit programs that teach empathy and healthy relationships to young children. We recently had the chance to ask Anthony a few questions regarding how his company is helping to address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and beyond as well as his experiences as a social impact entrepreneur:

When will Athena be released and where can consumers purchase the product?

We currently have prototype versions of our hardware and software in user testing. Our goal is to have a production version of the Athena product line ready by Spring 2016. At that time the device will sell for $99. But Athena will be available for pre-order through Indiegogo beginning on October 20th with early bird rates starting at $60. You can visit our site to connect to the campaign.

Are there any other products in the works?

The Athena line of jewelry is just our first product. We plan to introduce additional designs and styles to appeal to different lifestyles. Also, as technology evolves, more things can be done in even smaller space. For example, embedding the technology directly into clothing, footwear, phone cases, and so forth enables even greater flexibility. As a company, we have this one metric that we use to measure success: the number of lives we touch. Thus, we will continue developing solutions to reduce assaults and ideally begin to transform society.

Sexual assault is a growing issue on college campuses. How can your product help address this or move toward helping to prevent it?

Every one of us knows someone -- or is someone -- who has been a victim of assault. The stats are horrible. We developed Athena as a way to help. Here’s how it works: the module has a button on it that can be pressed whenever the wearer feels threatened. That one action causes the device to emit a loud alarm and sends text messages to friends & family with the wearer’s location. In addition, we are working on engineering a solution to automatically call 911 for immediate help. We also built the device to include a silent mode for situations where the wearer does not want the attacker to know that the device has been triggered (e.g. domestic violence). To borrow from Steve Jobs, we want to make a dent in the universe of women’s safety -- and nothing would bring us more joy than to obviate the need for devices like Athena.

What else do you think should be done to help prevent sexual assault?

We refer to these issues of sexual assaults, harassment, and inequality as “women’s issues.” These aren’t women’s issues. They are societal issues, and as a society we need to step up and do more to address them. For example, we need more male allies to step up, let their voices be heard, and lead by example. We also need to do more around bystander training and empowerment. Most importantly, we need more education and collaborative discussion around empathy, respect, and healthy relationships.

Did you always envision yourself becoming an entrepreneur?

I started my career designing supercomputers for Unisys. My career there was truly blessed, and I had an opportunity to work with amazing people and build some really cool products -- including one that was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting the largest number of concurrent gamers at the Dreamhack gaming conference. I was given a chance to build a startup inside of Unisys around Open Source software and services, and we hit the market at the perfect time and grew that business rapidly. From there, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and subsequently built a healthcare startup and then began personally investing in several startups in the Philadelphia region.

My passion now is helping build companies -- particularly those that are focused on changing the world. And I also love helping people excel in their careers -- for which I write on quite a bit at Anthony’s Desk. I was honored to deliver the commencement address for Penn State’s graduate school this past summer helping prepare graduates for their professional careers -- ideally some as entrepreneurs.

What are some lessons you have learned on your entrepreneurial journey?

Building startups is both a ton of fun and a lot of work. The exciting part is the opportunity to think big and develop ideas that can truly change the world. Of course, the days are very long and resources oftentimes scarce -- especially in the early days. But working on mission-driven initiatives like ROAR is what continually keeps me going.

For the companies I’ve built and/or invested in, some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned include:

• There’s a right time and a wrong time to raise capital -- as well as the right types of people from whom to seek investment. Learning the subtleties has helped me immensely.

• Using aspects of Lean Startup, particularly leveraging MVPs (minimum viable products) to ensure early market acceptance is key to success.

• Learn how to pick yourself up when the going gets tough. There’s a saying in the business world: it’s lonely at the top. Whether you’re on top of a team of one or 100, there will be times when you are down and second guess yourself. Learning how to keep yourself -- and your team -- motivated and passionate around the goals will make a huge difference.

• Surround yourself with the best talent you can find, and don’t let bad apples stick around. There will be people you bring on board who aren’t a good fit. Take quick action to address, otherwise, you will regret it.

• Challenge yourself every day with questions like this: What else can/should I be doing to move this business forward? Are there critical aspects of the business I’m not focused on, and if so, what can I do to address them? What’s one thing I can do today to show appreciation for my team’s contributions and keep them excited about our mission?

ROAR for Good recently raised over $150,000 from DreamIt Ventures. How did you pitch the product to investors and do you have any specific advice regarding startup fundraising?

ROAR has actually raised just under a quarter-million dollars through multiple investors including DreamIt, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Untours Foundation, and a few angel investors. The best investor pitches are ones where you leave the investor thinking: “I see the market potential and believe this team can make it happen.” The worst thing you can do in a pitch is “over-hype." Investors see right through that. Don’t ever say you’re going to get X percent of a market -- very few people will believe you unless you already have compelling market traction to suggest otherwise. Convince the investors that there is a major pain point (or unmet opportunity) that people are willing to pay for -- and that you have the team and idea that can capitalize on that. Ideally, if you already have an MVP with real market feedback, then you’re well on your way toward a great presentation.

As far as specific fundraising tips, here are a few:


    • Money is not fungible. Be sure the people/organizations you raise money from totally buy into your team and your mission.
    • Don’t complicate your cap table -- that can make subsequent raises much more complicated.
    • With regard to personal equity, remember that a small percentage of a big number is much better than a large percentage of nothing. I’ve seen too many entrepreneurs who have missed out on good deals because they worried too much about dilution.
    • If you think you need X to get to break even (or achieve the key milestones required for the next round), then raise at least 1.5 if not 2X. There will be far more uncertainty (and schedule slips) than you think.

Any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those interested in social impact?

When it comes to social impact, the key is following your passion. The burning desire inside of you that wants (needs) to make a difference will keep you going through the difficult times. And that same passion is what will attract the right team to help you achieve your goals. Finally, build a personal advisory board of people who can help mentor and guide your career.

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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5 Reasons Why My Simself Is Thriving Better Than I Am At The Moment

My sim may have started a fire while making mac n cheese, but at least they know how to cook.

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My life is currently a mess at the moment. I'm trying to adult, but adulting is really hard and I can't seem to do it well. It doesn't help that all of my sims are better at adulting then me. Sure, they may start the occasional fire while trying to cook a grilled cheese, but at least they are trying their best and thriving better than I am.

1. My sims actually know how to cook.

My sims may not be the best cooks, but at least they actually try. I usually opt for instant noodles and takeout.

2. My sim works out more than I do.

My sims go to the gym on a regular basis, where as I'm lucky to go once a week.

3. My sim has an actual love life.

Relationships in the sims are super easy, you can meet a cute sim and then one hour later you're dating.

4. My sims sex life is way better than mine.

Fun fact! The Sims has a lot of fascinating places to woohoo, and all of my sims have done it way more than I have.

5. My sim can actually afford rent while working an entry level job.

There is no way I will be able to afford rent for a city loft as a freelance writer, but my sim seems to be doing just fine, and they even have money in their savings.

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