WiseDame: Now *that’s* what I call disruptive (part 6 of TechCrunch, disrupted)

WiseDame: making safe living easier, one application release at a time

Is it just me, or does WiseDame seem far more disruptive than most of the startups pitching location-based ideas?

— Jon Pincus, on WiseDame’s just-relaunched site; originally from A celebration of disruptive women

J’aime Ohm won the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon as a solo hacker with a personal safety iPhone app.  WiseDame’s tag line is “making safe living easier, one application release at a time”. It takes basic safety practices – letting friends or family know what time you expect to be home,  leaving a note about your plans for the day – and makes them better, faster, and easier.  Brilliant.

And a great case study in agile software engineering, too. J’aime started with an idea for a product she wanted and a set of use cases based her own experience. Next she talked with a bunch of potential early adopters who were variants on a target persona (“women who go out”) and had enough information to build a prototype. Which she did, and iterated rapidly continuing to get feedback, all in less than 24 hours.

As Cindy Gallop of If We Ran The World highlighted in email:

this product came out of FEMALE USER NEED AND EXPERIENCE.  The number of tech ventures meant to deliver a gender-equal UX with all-male founding teams is ridiculous.  And equally, male geeks are going to miss a lot of concepts that can sell to vast numbers of women (the primary purchasers in many sectors and the primary influencers in many others).  Let the women in, for chrissakes!!

An iPhone screen that says: If and only if you do not check in with this application by the time you specified, we will contact your emergency contacts with a request to check up on you. We will give them access to your last known GPS location, battery level, and the people you are out with.J’aime’s prizes for winning the Hackathon included a picture by Hugh Macleod* and the chance to present for 6 minutes three days later in front of the Silicon Valley elite — entrepreneurs, investors, developers, press — and a few thousand people watching online.  No pressure or anything …

So she called her older sister Kirstin Ohm who was able to join her at the conference as person-of-wing, coach, and marketing/business strategist.**  Disrupt Hackathon “Groupon prize” winners Frank Denbow and Angela Wang helped out too, and the net result was a fantastic talk.  There was even a shout-out to Hollaback, the movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology, which has been working on its own iPhone app. How many of the companies pitching aligned themselves with social justice causes?   She ended with her thoughts about taking things forward.

If WiseDame had been competing against the other startups for the Disrupt Cup, with those four as founders, I would have put them in the final 7 and quite possibly the top three.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but: diverse teams outperform.

The response J’aime’s gotten has been so positive that she’s decided to make WiseDame her full-time job for the foreseeable future.  Instead of rushing an early version of the app out, she decided to take a step back, figure out the minimum viable product, think through the privacy implications, and raise it to the quality bar she wants to see.***  Makes sense to me.

In the interview, Evelyn comments how different this app is from all the GroupOn clones that she saw developed.  Yeah really.  Similarly I lost track of how many startups and investors and executives were talking about location-based stuff during Disrupt and I didn’t hear anything remotely like this come up.  If you stop to think about it for a second, this kind of personal safety functionality could easily be added to any social network application or social game and it has been almost completely overlooked.   Talk about a collective blind spot…****

And an opportunity.

Imagine WiseDame working with iHollaback on awareness via the all-powerful momosphere as well as the highly networked feminist and womanist blogospheres while they steadily refine their apps.   Then there are all kinds of potential next steps; as MG Siegler said in A black box for real life, you can easily see this idea being applicable in all kinds of ways, and there are all kinds of partnership opportunities as well.  From a business perspective, WiseDame’s perfectly set up with a chance to be a market leader in the emerging category of “woman-oriented personal safety mobile notification apps” and go from there.

Now that’s what I call disruptive.


PS: Congrats to J’aime and WiseDame on relaunching the site; it looks great.  And thanks for quoting me!

* whose Blue Monster, aka Change the World or Go Home, was one of Ad Astra’s icons back in Microsoft days

** Yo, bro: in the event of a similar happy accident, you’d do that for me, right?

*** More great software engineering … in case it’s not clear, I’m impressed.  Kudos to J’aime, and also to Jeannette Wing, Peter Lee, and all their colleagues at her alma mater Carnegie Mellon University.

**** See Guys talking to guys who talk about guys for more about how a clique of male nodes with preferential attachment to other male nodes leads to this kind of blind spot.  WiseDame can be seen as an example of a “pink ocean strategy”.

Earlier posts in the TechCrunch, Disrupted series:

Fretting, asking, and begging isn’t a plan, Collusion is sooo hot right now,
The third wave meets the anatomy of awesome, Changing the ratio,
A public service announcement, A celebration of disruptive women, and Hold that thought