As a woman walking down a dark or lonely street can be scary. Even in the middle of the day. It causes fear and if there is no shelter or no help in arms reach in an actually critical situation, bad things can happen. But this feeling of fear can also occur on a crowded street: When a woman is feeling unsafe or being harassed and nobody helps. Or when bystanders are not even aware that there is a woman feeling unsafe. For whatever reasons women get into critical situations and might need help – Securella aims to provide this help. Be it through people taking action and feeling the duty to help or through a safe place where women can go and make a call or simply wait until the danger has passed.
Today we want to introduce you to Securella’s founder, Samia Haimoura from Morocco. While Samia was in her last year at University she had the idea to create a network, actually a complete eco-system, for people and especially women in her country. She wanted them to feel safe at all times but most of all she wanted to prevent them of getting into harmful situations. Securella provides an app that alerts women about unsecure or even dangerous roads. They are informed about so-called secure “Securella places”, a network of participating restaurants and shops, and they can call for help with a wearable and be found by GPS. Securella is currently in its prototyping phase and is to launch in April this year.
Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the idea for Securella?
Samia: In many places, and this applies for all countries around the globe, there are situations where people especially women are in danger, for example when being threatened by somebody else. And there might be people around but sometimes they don’t necessarily realize that there is a person in need of help, or who feels insecure or threatened. Furthermore, in my home country, in Morocco, the police only intervene in situations when there is a real and obvious danger, for example when somebody pulls out a knife. In my opinion, that is too late.
What I want to do is actually prevent these kinds of situations. I want to prevent women from being in fear and I want to create a network so that women can actually feel safe on the street. And in case they do not feel safe they would be able to make others aware of it. With Securella, I want to create a community for women that supports or even helps them when they are in situations of fear or danger. I want to create an infrastructure where they can feel secure, where they have a place to hide or find shelter and where they can get help when they need it.
Have you ever been attacked or in a situation where you felt threatened?
Samia: There were several situations where I felt uncomfortable walking the streets, maybe because I was alone or I was in a neighbourhood that wasn’t too safe. But yes, there actually was one specific incident. I was leaving University on a Saturday morning around 9 o’clock, which is not the scariest time of day. I was walking along the streets of my hometown and I noticed a man following me. I walked faster but he kept on following me. At some point I realized I was all alone on the street and that person, that man, had also disappeared by that time. Even though there was nobody there anymore, I started to feel uncomfortable and actually got afraid and hectic. And suddenly, I saw that man again, right in front of me. And he was coming closer. I didn’t know if he was going to hurt me. And as I said there was nobody around who could have helped me. In this moment, I don’t even know what it was and where it came from – if it was the adrenalin or anger or fear – but when he got close to me I kicked him hard where I knew it would hurt. I am not a violent or angry person at all but the moment this man approached me kicking him was the only reaction I knew would help me. And I actually kicked him again. And then I walked away. Unharmed.
For me, this was a moment when I realized that I had shown a reaction that many women would not have. Many would have been too afraid and startled to react. And they might have been attacked and harmed. I knew I wanted to prevent other women from the fear I had that morning and also from the violent reaction I had seen in myself. As I said, I am not an angry person. But I was angry that day. And I don’t want to be. So I started to work on my idea.
How did you start out with Securella? What were the first steps and how did you find partners to support you?
Samia: Many times people are not really aware that there is actually someone around who feels uncomfortable or needs help. I wanted to raise a general awareness for situations like these. I decided to create a community where people and especially women would feel safe and where they would get help if they needed it. And not only that – I actually wanted to create a movement where everybody, and especially the police enforcement, had the feeling it was their moral duty to help others. In order to be able to do so, I wanted to give them a tool to connect and interact faster.
To realize the project I wanted to use technology and combine it with my idea. I needed to create a device that people could use for creating a big network. Furthermore, I wanted to make everybody be able to help others in situations when they needed it. And I wanted police enforcement to be part of the project because Securella is actually a smart tool for them to use and track violence throughout their districts. How? Securella records the signals that are being sent from women in need. Police enforcement can actually not only track the women who send signals of danger via GPS but they can also analyze what areas are possible places of threats. It is a transparent network that the police can actually use for their work. For me the most important fact is to make them not wait until the last minute to interfere. Securella can actually help them become aware of critical situations before they become really dangerous. And it can also awaken their feeling of duty to interfere when necessary. It is the police, after all.
But, of course, I not only needed a technical device, but also partners. For my first cause of action I used a model and produced stickers that said “Local Hero”. I went to every local business and shop in my hometown and basically asked every person: “Do you want to be a hero?” Their answer was usually: “Who doesn’t want to be a hero?” And while talking to the first shop owners telling them about my idea and how it works, I changed the scope of my question and asked them: “Would you help a Moroccan girl or woman in a situation of danger?” This question got even more emotional feedback, because that woman could be everybody’s mother, sister, wife or any other female family member or friend. The result was incredible: Everybody said yes. I had set up a network of local partners where women in fear could go to when in need, make a phone call or just wait until the situation of danger has passed. The local shops throughout my entire hometown have become shelters for those in need. And that was an amazing start.
What did your parents say when you told them about your idea?
Samia: That was very interesting. I was in my last year at University when I had the idea for Securella and my parents were not too convinced. They basically told me: Don’t even try. The police won’t cooperate with you. There is no infrastructure, there is just no chance you will be successful with this. Go to another country and try to do this somewhere else. I knew it was going to be a challenge, especially when it came to bringing police enforcement on my side. I knew it could have been easier in other countries where there is an infrastructure to build a start-up. Or where there is a bigger acceptance for projects like mine. But you know how it is when your parents tell you, to not do something. You do it anyway. And I wanted to solve a problem that was there. I felt it was my duty to help others and especially women in my country. And I wanted others to feel that duty as well. I ignored my parents and started developing my idea into a proper business model.
And then I actually had a fun moment with my dad. My laptop got stolen one day when I was at University and I reported it to the police. They didn’t help me at all and my father got so angry that he told me: “Go and build Securella and see if you can get the police to help.”
What was a first highlight you remember?
Samia: When I had the first prototype at hand. It is just incredible feeling to see an idea turn into a real product. A product you can touch, you can use and that actually works. This is one of the most rewarding feelings for any innovator.
What was the biggest challenge at the beginning and how did you solve it?
Samia: The biggest challenge for me was – and still is – the technical support for my project. My idea was basically a business map or a business plan but I had no technical support to build a prototype. I finally found someone who built a first draft. But after he had finished the job, that person would leave again. It is very difficult to find someone who is committed to my idea and to the cause and who is willing to support me through this first phase, build a prototype that I can go out with to market and raise awareness for Securella.
Only when I started to apply for awards and was actually awarded for my project I started to get awareness. For example, I won the Shape Africa Award in 2016 which got me a great deal of attention. I am also a finalist in the Global Mobile Challenge and I will actually find out if I will win the challenge by the end of February. I am mentioning this mostly because it is an interesting development for me. Through the attention I receive through these awards, I finally have a couple of offers for technical support on the table.
Still, if I had this support earlier on, Securella could already have launched with the first prototype. And it could have possibly helped women in danger already. Now I am scheduled to launch in April and get the first feedback from users and then I will be able to further develop the app.
How did you come up with the name Securella?
Samia: Since the idea was basically about women and security I wanted to create a name that included both elements. So I took the Italian prefix for “she” which is “ella” and paired it with secure. For a deeper meaning of it you could also say: Embrace your inner Cinderella. Or: It’s Security meeting Cinderella.
What’s the next step? Where do you see Securella in 3 years?
Samia: The next step for Securella is to launch the first prototype and have women use it. I want to get their feedback because until now the product is based on general ideas. Only when women start using it I can get their feedback and further develop it.
I also want to get more partners on board and I think as soon as I make Securella more known in Morocco (and outside of Morocco), people will want to partner up with me. I want them to actually come up to me and ask: How can I become part of this network?
My overall vision for Securella, however, is more than security. Security is the first step because this is where I see the biggest necessity to get active. But it is actually about fear: I want to conquer and bring down fear. Because it is fear that stops us from going out there and exploring the world and I want people to stop being afraid. Fear definitely holds people back and a basic need for not being afraid is security. Therefore, I want to get rid of fear related to physical violence and then take it to the next level and diminish any other fear, such as fear of heights for example. I want people to go out there and dare something, like climb a mountain. Basically, Securella should be a tool and a community to empower women to embrace their fears rather than letting fear taking over their lives.
Who or what inspires you?
Samia: There is not really one single person that inspires me. I am inspired by many people, especially those who find problems or gaps in society and look for a solution. Many people just complain that there is a problem or something is not working well. For me a problem is actually a chance to find or develop a solution, to create something new.
On a daily basis, I admire people who allow themselves to explore who they really are and use what they find out to help other people. Every person has great potential.
If you could give a tip to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Samia: You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Go out and connect to people, talk to them about your ideas and get their feedback. Share your ideas with them and see what you can do with it. You will find a lot of support. And even if you get rejected, move on. I have been rejected many times but if you continue to work on your idea, there will be another person to support you. Being interactive is the true idea behind connecting the dots. You don’t need to create something completely new: Use what’s already there and develop your idea around it.
The interview was conducted and written by Christina Richter from FIELFALT, the community and blogazine for female empowerment. FIELFALT wants to encourage women to leave their comfort zones to dare something and to achieve their goals and realize their dreams.