Safety startup gets investment boost

Jacqueline Ros

Jacqueline Ros. Images courtesy of Revolver.

A Denver company offering an emergency alert button is one step closer to delivering the devices to the hundreds of backers who supported its crowdfunding campaign.

Revolar, a 2-year-old startup, recently received a $118,000 investment from Techstars Boulder upon joining its 13-week accelerator program earlier this month. The company will use the money and the mentorship to improve its prototype before beginning production in Loveland in August.

“What Techstars has allowed me to do is the same thing I’ve been doing since starting the business, but at an accelerated pace,” said Jacqueline Ros, Revolar’s founder and CEO. “The mentors are everything; it used to take me a lot of time to find the right people, and now they’re right here and I can talk to them immediately.”

Revolar is a quarter-sized button meant to be attached to a bag or clothing that alerts a list of emergency contacts if the wearer is in trouble. When pressed, it delivers a call for help and location information to the contacts through an Apple or Android mobile app. It will send updated location information every minute, Ros said.

The company designed the device for women who want a faster, quieter way to issue a distress signal than calling 911, but Ros said she thinks it could be useful for men, too.

“Globally, violence is pretty gender-neutral,” she said. “It was designed with preventing sexual assault in mind, but there are so many different uses, depending on the person.”

In order for it to work, the user’s cell phone must have service, but the team is hoping to change that before the device hits the market, said Megan Espeland, Revolar’s chief marketing officer. If a user presses it accidentally, he or she can disable the alert using the app.

The three-person company received a $212,000 investment led by Boulder-based Foundry Group in April and $83,000 from a Kickstarter campaign that closed in May. Six hundred supporters contributed enough money to receive at least one device. Ros said she expects to ship them in April.

The Revolver device is small and be clipped onto a backpack, purse or key chain.

The Revolar device is small and be clipped onto a backpack, purse or key chain.

“The Kickstarter campaign was truly for customer validation,” Ros said. “The intention wasn’t necessarily to raise money, even though that was great. Kickstarter customers are the best because they’re very patient and just want to support you.”

Revolar isn’t the first company to introduce the idea of a wearable safety button. A Singapore-based company sells Guardian Angel, a line of jewelry containing a button that calls a wearer’s cell phone as a diversion or sends a text to an emergency contact. And Cuff, a San Francisco-based company, has designed a line of jewelry with functions similar to Revolar. But the products, priced at $50 to $200, haven’t been released yet.

Customers can preorder Revolar for $80, a discounted rate. Once the product is shipped to Kickstarter supporters, it will sell for $100 online.

Ros started with Revolar after her little sister was sexually assaulted twice before she turned 17, she said. After the attacks, her sister began to carry pepper spray, a weapon that got her suspended from a homeschooling program.

“They failed her on exams,” Ros said. “That was infuriating to me because my little sister is tiny, and they knew why she was being homeschooled.”

After graduating from the University of Florida in 2012, Ros, 25, searched for something other than a weapon that a woman could carry to help her in the event of an attack. But she found nothing that fit the criteria.

Ros began working for Teach for America in Denver and used her salary and graduation money to patent her idea for a device that might give women a sense of security when traveling alone. She launched the company in 2013, and she said business took off after Denver Startup Week in September 2014.

“It was huge for the business,” she said. “We won the ‘back of the napkin’ competition and won free legal services. That’s when we really became a legitimate company.”

That year, Revolar also won the New Venture Challenge at CU Boulder – a competition with a $20,000 prize.

The buttons feature the image of a hummingbird in flight. In Spanish, “revolar” means “to fly again,” a verb that reflects the idea behind the device.

“I’ve shown (my sister) … that good things can come from the bad things that happen,” Ros said.

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