It was at the start of the first confinement that the idea of Where are you (WYA) came to Oxford students Tamzin Lent and Olivia Leigh. Thinking about the experience of first-year students post-pandemic, Tamzin, who is currently still in her third year at Oxford, reflected on how she had often felt exposed at nightclubs and large events when she had lost her friends: “If I, as a 20-year-old, can feel that vulnerability, how much more dangerous can it be for 18-year-old freshmen fresh out of a pandemic?
There seemed to be a simple solution: “It’s so easy to be a target when you lose your friends, and the more I tell people about it, the more I feel like it’s a universal problem. There was just a clear need for an app that could tell you where your friends were in the club.
Since then, what started as a seed of an idea quickly grew into a fully formed startup. Although they don’t know anything about designing an app, Olivia and Tamzin got the ball rolling: “For me, it started with creating a few designs to see what it would look like – putting wireframes together,” explains Tamzin. Instead of trying to build the app themselves, they raised funds to hire a team of third-party developers who were responsible for the technical process. “Quite often with startups, you’re expected to launch an app, and it kinda fails, and that’s just rubbish. We felt like we couldn’t do that if it’s It was a security app,” says Olivia.
“If, as a 20-year-old, I can feel that vulnerability, how much more dangerous can it be for 18-year-old freshmen fresh out of a pandemic?”
The process of building the startup was relatively smooth, they tell me. The lockdowns of the past two years have made it easy for the founders to jump into the project, and they’ve also found places and businesses receptive to their ideas. “Sites are desperate to help out and do something about security, which is obviously good for their business,” says Olivia. “Everyone has been very generous with their time. Of course, it’s been a little difficult to tie everything together, from technology to site partnerships to users, as people who don’t have a lot of business experience to begin with. One of their big steps so far has been gaining recognition and partnership with the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA): “For us, this has shown a real appetite in the night time industry for a security solutions.”
Almost two years later, the app is almost ready and has started its testing phase at local venues in Oxford as well as London. The technology uses Bluetooth beacons that are placed around the room, allowing the space to be mapped. This works in combination with a digitized floor plan of the venue, which is also uploaded to the app. Users at events can then move around while the app shows their precise location to their friends. WYA is expected to officially launch around the spring of this year, but it has already attracted considerable attention – with The Guardian last year in addition to winning awards such as the Downing Enterprise Pitch Award.
Apart from third-party developers, the internal team remained small. Tamzin is working on the app part-time alongside her degree. Olivia, a recent Cambridge graduate with a master’s degree, works full-time at the startup as interim CEO, while Tamzin completes her studies. Through a college friend, they also met Jamie Legg, who, with a background in coding, is now the CTO overseeing the development of the app. After finalizing their first fundraiser, balancing the emotional and very personal dimension of the cause with the development of a solid business model was the key to presenting to investors: “It can be a little tricky because these are two very different conversations – but obviously it’s important that they both happen. Investors have been very enthusiastic and it’s been a very good process,” Olivia tells me. The business plan is to charge the sites with a fee. subscription or a per-user fee for large events, while the app remains free for users.” It’s a security solution for venues, and we hope it will drive people to clubs that offer the service Building safer spaces at these events will just be great for the nightlife industry, as well as customers.
“Building safer spaces at these events will just be great for the nightlife industry, as well as customers”
Tackling the issue of women’s safety is clearly something of immense importance to the Founders. Research they conducted showed that 92% of the 1.2 thousand students surveyed regularly felt unsafe on their nights out, and when asked what was the most pressing issue affecting their nightlife, 65 % answered sexual abuse. In light of the recent outbreak, which has occurred not just in Cambridge clubs but in universities across the UK, the need for a solution has never been greater. “Sites can definitely do more,” says Olivia. “It is important that we think about proactive solutions [on top of club boycotts].” The hope is that their app will provide one. As Tamzin says, “It’s an app designed by women, made for women.”
Although the problem appears to be primarily sex-related, Tamzin and Olivia tell me that their findings show that this is a male problem as well. With the increase in the number of reported doping incidents and the subsequent increase in attention to general safety at club events: “A lot of men are starting to feel targeted as well,” says Olivia. Tamzin further highlights the relevance of the question for those who are non-binary. “It’s just become an endemic problem for all types of clubs, absolutely everywhere.”
For those familiar with the impossible demands of an Oxbridge degree, the idea of being a startup founder on the side may seem bordering on madness: “It was tough with the finals, that’s why Olivia took the leadership as CEO has been amazing,” Tamzin tells me. “But the passion and enthusiasm was key to getting us through. I channel my anger from past experiences I’ve had and those emotions all flow into WYA Olivia agrees, saying, “The fact that there’s a problem to solve keeps the momentum going. [going]. Often this can make it easier to set up [WYA] before university work, in fact, which can be a problem.
“I channel my anger from past experiences I’ve had and those emotions all go into WYA”
Looking to the future, the ambition is for people to be able to go to certified venues that they can trust and where they know they will be safe, with a strong line of communication between venues and spectators. , mediated by the application. “That would be the dream, and there’s definitely a demand for it. It’s just a matter of setting up the logistics. And for the two founders, it’s full steam ahead. Tamzin says, “There is no backup plan. As soon as the finals are over, I’ll be working on that full time. It is this sense of mission. I learned that this is one of the most important parts of any project; there is a clear sense of “why”.
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