According to studies, sexual harassment is something that 33% of all women experience at least once in their lifetime. Yet, to talk about it in public is still a huge taboo. A Dutch startup wants to open up the conversation and open the eyes of the society for this frequent problem. invi created a bracelet that empowers people and sets a powerful message for the public – to destroy the taboos and get people not to turn their heads around when they become a witness of it.
Today we are having a coffee with Roel van der Kamp, the initiator (as he likes to be called) of invi. He will tell us more about the company, the transition from Pearltect to Invi and the bigger story behind the concept of the startup.
Roel was working for Accenture when he got the entrepreneurial spark. He was surrounded by impactful startups such as WakaWaka, which created a portable solar battery which makes it easier for regions in Africa to get clean and safe power. Parallel to going to work, Roel was visiting courses at the TU Delft where students were developing patents for new inventions that just gathered the dust from the shelfs. He quickly got inspired by the likeminded people around him. That’s why he took the next big step: Roel brought to life a venture that aims to solve a big problem in society: sexual harassment.
“An important question is: ‘Why is this happening? Why is a product like ours necessary?’ We are providing a solution but also trying to get society to think about these questions.”
HOW IT WORKS
How can the Invi Bracelet protect you? Invi developed an artificial smell which is inspired by the skunk’s natural repellent. The smell is that unusual that people get confused, distracted and repelled when they sense it. The smell could also be used to alarm people in the vicinity as it could be perceptible for over a 100 meters. The mechanism of the bracelet is simple, yet hard to use it by accident on yourself. With a simple click you open the safeguard of the bracelet and then with a strong pull from the back of your wrist you release the smell in case of emergency.
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THE BIGGER PICTURE
When Roel started the company he came up with the name Pearltect, mainly because he was surrounded by technical people back in TU Delft. This name didn’t however cover the message Roel wants to convey. Invi comes from “strong” and “power”, which is more fitting, since the startup needs strong people who will help them break the taboo around sexual violence. Roel sees the bracelet as a preventive measure, not a weapon:
“See it as a last resort. If there is nothing else that you can do, be assertive and use the bracelet.”
To be a pioneer in any sphere is not an easy task. The biggest success for the trio Roel and his two product designers Heleen and Iris was to get the design of the bracelet ready. The bracelet has a sleek design made both for men and female.
“If we look at sexual harassment at a street level, yes, there are mostly women who are offended, but it could also happen to men. We need both sexes to address this issue, as we want to empower them both”
The company did a thorough research and partnered up with experts on the entire spectrum to develop the bracelet. Recently Invi launched a pilot with the Municipality of Rotterdam. In cooperation with the municipality Invi is conducting a project in which people living in Rotterdam wear the bracelet. The collaboration is set up to test if participants actually feel safer when wearing the bracelet.
Well, the product is ready, so it’s time to make some impact! Invi’s main customers are from Western countries, however the team is also looking into options to make the Invi Bracelet also available in high risk areas:
“In the current refugee crises, women and children in particular are more vulnerable. We would like to explore whether Invi could help to make them more resilient against these assaults.”
Invi is making its steps to popularize the bracelet. To do so, the startup needs partners – large distributors to reach new markets and NGOs to reach high risk areas. Last but not least, Invi is looking for supporters who’d like to help spread the word. If you are into marketing and digital communications or you have another way to support Invi, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect you!