The Accidental Entrepreneur: From a Class Project to London to SXSW

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Courtesy / Choose SA

Bria Woods answers audience questions during SXSW 2017.

Picture this: I’m on 6th Street in Austin with my best friends, and we’re having a great time when all of a sudden we realize one of our friends is missing. We have no idea where he is. We search the bar – he’s nowhere to be found. We call him repeatedly – no answer. We text him – no response. We roam 6th street – all to no avail.

Perhaps you’ve experienced that heart-sinking moment when you can’t find a friend or a loved one. It’s instantly sobering, and immediately all of the worst-case scenarios start playing in your mind. I felt helpless in that moment. My friend was in the middle of downtown Austin intoxicated, alone, and vulnerable.

The reality is that stories like these are rather run-of-the-mill in college. Monday mornings are usually filled with groggy comparisons of each other’s weekend rendezvous trying to see who cheated death the most. The stories I heard and cases I had to report as a resident assistant at Trinity University completely changed the way I thought about safety.

This and so many similar stories wove into the inspiration for GLO – which stands for “Good Looking Out” – a personal safety app designed to make it easier for friends to keep track of each other during an outing, and one that will automatically notify your friends when you’ve made it home safely. But how did I go from a scary night on 6th Street to being an official speaker at SXSW? A series of life-changing, happy accidents.

It all began my senior year at Trinity when I took an entrepreneurship class simply because I needed an extra one-hour course to graduate – and I had already maxed out on P.E. credits. What started as a group project blossomed into my first startup.

Hence the reason I titled my talk at SXSW “The Accidental Entrepreneur.” I started my talk by asking the audience at Casa San Antonio what chocolate chip cookies, penicillin, and GLO have in common (more on that later). To answer this question I went back to where it all began in that group project in my first and only entrepreneurship class at Trinity.

My first group project focused on raising awareness about rape and sexual assault on college campuses. In our research we learned that one in five women and one and 13 men will be raped or sexually assaulted during their college career, and this is especially high for college freshmen during the red zone (August through Thanksgiving). We didn’t even need the stats; we had the gut-wrenching stories from our best friends to fuel our mission.

We pitched our idea at the Stumberg Competition in April 2016 and were one of five finalists who won $5,000, a spot in the 10-week Trinity University Accelerator program, a free membership at Geekdom, and access to the best San Antonio has to offer in the way of entrepreneurship and innovation. During the accelerator program we pivoted the scope of the problem we were trying to solve. If someone is being sexually assaulted their safety has been compromised many steps earlier. It seemed that raising awareness about an issue that everyone is already aware of was rather reactive.

We wanted to be proactive, change the conversation, and provide a bold step people could take at the beginning of the night so they wouldn’t have to worry about the end of the night.

I pitched the idea for a safety app at 3DS at Geekdom in June 2016. After three days of intense work with an inspiring team, GLO was born. The development of the app began at the Global Roundup Conference in July where I won its first ever wireframe competition. A team of seven coders participated in a 24-hour hackathon writing the preliminary code for the GLO app.

Courtesy / GLO

The GLO app interface.

Upon opening the app, you can invite friends who you want to look out for you. Then you set your home base, a safe place you want to be at the end of your outing. Next, you select the time you want to be back at your home base. Then you go out and have a good time while GLO works in the background. At any point during your outing, you can check on your friends’ location by tapping their profile photo and the map will zoom out to their location. You can also let your friends know you made it home safe by pushing the “home safe” button, or if you’re uncomfortable or having and emergency by pushing corresponding buttons.

If your curfew rolls around and you are not at your home base, the GLO app will first notify you by saying, “You haven’t made it home yet, are you okay?” If you don’t respond after three minutes your friends will get a notification along the lines of, “Bria hasn’t made it home yet, here is her location.” If you do make it home by the time you set earlier in the night the GLO app will automatically send a notification to your friends to let them know you made it home safely. It’s easy to forget to send that “home safe” text, so GLO automates this process. That way no one has to worry and everyone is assured that their friends and loved ones are safe.

A few weeks later I found myself in the office of the Secretary of State signing our business formation documents. It was at that moment that I thought to myself, “I guess I’m an entrepreneur now!”

One month later, I was on a plane off to begin my post-grad degree in multimedia broadcast journalism at the University of Westminster in London. 

Getting invited to be an official speaker at SXSW is a story of being in the right place at the right time. A few days before I left for London, Dr. Luis Martinez, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Trinity University, invited me to speak in some of the entrepreneurship classes at Trinity. Coincidentally, Meghan Oswald, executive director of Choose SA, was in the room and approached me afterward.

“How would you like it if GLO was featured at SXSW?” she asked me.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, I just remember internally screaming while trying to string together an intelligent and professional sounding sentence to say, “Heck yeah.”

Going back to the question I posed at SXSW: What do chocolate chip cookies, penicillin, and GLO have in common? All are happy accidents.

One moment I was sitting in a cool class just looking forward to graduation, and a few months later I found myself managing my first startup from across the pond.

I explained at SXSW that what started as a fortunate accident quickly evolved into an intentional and purposeful part of my life. GLO’s mission is bigger than me. For the first time in my life I am consumed by a burning desire to realize GLO’s vision of a safer world – Which is why we are starting right here in our backyard.

Courtesy / Choose SA

Bria Woods at SXSW 2017.

San Antonio has been a crucial character in GLO’s story. We have had the opportunity to work and partner with Trinity University and its police department, Geekdom, Choose SA, Launch SASan Antonio Entrepreneurship Center, WiseWear, GROK Interactive, AR Strategy Group, and Sukeban, to name just a few.

Last year, San Antonio was ranked ninth in the nation for businesses to start up in, and it’s clear why. GLO chooses San Antonio, and we couldn’t be more proud to call the city our home.

I couldn’t do what I’m doing without my rockstar team members who share GLO’s vision for providing safety in numbers. Our team believes that safety shouldn’t be left up to chance, and that everyone deserves to feel empowered when they go out. We live in a social world that capitalizes on the economy of trust. We invite our friends and loved ones to be part of every other aspect of our social and personal lives, so why not invite them to look out for our safety as well? That’s why GLO puts the power of safety in the palms of people’s hands.

Moving forward, the GLO team is excited to explore the market in the United Kingdom while launching our beta test in the U.S. We hope to launch early this summer, so visit GLO website or Facebook page and sign up to be among the first to use the app in our beta program.

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