My Light Bulb Moment: Founder Emma Kay Reveals the Inspiration Behind Her Safety App for Women
- Emma Kay, 32, London resident, co-founder of the personal safety app WalkSafe
- Inspiration came from talking about her experiences with harassment
- Number of users skyrocketed to half a million after Sarah Everard’s death
Emma Kay, 32, co-founded WalkSafe, a free personal safety app for women, in 2020 with her brother-in-law Richard Kay, 32. She lives in Richmond, London, with her husband Anthony and their daughter Arianne, one.
Growing up, my father was a police officer at the Met and he saw some horrors. He often told us stories and it gave me a healthy sense of reality as a girl.
The importance of staying alert was instilled in me. I could never walk back from school without friends and I had to let my parents know when I was on my way home when I went out. They also reminded me never to leave my drink or bag unattended at parties.
Emma Kay, 32, (pictured) who lives in London, co-founded WalkSafe personal safety app in December 2020
Yet I still suffered from bullying. I remember walking back to a friend’s house with her at age 14 and being chased by a gang of guys. It was terrifying. We had to run and hide in someone’s yard. I’m afraid to think what could have happened.
As I got older it was more about touching the unwanted – I’ve been to parties and felt a stranger’s hand under my skirt. It frustrated me that it relies so heavily on women to protect ourselves.
When we were dating, I often asked my now-husband to book an Uber for me when I got home alone so he could track my journey and share that responsibility. However, I think it can still be difficult for men to understand exactly how much we need to think about all of this.
Safer routes: download the free app at walk safe.io
Last summer my husband, his brother and I got into a conversation about personal safety. When I mentioned just a few of my own experiences, they were shocked. A few days later my brother-in-law Richard called me and said, “We need to do something about this.”
We decided to build an app with an interactive map to help women plan the safest route home and avoid areas where crime has been committed recently. This was our light bulb moment. We spent six months seeking funding, collecting data, developing and testing it.
In December 2020, we launched WalkSafe, which operates nationwide. It’s linked to local police records, but you can also report crimes or anything else you notice in your area (such as a road with streetlights out) to help other users. You can also tap a discreet button on your phone screen to alert loved ones if you feel unsafe.
Initially we had 5,000 downloads. But after the death of Sarah Everard, who went missing in Clapham in March, we saw a spike in demand, and the number of users skyrocketed to half a million. It’s bittersweet because we wish this app didn’t have to exist. But as long as it is necessary, we strive to make women feel as safe as possible.