In late January, Stephan Boyer’s girlfriend, who lives “in a dangerous neighborhood in San Francisco”, called to ask him to check up on her as she was walking home from work one night. Within a few days – YES DAYS – the 23-year-old, MIT computer science grad student designed and built something to keep her a little extra safe when she goes out at night. He calls his tech safety net… Kitestring.
While it seems everyone’s inclination is to call it an “app”, Kitestring is actually a mobile friendly web service. Here’s how it works:
You give Kitestring the heads up that you’re taking a “trip” (a.k.a. going out to meet up with a stranger or just taking a midnight stroll), and then it checks up on you via SMS to make sure you haven’t been mugged or assaulted. You reply to that text (or check in on the website) to confirm you’re a.o.k. If you fall off the radar, and don’t respond, Kitestring sends a customizable alert message to a list of emergency contacts that you set up ahead of time.
All THIS dreamed up and created in a few days to keep his girlfriend safe! That’s pretty freakin’ awesome (not to mention considerate)… and we’re not the only ones who think so. Stephan and his tech-based brand of chivalry have gotten oodles of press since he launched just 3 months ago. But we heard about Kitestring through Penny, our Los Angeles based WYSK colleague, who is on the pulse of all things hip and happening.
Penny is in the movie biz and works CRAZY hours, so she is often out and about, late at night by herself. She was really excited to use Kitestring, but quickly changed her tune after interacting with it. “I’ve got mixed feelings about it. It’s web-based, so you have to load it from a browser which sounds easy, but it didn’t load well for me.” That was a GIANT red flag for her. She said, “I am much less likely to use it since it has a clunky start up, AND you have to log in each time you go to the site.”
As for the positive, Penny thought the texting update/alert part was cool, though she did not get the clear sense that you could update the message it sends to your contacts directly from your phone. She very emphatically declared to us, “I am NOT going to launch the website on my phone when I want to update the message.”
Penny’s in-the-know Hollywood friends had the same general reaction, and added, “This is going to create a lot of false alarms.” With that, her valiant efforts to try to get her peeps to test it this past weekend were dashed… no one else opted to use it.
Despite originally designing Kitestring for people like his girlfriend, who get the “dark alley” jitters at night, Stephan has been pleasantly surprised by the feedback he’s gotten from several other user demographics, “including mountain hikers, real estate agents, the online dating community, and the elderly.”
Well then, the young tech entrepreneur and “boyfriend of the year” might be very happy to know that his Kitestring has not been entirely lost on our Penny. Ever the creative thinker, she came up with another reason to use it that has ZERO to do with why Stephan designed it.
“When my team at work has early meetings, I might suggest they use Kitestring to make sure no one sleeps through it. That sounds a little ridiculous, but when you’re working until 2:00am, getting up for an 8:00am meeting can be tricky, and we’ve had people sleep through. This would be great for that!”
Here’s her genius plan for using Kitestring, “I could set a ‘Trip’ to time like a wake up text, and if I don’t respond, Kitestring would let my team know that I’m probably still asleep. A little lame, but I think I’m gonna use it.”
In addition to that inventive professional application, she found yet another way to incorporate it into her busy life (once again, related to oversleeping… there’s a theme here Penny). She thinks it will come in handy for meeting friends to run/swim/hike before work. “Sometimes it’s just too early and you can’t wake up, and this would give everyone a heads up when you can’t.”
So Stephan… it seems our Penny might have just given you some new ideas on how to market your tech baby. No charge for her consulting services, by the way!
We wish you much success with your venture, and thank you for showing the world that even romance can inspire innovation.