Safety at the Push of a Button


by Emmalee Eckstein

Mahmoud Mustafa ’12 came to Saint Joseph’s University with aspirations of working on Wall Street with heavy-hitting investment firms. Now, he’s the chief operating officer of ROAR for Good, a mission-driven technology company dedicated to cultivating safer environments and workplaces through wearable self-defense systems. Just like any Hawk, Mustafa was able to elevate his original dream into a multifaceted and unique role doing good for the world.

The shift in focus began when Mustafa, who entered college as a finance major, started working his way through the core courses that are designed to give all business majors a strong foundation on which to build their knowledge.

Mustafa took a class in decision and system sciences with his advisor, Associate Professor John Yi, Ph.D. The experience changed the way Mustafa thought about his future.

“I completely fell in love with that course,” he admits. “Dr. Yi was by far the best professor I’ve ever had. He taught an emerging field of business that felt more exciting to me than traditional business finance.”

This new interest quickly led Mustafa to a double major in finance and business intelligence and analytics. Mustafa also continued to get involved on campus through Lambda Chi Alpha and the Student Senate, where he met his wife, Emily Lesko ’12. Mustafa was also involved with Community Day, which is how he met Dan Gallagher ’94, who connected him with an investor relations internship at Comcast.

After a couple years at Comcast, Mustafa recognized the finance industry was not for him – he did not feel passionate about what he was doing. Serendipitously, as he searched for meaning in his work, Mustafa’s sister, Yasmine, came back from a trip abroad inspired to create the Athena device, ROAR for Good’s first piece of wearable self-defense technology.

Athena is a small device (about the size of a half dollar) that can be worn as a pendant necklace or clip onto clothing or bags. By pressing the button on the Athena, text messages and alerts are sent to the user’s emergency contacts sharing their exact location and alerting them to their compromised situation. It can also set off a loud, emergency alarm.

When ROAR debuted the device on crowdfunding platforms, consumers responded with a wave of approval — the campaign raised nearly seven times its goal. Mustafa oversaw development of the finished product, working with international manufacturers to fill the crowdfunding orders.

“I’d never done anything like that before,” Mustafa admits. “But, that’s what working at a start-up is about. I’m wearing so many hats and not all of them fit naturally.”

ROAR explored options to retail Athena, even listing the device on Amazon, but it was a growing number of enterprise-level requests that pointed the way forward for the product.

“We were getting several inquiries from employers about Athena,” Mustafa shares. “They wanted safety devices for their staff and we realized, that’s our market.”

ROAR began to shift from a consumer-facing company to a business-to-business company and dove into developing its next product: AlwaysOn, a patent-pending employee safety platform that provides a reliable and cost-effective method of staff security built to work without WiFi or power.

“We launched AlwaysOn in the hotel industry first because we learned that up to 58% of housekeepers experience sexual harassment at work,” Mustafa says. “So we decided to focus our resources to aid those in the ‘invisible workforce’ where abuse of labor rights can unfortunately be common.”

The launch came at the right time. In June, New Jersey passed a law requiring most of its hotels to provide their staffs with wearable panic buttons. The statewide law comes after a wave of cities introduced similar legislation in the last year-plus.

The future of AlwaysOn is bright.

“There is no shortage of workers who need protection” Mustafa notes. “This tech can expand to nursing, social work and other members of the invisible workforce who commonly find themselves alone in vulnerable situations. Even teachers or individuals in senior care can benefit from AlwaysOn functionality.”

The challenge, of course, is resources and time. “To go to market in all of these industry verticals, ROAR is seeking to scale the team and begin fundraising,” Mustafa remarks. “The goal is to raise the capital necessary to become the industry standard for workplace safety.”

Emmalee Eckstein is associate director of communications at Saint Joseph’s University.