Designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of users, Follo discreetly secures their everyday walking journeys, automatically sending SMS alerts to ‘Key Contacts’ if unusual activity is detected on route and they are unable to confirm their safety.
Follo, the first fully automated walking safety app, has secured a £215,000 investment led by startup venture capital firm Jenson Funding Partners with participation from angel investors as part of an ongoing round. The business was co-founded by two life-long friends, film and TV producer Chris Miller and financial consultant Charlie Pothecary, who sought to do something new and more impactful.
The idea for Follo came in early 2021, a time when tragic news stories of individuals suffering attacks, accidents, medical emergencies, or going missing in a variety of situations, were making headlines at home in the UK and around the world.
Miller and Pothecary have always enjoyed and relied upon walking to explore new places, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and carry out the necessities of day-to-day life. The intense national conversation around walking safety led them to research the area in more depth, speak with those most affected and analyse available walking safety apps and device SOS features. In doing so they couldn’t find anything that was simple to use, private, or most importantly, any app that could send alerts automatically when needed, without the user having to interact with their device.
The two friends set about creating a new kind of smart personal safety tool, one that could be used by anyone, quickly and discreetly on all types of walking journeys, without the need to share live locations or send notifications on every use, and one that could detect when its user needed assistance automatically and send alerts if necessary.
Follo, downloadable on iOS and Android, is free and really simple to use. The user activates a journey to their specified destination as they would do on a regular navigation app but, in addition to navigating the user to their destination, Follo monitors their device for unusual activity, such as change of speed, motion or location. Should they deviate from their chosen route, stop moving for a significant amount of time or pick up speed, for example, Follo will check in with a timed notification that automatically pings the user’s phone. If all is ok, the user can respond to confirm their safety but if they are unable to do so by the end of the timer, then SMS alerts will be sent to their pre-chosen Key Contacts, containing a link to their location and the reason for the alert.
Charlie Pothecary, co-founder and director at Follo, says: “When researching investors, I avoided the usual route of trawling through VC lists and instead searched for startup news. Encountering stories of Jenson’s high level of activity supporting innovative apps and services like ours was really encouraging and I got in contact immediately, resulting in a great partnership already. It’s fantastic to have them on board alongside our angels as we plan to take Follo to the next level.”
Chris Miller, co-founder and director at Follo, adds: “Looking ahead to the future, Follo has unlimited possibilities. In addition to our current free walking safety model, the investment will be used to drive marketing and brand awareness, alongside the development of a premium version of the app which, with fully customisable safety settings and a more sophisticated post-alert platform, will allow users to add Follo’s digital layer of safety to activities such as running and cycling amongst others. We’re seeing pick-up in the B2B sector too, having built relationships with the likes of MatchesFashion and Jet2 Holidays who have distributed the app to their employees, demonstrating how employers are seeking innovative ways to fulfil their duty of care responsibilities outside the four walls of the office.”
Sarah Barber, CEO at Jenson Funding Partners, says: “While there are pre-existing personal safety apps on the market, they can scaremonger. Charlie and Chris were mindful of this and have created a beautiful, positive brand that can fit into the user’s lifestyle, whether it’s women or men, or the old or young, out walking alone. This ubiquitous usage, coupled with the smart personal safety and security market being forecast to grow at around 11% CAGR to $5.5bn in 2025, presents a really compelling journey ahead.”