Login | May 20, 2019

Threatening store encounter leads OSU student to create app to help keep users safe

BRANDON KLEIN
Special to the Legal News

Published: March 12, 2019

Angela Rucci had tuned out the world, listening to a podcast, while shopping at the Kroger near The Ohio State University campus nearly three years ago when it happened.

Rucci, who is scheduled to graduate from Ohio State this spring, wasn't paying attention to her surroundings at the time.

But she noticed a man apparently following her in the store and getting closer to her.

It wasn't until they were near the cat food aisle that he attempted to thrust himself upon her. She fled the store and called her dad.

While she came out of the experience physically unharmed, Rucci acted more cautious during the course of her college life and became nervous when going to and from class when it was still dark outside.

But it also inspired her to develop a mobile application called Tego to make trips, large and small, safer, particularly for women in Rucci's mind.

It's 2019 but it's still a scary time for women, she said. And earlier last week, Rucci noted the death of an Ohio State student who was shot and killed by her abductor in Kentucky after she was taken at gunpoint from the university's Mansfield campus, according to various media reports.

"That should not be happening," she said. "If I can save one girl then my goal would be complete."

With a degree in computer science, Rucci loves her technology, from her iPhone to her laptop. And she believes it can be harnessed to help not only other women, but the industry's lack of women workers creates an oversight of issues the demographic faces each day.

"Hopefully making technology aimed towards women made by women can be the secret thing to solve this problem," she said.

While growing up in Youngstown, Rucci discovered she had great skills in mathematics and reading. Software engineering was recommended as a possible career path for her.

"I didn't even know what software engineering was," she said. But after taking a programming course she fell in love with the field.

In addition to the shopping incident, Rucci had friends in college who used dating apps like Tinder to meet and date strangers as another reason to develop the app.

"You're going on dates with people you don't know. That's crazy," she said.

People can use the Tego app to login in their destination and select contacts to watch over them as they travel to their destination.

Contacts are notified when the user arrives safely or is taking too long and may be in trouble. Tego users can also activate an unsafe mode where the phone will record live video.

Additionally, Rucci has specialized in artificial intelligence and has integrated the app with machine learning to help users determine the safest way to their destinations. The app also comes with a two-tap way to contact local authorities.

"We can create safest path to travel," she said.

The app's main revenue stream will eventually be advertisements, similar to how map app Waze uses advertising, Rucci said. She expects the revenue to help her break even.

Rucci developed the first version of her app in the 24-hour 2018 Hack OHI/O Hackathon in November. Rucci won first place for her app.

But the positive reaction and feedback she received from the event encouraged to continue with the product.

Rucci parted ways with her first co-founder and the experience of working on the project was lonely at times. But she assembled a team of developers and business partners to commercialize the product. The Tego team now has six members, including Rucci.

They refined their product mostly in December and launched a beta version earlier this month with about 40 friends and relatives.

"To get to this point it was really hard," she said.

She even lost a friend who worked as a graphic designer on the app from depression and suicide in December. Rucci said it was her lowest point.

But she is now in the process of pitching the app to hundreds of OSU student clubs and sororities.

She has about 25 clubs and four sororities interested in using the product for its official rollout on March 1. There are more plans to market the app at other universities.

After graduation, Rucci will focus solely on the app, having turned down job offers from Google and other companies.

"I think this is the best time to start a startup," she said.

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