Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Jacqueline Ros and Andrea Perdomo are best friends and the co-founders of Revolar, a wearable tech company on a mission to build a safer and more inclusive world. Their latest product - the Revolar Instinct, a tiny stylish wearable that lets you ask for help or connect with loved ones at the click of a button, launched in May 2017. Over the months and the years since founding their company, they've taken Revolar through two successful crowdfunding campaigns, two Techstars programs, and have raised over $3 million from venture capitalists.
What is the idea behind Revolar and how did you come up with it?
J.R.: Revolar means to take flight again and is an ode to survivors of violence like my little sister and my co-founder Andrea's grandmother faced. We are constantly amazed by how strong survivors are and wanted our company to reflect that. From their experiences Revolar Instinct was born.
A.P.: Jacqueline came up with the idea for Revolar after her little sister was assaulted twice before the age of 17. I joined in on the journey of Revolar because my grandmother was kidnapped in Colombia and my family had no idea where she was for eight months. In both situations our loved ones didn’t have access to their phones and therefor no way to call for help. Our idea was simple, what if there was a magic button that you could press to let your loved ones know where you are and that you need help. We believe that most people are good but we all still need help from time to time.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
J.R.: I came up with the idea when I was still at the University of Florida. I used my graduation money to pay for the start of the patent process and then took a job from Teach For America in 2012. I bootstrapped for 3 years and have been able to now work on Revolar full-time for 2 years. My co-founder Andrea joined me and we moved in together in 2014 (We still live together today! I'm grateful my co-founder is my best friend) and now 5 years later we have 20 team members and have shipped two products we are very proud of.
A.P.: Revolar started about 4 years ago. Jackie was the first person I met when I first moved to Denver CO and it was like fate. We both had the passion and blind perseverance to figure it out.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
J.R.: It took us 5 years.
A.P.: It feels like forever, but also as if I blinked and teleported. I started my journey as an entrepreneur about 5 years ago, when I made the bold move to quit my corporate job in Atlanta and drive to Colorado with only what fit in my car for an unpaid internship with a fashion startup. I caught the entrepreneur bug immediately and became COO of that startup within the first year. Learned everything I could about the e-commerce and tech world while working with Jackie to make Revolar a reality.
What was the biggest obstacle?
J.R.: That is a tough question. I'd say it's convincing investors that we are solving a massive problem for a community they have a hard time relating to.
A.P.: We represent communities that are normally overlooked in the technology community. Our biggest challenge is proving our communities want and need Revolar, as well as that they are a viable market and worthy of us building new technology for.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
J.R.: There's two that I'm proud of. 1) Is building an incredible team that is above and beyond dedicated to our mission. 2) How many people we've helped feel more confident, connected, and empowered. It's incredible to hear from a Revolarian how we have improved their quality of life.
A.P.: My biggest achievement to date is Revolar. It has been sacrificing relationships, time, vacation etc, all to make my dream come true. And oh it was worth it! There is nothing more rewarding than that. In the two years that Jackie and I have been working on this full time, we have launched 2 products, participated in 2 Techstars programs, had 2 successful crowdfunding campaigns, grew a rockstar team of 18, and raised over 3M in VC funding.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
J.R.: Hardware is hard. Hardware built for communities VCs have a hard time relating to is very hard. I had no idea how many investors are very uncomfortable with investing in hardware companies before beginning which I think as a Latina founder has added an extra layer of difficulty.
A.P.: Everything always takes longer than you expect. Luckily for me, I have loved every minute of the journey, but it has definitely taken longer to put those puzzle pieces together. Tech is hard, and creating hardware is even harder. Being a founder and entrepreneur is hard, and honestly I didn't want to be believe that being a female founder would be different. But the more I got into this journey, the more I realized that people have unconscious bias about women. And for me, being young and latina was just an added bonus. Some days are better than others, but I will say that being told no, or you can't do it, is my favorite thing to hear cause it lights up a flame that inspires me to prove them wrong.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
J.R.: Absolutely. Andrea and I talk about this all the time, but we could not do what we do if so many incredible entrepreneurs before us had not turned around and given us a hand up. We need to be building technology for diverse communities with diverse problems and the more of us there are in tech... the harder it is to ignore our individual and community needs.
A.P.: Oh yes! The only way to change that unconscious bias, is through numbers and building a community that cares. We need more women in the industry. If you are passionate about tech, programming or becoming an engineer, chase your dreams. We need more women in tech to pave a path of the girls and young women today to have a brighter future.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
J.R.: Don't be afraid to let bad news travel fast. You are going to need help constantly on this journey so get use to, and comfortable, asking for help fast. Other than that, never EVER quit. We have had so many last minute miracles came in. You have to hustle with everything you've got until there are literally no more options.
A.P.: Just do it! Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen? You get a no? Well, keep trying, and it will happen for you. If this wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
J.R.: I truly believe wearables will hit their peak in the next 5 years and part of that is that it will no longer be necessarily called a wearable. It will simply be that everything we own is connected.
A.P.: 1. Consolidation - In the next 5 years the future of wearable tech will be consolidated into very few devices and brands that survive. By 2020 it will be one of the biggest industries, but also one of the most challenging. 2. Wearability - As someone who dedicated their whole life to fashion before starting Revolar, I have seen the trends of technology being fashionable and a way to become an individual through customization and personal style. Fashion and tech are going to collide in a beautiful way and my only wish is that as we make more tech we think about the environmental and social impacts that technology can have on humanity.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech?
J.R.: Jenny Lawton (Current COO of Techstars, former CEO of Makerbot and COO of Littlebits) & Sara Chipps from Jewelbots.
A.P.: Jenny Lawton is the former CEO of Makerbot and she is one of my biggest inspirations. Lee Mayer - CEO of Havenly is a powerful woman who is creative and always thinks outside the box. Not necessarily wearable tech, but still genius.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.