Inspirational Woman: Neta Schreiber Gamliel | Founder & CEO, SafeUP

Neta SchreiberNeta Schreiber Gamliel, a mother of two, studied economics and psychology and was part of a cadet program for Israeli local government.

Post graduation, she worked as Deputy Director of the education department in a new city while it was being built. Neta describes herself as an entrepreneur from within who loves to create things from scratch and make them thrive. The seeds of women empowerment were planted in her when she was young, in a life-changing experience that ignited the creation of SafeUP.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Currently, I am the founder and CEO of SafeUP. SafeUP is an app I was inspired to create following a personal incident that happened 10 years ago when I went with some friends to a house party. While at the party one of our friends went missing so we searched for her. The next thing we knew, we heard screams from one of the rooms so we burst in to find our friend was in a vulnerable position, half naked and fighting the two men above her. As soon as we found her the two men ran away and that is when I realized when women come together there is strength in numbers.

About 9 years after this, I decided to enter the startup world with a mission to eradicate this issue for women, so we can maintain our safety by relying on technology rather than luck. I partnered with Tal Zohar in October 2020 and launched our app with the Tel Aviv Municipality. After 3 months, 11,000 users were using the app and now we have 100K users all over the world, a testament to how important this app truly is for women.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At my core I am an entrepreneur. I love to create things from scratch and make them thrive, and I have proved that in my experiences. I started my career by studying economics and psychology while taking part in a cadet program for the Israeli local government. Following my graduation, I assumed the role of deputy director for the education department of a new city while it was being built. These experiences alongside the enforcement of women empowerment I grew up with ignited the creation of SafeUP.

You’re the CEO & Co-Founder of SafeUP – could you tell us a bit more about this?

SafeUp is an app created to add an extra layer of confidence and security to women who feel unsafe or in danger. It is a social network that allows women to connect to each other when they are in situations where they require further support, guidance or physical assistance. The app solidifies a supportive community of women and girls who would otherwise feel unsafe in public spaces. SafeUP ensures women safety by quickly and effectively connecting them to nearby trained women guardians. 

SafeUP trained women guardians are women who have undergone a training process conducted by SafeUP so that if a community member is in a situation where she feels unsafe she can open her app to see the countless amount of guardians in her area who are always available to help, whether that be via phone, video or meeting physically. The app’s community members are connected to 2-3 guardians who will support in any way and this way the members know with SafeUP there are always other women looking after them and there to help them immediately if required.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many! When you see founders of companies act cool, calm and collected, it’s a facade. Becoming a founder is a tough decision and it means taking on a long, hard road with many challenges, but if you make it through, it’s extremely rewarding and even when the reward comes it often leads to further responsibilities and anxieties.

I’ve learned as a founder, I need to find comfort in uncertainty, and sometimes even crave it. It’s become somewhat exciting to take on the challenge. For founders to truly succeed, I believe we need to be interdisciplinary, not having a specific focus but rather having a balance of everything needed to be known and also relying on external support.

Prior to raising funding, we were a team of 5, trying to revolutionize women’s safety. After raising funding, our team expanded by 5 times and suddenly we needed to delegate roles to 25 people and everyone needed to be extremely familiar with their own roles, knowing what to do and what not to do. This shift from everyone working as a team on everything to delegating roles and becoming an organized company was difficult and although we are still a startup and find we lean on each other more often than not, I always try to create a better structure so everyone at the company can reach their full potential.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I don’t have one success, just knowing I am succeeding at making the world a better place is a success on its own. Whenever I feel down on myself I look at feedback forms from our users. After every call made by community members to guardians we keep reports on how SafeUP was able to help the member. Those forms can turn my mood in an instant. Reading women’s experiences that SafeUP has helped them feel safe, is heartwarming, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride. It is also amazing to see women who feel inspired by their experiences so often they too become guardians and our network keeps growing. Lee, one of our SafeUP guardians, shared  “One evening I heard the cell phone vibrate endlessly. It was midnight, I wondered who it could be?  I realized it was a call coming from the app, I clicked and saw the SafeUp Community Member was really close to my house. She said she was walking and that there was someone following her and that she was really scared. She asked me If I could go and accompany her, and I said of course I could!  I went out to her and when I arrived the man just walked away, turned his back and left.  I calmed her down and offered to call someone who could take her home.”

SafeUp is a great initiative but what more can we (as individuals, businesses, government etc) do to help stop violence towards women?

As a society we are in too deep with a world built for men by men. I can find examples of this in urban planning, the health industry, and every aspect of our lives. If women don’t become equal decision makers this will sadly continue. Our future technology innovations could be made solely from a men’s perspective, and that is a scary reality. If women aren’t involved no one else will represent us and we need to take our futures into our own hands.

We need to leave behind traditional beliefs: a woman has to choose between a career or family. Family structures have changed and parenting has become a shared responsibility, which is allowing more and more women to do both, furthermore we need to assure women doing both does not make you a “bad mom.”

Another way we can do this is to penetrate education systems that teach boys to be brave and take risks, while girls are often taught the opposite, to be cautious and subdued. We need to break this cycle so women are as equally risk averse as men when they become adults. This will help women come eye to eye with men and men will stop seeing women as non-equal members of society, hence violence against women will be abolished.

What do you feel about the Government’s latest Enough. Campaign?

I think it’s absolutely terrific that the Government is raising awareness on the types of violence against women and what we can all do to safely call out abuse. However, change needs to go beyond awareness into real action. We have been discussing what needs to be changed for a long time now, yet it feels like the experience of women has not changed at all. For starters, what I think would be great to see is funding and support for specialist support services and organizations.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

We have to speak to younger generations of women and instill those expectations for them so they can achieve more than we did in our generation. We have to teach our daughters to take risks and help them understand failure is really a pathway to success. In addition to this, the private and governmental programs that are in place to assist women, give them services, for networking and funding should be increased as I believe they are critical to the success of female entrepreneurs.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I have 3 mottos I live by today I would have loved my younger self to know:

  • Believe in yourself and follow your heart, you are the only barrier for yourself to do anything you want to do.
  • No matter the hard road ahead, never give up on yourself.
  • Most important is to enjoy the journey, we only have one life to live so live it to your fullest.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The next challenge is ongoing, to make sure as many women around the world become aware of SafeUP so they can connect when they feel unsafe.. I am living my dreams, I have already formed this fantastic community of women who collaboratively work together to improve our safety. I hope we can continue to empower women in all aspects of life.

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