By: Amal Abdullah, Staff Writer
SFU computing science and mathematics student Georgiy Sekretaryuk has co-founded a company that focuses on public safety. NERO, completely self-financed by Sekretaryuk, creates smart jewellery which, if tapped three times, sends the wearer’s GPS location in an emergency call to local authorities.
While the product looks like an ordinary pendant, the outside of the gem has a touch sensor, and the inside has technology that connects it via Bluetooth to the wearer’s phone. The correlated phone app is connected to a server at NERO, which automatically sends a call to the RCMP and then five preset emergency contacts, once the user taps it three times. The pendant comes with a charger that attaches to it magnetically, and the charge can be expected to last two to three days.
In an interview with The Peak, Sekretaryuk explained how his entrepreneurship journey began in in grade 12 when he enrolled in the YELL (Young Entrepreneurship and Leadership Launchpad) program, an incubator for high school youth. While the first half of the course was based on business theory, teaching the students topics such as marketing and entrepreneurship, the second half had them split off into teams to create their own ventures, and compete against other, Dragon’s Den-style.
This is where the idea for NERO was born, and Sekretaryuk’s team ended up winning the competition. He then graduated from high school a semester early and started his post-secondary education at Douglas College. Later, he transferred to SFU to study computing science and mathematics.
Sekretaryuk created the app because he felt that safety was a relevant issue to address. “When I was going through the YELL program, around the time that we were coming up with ideas, there was a major rape in India that happened, so our team decided to tackle the issue of safety,” he said.
As a Ukrainian, he thinks about the war that is happening in his home country, and how women are not safe when they walk down the streets.
“When I think about the future, I think about [the] kind of world I’d like my kids to live in. I wouldn’t want my daughters to be disadvantaged just because of how they were born. If 50 years from now, I can say I did something for them, that’s worth more than anything else.” – Georgiy Sekretaryuk, co-founder of NERO
Preparing to launch
NERO has been working on the product for a year and a half. They will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on August 17 for the product. They are also planning to have a launch party around the same time. Their goal is to raise $50,000 in the first 24–48 hours. In preparation, they are marketing rigorously in order to gain public traction, efforts which include hosting a youth panel and what will be the largest self-defense class in Vancouver.
For the launch, they plan to have the jewelry shipped from China where it is manufactured. They have worked with Red Academy, who has designed the user experience and interface for the app. After their first Kickstarter campaign, the first shipment of the product will be sent to those who supported them in the campaign in spring 2019. After they have received user data and feedback, the second shipment round will be out in September 2019.
Following the first campaign, Sekretaryuk expects to fly off to China in September to make sure the manufacturing is done properly, while his co-founder will remain in Vancouver to organize events.
When the team first came together, Sekretaryuk said that the first problem to tackle was team organizational issues. “We had no guidance, no idea how to structure team properly,” he said. They encountered roadblocks in areas ranging from manufacturing to branding to app development — “we had to take creative approaches even though [the] app is simple,” he recalled. Eventually, they started working toward the goal of partnering up with local authorities and the RCMP.
As a company, while the current focus is on the Lower Mainland and the rest of Canada, Sekretaryuk hopes to expand NERO to the international market. He also hopes to be able to afford an office so that they can work with a larger team. Their current sales goal is to sell 500 units in the first Kickstarter campaign, and then sell another 10,000 units after second launch. “It’s a lofty goal,” he chuckled.
He also would like to get accepted into an accelerator in San Francisco for further guidance and to continue creating events for community engagement. Besides that, Sekretaryuk aspires to get into creating partnerships in the community, especially to sponsor underprivileged youth with the product at lowered rates. “We want to create partnerships to help realize that corporate social responsibility,” he says.
While he and NERO have been immensely successful, being featured in the magazine BCBusiness, presenting at the BC Tech Summit, and pitching at Fundica 2017 as the only pre-launch start-up, for Sekretaryuk, success is knowing he did something good for others. “At the very least, even if I put my dreams aside, whether we succeed or not, the goal is to leave people who support us with something valuable, with something they can take with them further in life.
“We have great support from the community, and the bottom line is to bring value to the people around us,” he said. “In turn, we know that’ll come back to us and bring value to us.”