After multiple rounds of judging, a field test in Mumbai and months of competition, Indian startup Leaf Wearables has scored the $1 million first-place prize in the Anu Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE competition.
The award was announced Wednesday night at an event at the United Nations in New York. Leaf, a New Delhi-based company that produces other wearable safety devices, beat out nearly 90 teams to win the contest — including finalist Team Saffron, a group of students from the Seattle area’s Global Innovation Exchange.
The competition was designed and funded by Seattle area entrepreneur Naveen Jain and his wife, Anu Jain, and focused on the issues of sexual harassment and violence against women. It called upon teams to design wearable devices that cost under $40 and can trigger location-specific wireless emergency alerts, even in low-connectivity environments.
“Safety is a fundamental human right and shouldn’t be considered a luxury for women. It is the foundation in achieving gender equality,” Anu Jain said in a news release. “With so many advances in innovation and technology today, it was unacceptable to us that we didn’t have a solution to help curb this sexual assault pandemic. We congratulate the winning team and thank all the teams that poured their heart and soul into finding innovative solutions to move humanity forward.”
Studies show that one out of three women across the globe face the threat of violence in their lifetime — but the problem is much worse in India. In Delhi, the nation’s capital, 92 percent of women report having experienced physical or sexual violence in public spaces, according to U.N. figures.
Leaf’s winning entry is a small chip called SAFER Pro. It can be embedded in any piece of jewelry and activated with a discreet emergency alert button that sends information to a network of community responders. The chip also records audio from the moment the button is activated.
“We have been working tirelessly to solve the problem of safety using technology. It has been our mission to make one billion families safer,” Leaf Wearables team leader Manik Mehta said in today’s news release. “The Anu Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE gave us the incentive and focus to continue to work toward our mission and make the world a safer place to live, learn and work.”
Although the four other finalists fell short of the grand prize, they impressed two investors involved in the project: They decided to invest $200,000 split evenly between the four groups, which translates into $50,000 in funding for each finalist