The innovators: Safe in Sound and Raising Great Aspirations

By - Tuesday 7th March, 2017

In the final of a three-part series, two of Croydon’s groundbreaking companies explain what they do, how they do it, and why Croydon’s the place to be

Image by The Town That Love Built, used with permission.

Croydon has 10,000 businesses, a tech community that’s internationally recognised as a model for building a local tech ecosystem, and more offices and workspaces opening every week it seems. It’s easy to see how it’s become such an effective engine room for new ideas. From IT services and game design to road-safe headphone usage, Croydon companies are putting the borough on the map as a hub of innovation. Six companies at three of Croydon’s workspaces – TMRW, Sussex Innovation Centre, and StartUp Croydon – spoke to the Citizen about how they’re breaking the mould. Two of them are presented below:

Image by Safe In Sound, used with permission.

Chuk Ogbobie, Safe In Sound
Controlling headphone volume when young people cross the road

What do you do?

We’re developing an app that turns the volume down on headphones and warns users about the dangers of crossing the road with their headphones on. The app will give options to mute the volume for the period of the crossing or a loud noise to remind you you’re crossing the road. We did research with 100 kids and we found they hated the original idea – they didn’t want anything interfering with their music! So we added some gamification – they will be rewarded with prizes from target-market business; trainers, milkshakes, cinema tickets, clothing, eateries, and they loved that idea! We’re currently on a Safe In Sound national school tour, talking to kids about road safety and signing them up. We’ve won contracts with local authorities in Croydon, Yorkshire, Berkshire and Essex.

How are you innovating?

We have an experienced team of developers using of a hybrid of new and current technology. We’re in a great place, which is probably why nobody has yet said no to it – every school and every council we’ve approached has said yes! On the rewards side, we’re able to align users and companies with the offers that are relevant to the them. We’ve had some large companies interested in the product so far.

We aim to constantly innovate and recently launched the Safe In Sound school service. Where we carry out market research with students, publishing the findings in the local press to let drivers know pedestrian perceptions and therefore influence changes in local driver habits. This is all done to improve survivor statistics.

The business idea itself came from personal experiences. I have a 16-year-old son and two of his friends have been hit travelling on the roads. Thankfully, both of them survived, but road accidents are the number-one killer of young people aged 16-24, and the second biggest killer of people under 15. When you look at all the things being done to combat this; the poster campaigns or government programmes, the numbers are still very high. We’re using modern technology to create a direct solution to this problem, which unfortunately is likely to be even more dangerous now noise-cancelling headphones are growing in popularity.

Why Croydon?

We’re a Croydon-based team, I’m a Croydon-raised entrepreneur, I’m very fortunate to come from Croydon myself. I’ve been very well-established with the Croydon tech scene from the beginning, I know Saffron [Saunders] from Sussex Innovation Centre and Jonny [Rose], the founder of Croydon Tech City, very well. Croydon being effectively the largest borough in London means we’ve been able to get lots of support from Croydon Council. They were the first meeting I ever had regarding the app, they gave me a lot of steering. Within the borough there’s constant support – when we experience an ‘up’, there are people like the Citizen we can contact to spread the word, and during the ‘downs’, there’s always tech professionals and mentors around to help. And we’re able to help others ourselves. We’re building a network, and we’re about to start our crowdfunding campaign. It’d be great to be able to say that Croydon helped get the Safe In Sound app off the ground first.

Raising Great Aspirations
Breaking down the barriers between young people and employment 

What do you do?

Our main purpose is that we are an education consultancy company and we work with schools, colleges, universities and communities to promote work experience, careers education, and health and wellbeing projects. For instance, we work in partnership with universities, and we train MA and BA social work students on their placements. We offer them placements and universities pay us to do that.

How are you innovating?

We work in partnership on the Croydon Health and Employment Partnership. It’s a health and wellbeing programme and we offer young people between 18 and 25 a Zumba programme which breaks down their health barriers into employment, health or education. We try to support them with their health by running physical activities or online programmes in which we teach people how to manage stress, anxiety and depression. We’re knocking down barriers and empowering young people to get into education, employment and training. We’re working with disengaged young people on this.

Our other innovation is that we work with many mainstream schools supporting their senior management team with their enterprise and careers curriculum. That means empowering businesses to come into schools, supporting the curriculum, bringing the world of work into schools. We’re empowering young people to look at the trends of the labour market and ensure that they’ve looked at the industries or the world of work that they want to go into. They can really shadow a professional in that field who can liaise with them and guide them. Something special that we do is delivering activities for students on site here at Croydon Business Venture. We’re going to run a ‘do you know who you are?’ session that hones in on the sectors open to people for their careers. We’re focusing on hospitality and catering because those are two of Croydon’s biggest sectors. We get businesses to come in from that sector and speak to young people about trends, what’s working and what’s not, and of course CV and interview training.

Why Croydon?

Croydon is an innovative borough. We’re dynamic, we’re growing, we’ve got a reservoir of business knowledge and the young generation needs to tap into it. I think that with the regeneration of Croydon, we’re able to create a large platform of careers-related learning and health and wellbeing opportunities for young people, which will enable them to develop their economic wellbeing opportunities when they go into education, employment or training. That’s what drew me and us to Croydon four years ago. We’re still going strong.

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The Croydon Citizen is a non-profit community news magazine for London's most populous borough.

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