Run Angel is creating a big noise about runner safety

21 Aug 2017

Run Angel founders David and Ellen Caren. Image: Miki Barlok

Our start-up of the week is Run Angel, the Cork-based manufacturer of an innovative, connected audible wearable that promotes personal safety.

“We are Run Angel, the innovators behind the smallest, loudest, personal safety wrist wearable that emits a 120dB alarm when activated, and pairs with smartphone devices over Bluetooth to send out emergency alerts by SMS and email to guardians showing your location,” explained David Caren, co-founder of Run Angel.

The Cork-based tech company and Enterprise Ireland HPSU (high-potential start-up) is headed by husband-and-wife team David and Ellen Caren, and includes former U2 manager Paul McGuinness and Trevor Bowen as early investors.

‘Our goal is to be recognised as the market leader in connected audible personal safety’

Future Human

“We cater for those who place their own safety and that of others above everything else.”

The market

“Whilst our primary target is the runner, we feel all demographics can benefit greatly from Run Angel,” said Caren.

“We see cyclists, walkers, students and those coming home alone after a night out as our secondary target markets.

“Run Angel is also an essential piece of kit should you suffer from a medical condition, or in the event of injury where immediate help is required or guardians need notifying.”

The founders

Run Angel is creating a big noise about runner safety

Run Angel founders David and Ellen Caren. Image: Miki Barlok

David and Ellen Caren are both from a marketing background, and in the past have worked in the fashion and music industries.

“We pride ourselves on being a lean tech start-up,” Caren continued.

“We currently employ three full-time staff members and have in excess of eight specialist consultants on long-term contracts, including acoustic electronics engineers and material experts.”

The technology

Run Angel is creating a big noise about runner safety

Image: Miki Barlok

“Our USP pertains to the patent-pending design of our acoustic chamber,” he explained.

“We have built a chamber that emits 120dB when activated from Run Angel, or remotely from our mobile applications.

“Our electronics design has also been tuned to a frequency level to enable the sound to be more susceptible to human hearing, thereby attracting greater attention in an emergency.

“Both chamber and the electronics design have been carefully constructed to fit neatly on a wrist, which presented immense challenges in itself.”

Caren said that on a full charge, the audible sound will last for up to one hour at the maximum 120dB level when activated.

Run Angel can be switched off between training sessions, therein saving on the battery power. Should a user forget to switch off their device, it will automatically do so after four hours – this equates to a battery life of up to three weeks.

“Our goal is to be recognised as the market leader in connected audible personal safety,” Caren said.

“In a wearable market already bulging at the seams, with an array of fitness trackers that consumers are beginning to question the accuracy and validity of, Run Angel presents itself as a new kid on the wearable block that answers the need of customers who are serious on safety above anything else.”

“We believe when it comes to personal safety, you cannot afford to compromise on the build quality and reliability of your product; that the end user should feel confident that what they are buying stands up to what it says it can do in an emergency situation,” Caren added.

Global focus

Run Angel is manufactured in Ireland and the UK, and recently signed a start-up tech deal with US consumer electronics giant Best Buy.

“We are also with a European distributor who counts Fitbit as one of their brands. From an e-commerce B2C perspective, we are shipping out Run Angel to customers from Seattle to Singapore and, interestingly, have begun selling Run Angel as a B2B proposition to a farm network group in South Africa.

“We have received private investment from Paul McGuinness and Trevor Bowen. Trevor is also a board member of the company.

“On attracting further investment, scaling a product internationally can often necessitate further rounds of investment, so yes, this is a step that we will be shortly taking.”

Big audio dynamite

Caren said that the biggest challenge was technological.

“Without hesitation, it was attempting to create a very loud sound from such a small real estate on the wrist.

“With a connected product, you have many technical tangents to it. I often look on with sheer envy at my entrepreneurial colleagues in the lone mobile applications space.

“Hardware can be hard – you not only have to consider the design of your product, but software, firmware, back-end operations, telecommunications and the mobile applications themselves. There are many moving parts that must work together seamlessly, notwithstanding trying to get investors over the finish line when there’s an actual physical product involved that’s competing with shelf space from more established brands with bottomless budgets for retail marketing support.”

Caren’s advice for fellow founders in hardware is to persevere.

“With a hardware product, the time to market can often be a lot longer than you first anticipate.

“Treat any setbacks as a saving grace; at the same time, don’t fear the launch. No amount of research will tell you if what you’ve built will make a difference until you finally get out there and see it for yourself.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years