“I never thought I would become a startup founder, because I didn’t see any other young, van-living, birkenstock-wearing women doing that. In the same way, I never thought I would find myself in an abusive relationship because I hadn’t heard of any young, educated, confident, worldy, successful women experiencing that. But I am a startup founder, and I am a survivor of violence. I am proud of being both of these things: these are my stories.”
Zoe Condliffe is a female tech founder who has a startup based on the power and importance of women sharing their stories. With She’s a Crowd, Zoe aims to create a safe space for women to tell their stories of sexual or gender based violence online. When grouped together those stories become data. Data that Zoe hopes to use to make our cities safer and effect social change. This data has already been used by public transport organisations and the police.
“I realised that we can use something that women love to do and need to do — which is share our stories — to actually collect data for prevention and to make people pay attention.”
When we caught up with Zoe, she had arrived back in Melbourne after a luxurious sounding two weeks in Silicon Valley at an accelerator program run by Black Box. The Black Box accelerator program is only open to those living outside of San Francisco. They view the current accelerator model as too focused on connecting founders with investors and while they realise everyone needs money, they want to focus on a more holistic way to support startups. Zoe spent two weeks with 13 other founders in a mansion in the valley with a private chef and no reason to leave the house ever: “There’s a really full program but all the barriers are removed. You don’t have to go anywhere. Everyone just comes to you. It was quite restful and relaxing in a way.”
Considering just one year ago, Zoe was living in her van, cooking up a green curry on a camping stove by a creek in the dark – this experience must have been a mini celebration. But Zoe’s story begins before that. As she details in her Tedx talk, Why your story matters, Zoe lived in Cambodia at a crocodile farm with her parents for a year when she was 7. Her dad was working at the UN but this was dangerous work and gave her a sense of her own privilege from a very young age. Later on while completing uni and volunteering overseas (following her dreams to make a social impact) she found herself in an abusive relationship.
“I went through all the normal feelings of feeling ashamed, not telling anyone and then thinking it was my fault. Then I thought, hold on a second, I’m super privileged, I’m in a position where I can afford to share my story and I will probably be supported and somewhat believed and there are probably a bunch of people who don’t have that luxury. This was maybe when I was 23. In a way it was my feminist awakening. So I decided to just tell my story.”
Zoe became an ambassador for Day of the Girl and was given a platform to share her story. She found that almost immediately other women started telling her their stories. She switched the focus of the masters she was completing to focus on women’s collective stories. She went on to work on the Free to Be project with Plan International. She project led the pilot in Melbourne and collected hundreds of stories and she saw what kind of impact stories can have en masse. But she chose to leave a good job she loved to focus on She’s a Crowd. In just one year She’s a Crowd has been making an impact, and attracting a lot of attention. Recently Zoe was featured in a Kikki K ad campaign and she was named one of the most exciting women in tech of 2019 by Insights Success Magazine.
“She’s a Crowd has been around for one year now. We are always collecting stories, so that’s a constant, but we’re focusing on building out the second phase of the project now. At the moment we have only built the MVP enough to collect stories but we want to put in a whole other bunch of data sets. I’m looking for a technical cofounder, potentially with a data slant. I’m a non technical founder so I’m looking for anyone that wants to help us with the product. From a story sharing point of view we’re already making a difference to individuals. But I need it to be bigger than that. In five years I want She’s a Crowd to be the biggest global spatial data set for the prevention of violence against women.”
You can access the She’s a Crowd story platform here and please chat to us or Zoe if you know anyone who might be her new co-founder!
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