This Startup’s App Facilitates Aid For Domestic Violence Victims

Keith Thode knew he had the expertise to lead a company that could do something more than build software. He wanted to impact communities in need.

So, the former CTO and COO of Aidmatrix, a software developer for nonprofits, took the company’s spinoff, AdvanceNet Labs, and began working on projects such as SafeNight, a mobile app that crowdsources funding to put domestic violence victims in a hotel room.

“You see the power of these systems and that they’re used by multiple companies, all leveraging the benefit of the same software,” Thode said. “And you don’t see that in nonprofit. You see so much redundancy, wasted time and nothing that could scale.”

So Thode wanted to leverage expertise within the nonprofit technology space and build viable products that could change lives.

Here’s a look at AdvanceNet Labs and its newly launched product, SafeNight, which is live in North Texas, California and Iowa.

When did AdvanceNet Labs get started?

We spun off AdvanceNet Labs in the middle of 2014. We had been working on SafeNight with Caravan Studios, part of a large tech nonprofit, TechSoup. We basically believe the for-profit world has created technologies and processes that raise the standard of living for society. So we try to apply those tools to people who have been left behind or are in crisis – the underserved social sector. We’re trying to develop platforms for change. Not one that one agency can use, but one that many can use.

How were you funded?

We received incubation funding from the United Way’s GroundFloor, which is their social innovation fund. We received space, dollars and mentoring, and are still working out of their space. We had initial funding from Accenture and AT&T in the form of grants, and then we had initial clients who are fellow nonprofits. We had $275,000 of startup granted money, and we already had contracts worth about $35,000 to get started. We also had $1 million in in-kind donations from Cornerstone OnDemand and Accenture. So we used all that funding, and some from individuals and supporters, to help us get off the ground.

How was SafeNight developed?

We had an alpha version of the product when we spun off. It only worked on the Windows phone because Microsoft had been one of the early sponsors. In one shelter in northern California, it was being used as an alpha product. So our team built the alpha product, but we were able to hand that to Caravan Studios, and with the funding from United Way and Ground Floor, we could focus on building out the back end to support multiple shelters.

Why was SafeNight created?

About roughly half the time when someone gets the courage to call the shelter or the police have intervened, the shelter is not able to say yes either because they’re full or because of the family structure (most are not equipped to handle men). So what the shelter can do when they can’t meet the needs is put out an alert via the SafeNight app. Donors will get a ping on their phone that says if you can donate, we can put someone in a hotel room. They either pay for the night or not. We have a newer solution in beta called SafeResponse that allows them (donors) to meet some other needs outside the hotel, like taxi fare or short-term food, and allows a partial gift.

How much traction has the app gotten?

In April, we launched in North Texas. We have seven North Texas shelters live now, and have provided almost 200 safe nights. We have more than 250 donors on SafeNight.

How are you able to financially sustain the app?

SafeNight is funded from sponsorships and a small amount on the transaction. In the 18 months, we had we had about $675,000 in income from revenue, grants, charitable partners and individual gifts. This includes the initial investment. That number is $2.25 million when you count in-kind donations.

What’s next?

For AdvanceNet Labs, we are trying to change the landscape in some key areas in education. With our tools and our partnerships, we plan to impact half a million people a year and help them get meaningful upward movement. For SafeNight, it’s to be in every major city and provide that direct connection, not only to combat domestic violence but human trafficking. Were in the very early stages of SafeCampus to reduce campus violence. It’s a peer- based network that generates some template messages for you that you can send out to your network to reduce incidents.

Source: Dallas Business Journal, Danielle Abril

Photo: Keith Thode , CEO of AdvanceNet Labs