Newark native wins $50K grant for new women's Blastchat safety app

By Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on April 08, 2017

 

NEWARK -- It was a rainy day in March and Jhamar Youngblood was torn between wearing a red hat with a white letter B or no hat for his upcoming interview with a reporter.

He needed a poll -- quick.

Using his new app called Blastchat, he sent a push notification alert to his friends seeking advice. He instantly received 10 responses. The consensus? Hat on.

There was no need to create a group text or have his friends filter through a feed of social media posts to see his message. It was direct and instant. 

"We're living in an information age so there's so much content out there," Youngblood, 29, said. He said his app allows users to "filter all of this content that's out there in the world" and focus on what you want to see and from whom. 

"We're giving everyone their own access to their own push notification," he said. "When you sign up, you know that you're going to be receiving the most important (ones)."

Youngblood, who grew up in Newark, launched the app in 2016 as a way to revolutionize how people communicate.

This year he's harnessed that idea to keep women safe. Youngblood won a $50,000 prize in Newark's largest city-sponsored hackathon focused on women's safety.  

Seth Wainer, chief information officer for the city, said there were seven finalists who were given months to design an innovative way to keep women safe. A panel of judges selected Youngblood's app idea, Blastchat Safety, as the winner. He will receive an initial $15,000 prize to launch his idea by June and $35,000 to maintain the product throughout the year. 

"We're creating ways for neighbors and residents to connect with each other," Wainer said.

Blastchat Safety, will be an additional feature on Youngblood's Blastchat app and allow women to send an instant alert to their friends or strangers in the area (who opt in for such alerts) when they're in trouble with information on their location.

The feature will also begin recording video if there's a need to provide any evidence to police. 

With the push of a button, women can notify others if they feel unsafe walking down the street or at home with an abusive partner, Youngblood said.

"My mother was a victim of physical abuse and if she had a product like this, just these alerts so I know she's in danger, maybe things could have ended differently," Youngblood said. "You have the ability to create your own family network, create a custom list of people that you want to send an alert to."

The new feature will be available in June. 

Changing the way we communicate

Youngblood graduated from Monmouth University and received his master's from Dartmouth University. He said he's had his share of failures that eventually led him back home to work to improve his city. 

He created his first company when he was an undergrad, but that fizzled. He later interned at a tech company in Boston, but was turned off by the lack of diversity. He eventually returned to Newark.

"After all the failures I had over the past decade ... me coming back to Newark and they're trying to grown the city as a tech hub, it just felt like perfect timing," said Youngblood. 

Blastchat has about 5,000 users -- including NBA Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving -- and is available on iOS. 

Users can send a public or private "blast" and select which blasts they want to receive from others, whether that's friends, city government or companies.

Users can send pictures, videos, messages or share stories. Once you blast, your network will receive the blast in a push notification -- no sifting through Facebook feeds or continuous Tweets. 

Youngblood said posts made on more popular social media platforms are often only seen by a small percentage of followers. He said Blastchat cuts through unwanted content.

"Platforms that can filter the content for people, those are the platforms that are going to be really effective," Youngblood said. "There's no algorithms, it's you saying, 'I want this content as soon as it's available.'"

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment