Meet MBC semi-finalist Katie Reiner: the Ross student behind peer-to-peer safety app Companion

Like most college students and young adults living on their own, Katie Reiner, BBA ’16, had some concerns about traveling on foot late at night on the University of Michigan’s campus. Although it’s a safe place, she would make sure that she was aware of her surroundings and would check in with friends or family members when returning home. But sometimes, as Katie would admit, it’s hard to remember to call your roommate or mom when you arrive at your destination.

That’s why she came up with the idea for Companion – a peer-to-peer safety network that allows people to stay safe by keeping in touch with others while walking from one place to another. The app, available now for free in the Apple store, prompts users to enter their location and ultimate destination and then select “companions” from the phone’s address book who will then be able to track the user’s journey. If the user strays from the path, the app will know something’s up and contact the user’s “companions” who can then alert police. According to Katie, “Companion is the reassurance you need when you’re traveling alone that help is always there.”

In addition to Katie, the Companion team, which was recently named a semi-finalist in the university-wide Michigan Business Challenge, includes University of Michigan students Danny Freed, Jake Wayne, Lexie Ernst and Nathan Pilcowitz.  In addition to being named an MBC semi-finalist, the team was also the recipient of a marketing award that will help them beef up their communication efforts going forward. Thanks to the resources provided by the Institute, including mentorship from Ross professor Len Middleton, Companion already has thousands of users and is growing fast. Students and parents love the service because it offers peace of mind.

The team is also working on a platform for campus safety departments and other public safety organizations that will provide a direct line of communication between students and public safety officers. Ultimately, the monitoring service will help to prevent crime.

Intrigued? iOS users can download the Companion app here: http://bit.ly/1F6kESq. Make sure to check back for more MBC updates. Finalists and winners will be compete and be announced on Feb. 20.

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