Meet Max Young, founder of Hooot! Hooot is a mobile app designed to provide immediate assistance to those who feel that they are in a dangerous situation by allowing the user to say a codeword or phrase into their phone and the app will immediately alert the user’s emergency contact.
Max is a Senior at CU Boulder majoring in Computer Science. Max has always been interested in entrepreneurship and was inspired by watching his father’s entrepreneurial journey and success. Throughout his time at CU Boulder, Max participated in the New Venture Challenge twice and has spent the majority of his time developing his safety-oriented mobile app, Hooot!
In 2019, Max began developing a mobile app, titled Party Favor, that was designed to protect students from sexual assault and harassment. Unfortunately, Max ran into several technical issues that caused him to take a step back and reevaluate the concept of the Party Favor app. During this time, Max realized that there was a need for an app accessible to all people and not just college students. He then rebranded the Party Favor app as 'Hooot' and began addressing other technical issues.
Hooot is a mobile safety app that is available on iOS. Hooot’s goal is to assist in keeping women and others safe by providing access to help through notifying a customer’s emergency contact if a specified code phrase is said. This allows the customer to have full safety measures in place whenever and wherever they need it. As Hooot continues to grow, the team hopes to focus more on sexual assault awareness and educating communities.
Through CU Boulder resources, Max created a robust team and connect with a skilled mentor for guidance. The Hooot team formed during their Computer Science Senior Capstone course and has been working hard to improve Hooot’s user experience. The Hooot team currently consists of Max, Beka Admasu, Caroline Hernandez, and Raegan. Max is continually looking for other students to connect with over a shared passion for the startup community and entrepreneurship.
How to Use Hooot
After downloading the Hooot app, you will need to create a profile, add emergency contacts, and set a codeword or passphrase. You can then decide when to activate Hooot and the app will remain active until turned off. If you are ever feeling endangered, simply say your chosen phrase and Hooot will send your location to your list of emergency contacts. Hooot also offers a premium service that shares your location with emergency services when a second chosen passphrase is yelled. This premium service currently costs $10 monthly, however, the Hooot team is working hard to lower costs and make the app more accessible.
Upcoming Projects and Events
The Hooot team is in the customer discovery phase and is focused on speaking with users to learn how they can continue to add value to the app, solve user issues, and increase customer satisfaction. They are currently underway in creating a test program in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. The team also visits downtown Boulder and Denver to speak with customers face-to-face.
Through their customer discovery, the Hooot team found that the sign-up process seemed long to users. They are currently working towards shortening this process to make registration quicker and more efficient. Additionally, the team hopes to add more features to the app such as a fake phone call that allows a user to leave an uncomfortable situation if necessary. The app hopes to contain a list of the different “angel shots” around the world so that women and others who feel unsafe at a bar are able to discreetly communicate to the bartender through a code drink name.
Max elaborates on the challenges he faced,
“When I first started, I followed the motto that ''if you build it, they will come" and I quickly realized this saying was a big joke. There is so much more that goes into growing your company than just building a product.”
Max adds that remaining focused has been challenging while in school. Prior to meeting his team members, Max ran Hooot by himself and had an overwhelming number of tasks at hand. Fortunately, he now has a team to assist with important tasks and help continue to move the company and product forward.
Hooot Team Advice for Current Students
Max provides the following advice for students,
“I’ve been reading a lot of Paul Graham lately and some of his materials emphasize the importance of utilizing college resources to grow as a person and view different perspectives. He also talks about his opinions towards college entrepreneurship and how he’s against it. I agree with the idea of utilizing college resources and growing, but I don’t necessarily agree with his feelings towards college entrepreneurship. I believe that if you have a passion for something or identify with an issue in your life that you believe you can solve, then you should go for it! Go after what you want and just make sure you’re in it for the right reasons.”
Beka continues, “Don’t let ‘no’ stop you. We’ve been told ‘no’ many times, and we continued to push through and make things work. Take someone telling you ‘no’ as a good thing and don’t give up on what you’re doing!”
Caroline elaborates, "Fail with enthusiasm and you'll eventually find success."
Raegan provided the team’s final sentiments,
"Share and pursue your ideas because they have more value than you think!"