Stay Protected: Phone Your Friends While Macing Assailants with this Pepper Spray!

At CES in Las Vegas, 444 is making a splash. The early-stage startup, founded by University of Michigan alumni Logan Nash and Matt Rogan nine months ago, combines pepper spray with electronics to alert friends when an attack victim has deployed the defence spray. ‘I’m not sure this is a good idea’ – but it’s certainly innovative!

Logan explains the inspiration behind their company’s name, 444: “Our target market is college women aged 18-24, and Angel numbers are a big trend right now. 444 is an angel number that symbolizes protection – which ties into our goal of providing self-defense.”

At CES, the company unveiled an early 3D printed prototype and a proof of concept PCB. Aimed to protect people from potential harm, its eventual product will feature pepper spray aerosol and Bluetooth transmitter connected to a phone. When deployed, the device sends out alerts along with location data to pre-defined numbers stored on the app.

A spicy getaway

Logan explains that they designed a clip to make it easier for women to carry pepper spray devices: “They’re normally large, pink and bulky — just pieces of plastic thrown in a backpack or purse. The clip attaches directly onto the user — their sports bra when running, belt when walking around campus. This way it’s always an arm’s length away and ready in times of danger. When activated, not only do they get up to nine seconds of spray time but also their location is automatically sent via an app installed on their phone to 10 contacts.”

The company believes texting contacts is essential and has customer discovery interviews to support that. The target price for the device is around $35, cheaper than Flare’s fashion bracelets but more expensive than Amazon’s $7 pepper sprays it replaces.

Is it defendable?

We were curious to find two men leading a company targeting women, but the founder insists no conflict exists.

At the University of Michigan, we completed iCOR, a three-to-four-month program. Every week we interviewed 15 people in our target demographic to learn what they like and don’t like about self-defense products. We asked if they track each other’s locations and their answers helped shape our company and product. Logan dismisses the idea of adding a woman or two to the founding team but acknowledges that this customer discovery work was invaluable for success.

I applaud these young entrepreneurs, but with smartphones now equipped with advanced emergency response capabilities, I’m not sure there’s room for their product. Plus, it requires Bluetooth tethering to a phone – it can’t reach out to services or contacts on its own.

While I may be blinded by privilege, self-defense should remain simple: a $7 canister of pepper spray and a phone in the other hand. This approach is more reliable than 444’s vision for safety.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch
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Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

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