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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

How a Hostage Situation Turned Me Into an Entrepreneur

How a Hostage Situation Turned Me Into an Entrepreneur Credit: React Mobile

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:

In recent years, I've seen a number of tech companies born out of a dorm room, or where a student with an entrepreneurial mind is able to turn a simple class project into a meteoric overnight success, like Facebook.

Well, my college start-up story is a little different. You might say that someone had to put a gun to my head before I found my entrepreneurial spirit. 

As an undergrad in California, my roommates and I were held at gunpoint and robbed by a pair of assailants that burst into our off-campus home. In the process, they took one of my roommates as a hostage and threatened to kill him if we notified the police.

I feared for our lives — and there was absolutely nothing I could do.  It was a feeling of complete horror and total helplessness that I will never forget for the rest of my life. My roommates and I all survived the ordeal, but I was forever changed.

In the days and weeks following the event, I came to understand that people are confronted with situations like mine all the time. Every day, there are people who desperately need to call for help, but they can't. It became my mission to solve this problem and to provide a solution that anyone could use to alert others in a moment of crisis.      

Three years ago, I started React Mobile, and spearheaded the development of a personal safety solution that turns any smartphone into a powerful lifeline. 

In 2015, Seattle University became the first to adopt the React Mobile solution and make it a campus-wide safety tool. In a small way, it represented an opportunity to repair my past — and in a bigger way, it would help protect students in the future. 

Today, our work with the school continues to grow and we’ve recently taken steps to integrate React SOS alerts with the university’s public safety office and the Seattle Police Department. Meanwhile, additional schools, like Occidental College in Los Angeles, have also embraced the technology.

Additional organizations have also turned to our technology to provide assistance to their employees who are often alone in the field. For example, BNSF Railway has outfitted their top level executives who frequently travel to dangerous parts of the world with the React Sidekick. Windermere Real Estate, a prominent frim in the Northwest, has provided 13 offices and hundreds of Seattle-area agents with our technology.

In the three years since launching React Mobile, there have been moments when my thoughts will take me back to that terrible night where my friends and I stared death in the face. And while I feel very fortunate to be alive, I also take great motivation from it. 

In some regards, my entrepreneurial spirit is invigorated by the memory, and it only makes me more committed to the mission.

About the author: Robb Monkman is the founder and CEO of React Mobile in Seattle. Follow the company on Twitter @ReactMobile.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at sgausepohl@purch.com to learn more about our contributed content program.