Engaging Conversations with… Jenny Abramson

August 6, 2014

Jenny-at-Tamron
Jenny Abramson doesn’t shy away from the tough issues. Her company LiveSafe is making our world a safer place by tackling, among other issues, the rising trend of sexual assault on college campuses. The LiveSafe mobile safety app allows individuals to share and receive information quickly and easily with local police, friends and neighbors. Built from her team’s personal experiences and a clear understanding of technology, human behavior, and safety, LiveSafe is committed to empowering people to keep themselves, their friends and their communities safe.

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In our latest Engaging Conversations interview, Jenny shares her thoughts on leadership, lessons from Harvard Business School and how the future of campus safety is in the hands of the students themselves. 

Name: Jenny Abramson
Employer: LiveSafe http://www.livesafemobile.com/
Location: Washington, D.C. area (Rosslyn, Va.)
Twitter: @abramsonjenny
LinkedIn: jenny-abramson

What is your job title?
President & CEO

What do you really do?
What I do changes from day to day. One of the largest parts of my time is used meeting with as many potential employees as possible, so that as we grow we are always filling the opportunities with the best talent. I also spend a good amount of time with clients to truly understand their needs and where we have a product market fit versus where we need to evolve. I spend time internally on everything from strategic planning to prioritization discussions to trying to get the printer to work. Oh, and then there is time spent on email… Something that makes my job much better and worse at the same time.

How do you overcome creative blocks?
I feel out whether I need to completely break away from work and focus on something not work-related (in my case, bad television) or whether I need to fully and proactively absorb into new, deep thinking, either with people who stimulate my thinking or on my own.

What trends are you seeing in your industry right now?
While we do work in other industries (military, sporting arenas, communities and beyond), our greatest focus is in the higher education market. On that front, I’m sad to say that the greatest trends have included an increase in sexual assaults, school shootings, bullying and suicide. Our aim, bar none, is to reverse these trends. To help make that happen, we leverage smartphone proliferation in a mobile safety app connected to a cloud based dashboard to lower barriers to sharing critical safety information that can prevent these horrific crimes.

Tip ScreenIn the next few years, what’s going to change the most in the industry?
We believe what’ll change the most is that students will play a bigger part in maintaining campus safety. They’ll work closer with school safety officials and become “upstanders”, not just passive bystanders, in their communities. We believe every student will be armed with a mobile safety application to both deter and prevent crime.

Where did you get your best business advice?
One of my HBS professors once said that if you surround yourself with incredibly talented people who complement your own skills, the rest will work itself out. I tend to find that is true since one person can only do so much with 24 hours in the day and you actually like to sleep.

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What business advice would you pass on?
Take the time to strategize as a team, arguably with the help of an outside facilitator. While you may feel, especially in the ever-insane start-up world, that you don’t have the time, the alignment around purpose and goals will save you time, frustration and pain in the end.

Who do you follow on Twitter?
@washcaps
@Stanford
@TEDxWomen
@WarrenBuffett
@educause
@HarvardHBS
@TechCrunch

What’s on your daily must-read list?
The New York Times
The Washington Post
TechCrunch
Re/Code
Facebook (not sure I should admit that, but I do get a lot of my news that way—both personal and professional)

If you had a Pinterest-style motivational quote on the wall, what would it say?
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Fill in the blanks.

1) I should have taken time to “smell the roses” yesterday.
2) I wish that I could eat candy for every meal and have it be good for me.
3) The first thing I do when I get to work is hang up the phone (if possible), and say hello to the people.

Final thoughts?
Our goal is to get LiveSafe into as many universities as possible. Students and faculty inevitably feel less vulnerable once they experience the protection and relief that comes from connecting with friends and safety officials anytime they feel at risk. I welcome all introductions to university representatives. Please feel free to reach out to us and let’s make a difference together.