Alvaro Carrasco and Robinson Salinas, Chilean social entrepreneurs, co-founders of YouVo, and winners of TIC Americas in 2014, have been selected as YABT’s entrepreneurs of the month. YouVo is the first electronic anti-bullying platform in Chile that empowers students in their schools. Thanks to YouVo, students can now speak up freely and confidentially about their experiences as victims or witnesses of bullying in schools through their smartphones, tablets and computers.
YouVo originated in Alvaro’s dissertation that sought to assess customer satisfaction in a Japanese restaurant through a beta software. To make it happen, he invited Robinson to join his project. Alvaro and Robinson met during their senior year at the University of Viña del Mar, Chile.
By implementing the first experiment of YouVo in a restaurant, new doors were opened to test innovative approaches and reach new audiences. In doing so, Alvaro and Robinson transformed YouVo into a tool to enable parents to evaluate general services provided by schools. Once they implemented the pilot, Alvaro and Robinson noticed that most complaint messages came from students and parents who reported bullying behaviors in schools. By acknowledging this potential market, Alvaro and Robinson transformed YouVo into an online anti-bullying platform tailored for children and parents wanting to report bullying behaviors taking place in their schools.
With YouVo, Alvaro and Robinson provide a safer and more confidential alternative to social media where students can truly feel free to share their experiences as victims of bullying in their schools. According to Alvaro, information posted on Facebook regarding school activities in Chile can be sometimes excessively public. Hence, this feature may represent a threat to the wellbeing and fulfillment of the activities of a particular academic community. Robinson added that globally speaking, about 10% of Facebook profiles are fakes while 4.8% are undesirable. Moreover, Chile is the country with the highest social media penetration worlwide where 497 of every 1,000 Chileans are active users of Facebook. Against this background, YouVo conceives this online presence from an early age as a breeding ground for bullying behaviors and considers that during early education is necessary to detect and prevent such behavior.
YouVo understands that the true solution lies in empowering children to stand up against bullying behaviors in their schools in a positive way and not as a reaction. In doing so, YouVo is creating an application adapted to any software available on computers, smartphones and tablets where students and guardians can report and instantly comment on bullying behaviors or other problems within the academic institution. All comments posted through this app are confidential. In this sense, both the complainant and the schools should feel safe and protected when issuing messages and handling that data respectively.
What is more, YouVo provides other services to the student community, of which delivering reports to school authorities and training of employees and teachers about bullying prevention and resolution are the most relevant. Reports are the result of impartial collection of all messages sent through YouVo. Also, YouVo works with different institutions on anti-bullying topics to create and disseminate methodologies to manuals to raise awareness of bullying among members of the academic community. As a result, YouVo equip teachers and representatives with the necessary tools to establish mechanisms that provide solutions to bullying behaviors.
Today, YouVo already operates in five cities of Chile: Copiapó, Buin, Ligua, Valparaíso and Santiago de Chile. By the end of 2015, YouVo expects to surpass the number 25,000 active users. Starting this year, YouVo began working with the Belén Educa Foundation to install the anti-bullying platform in the most vulnerable communities of Santiago de Chile. Moreover, YouVo plans to launch its mobile application "Brave Up" in April this year. With “Brave Up” they seek to educate through audiovisual contents that promote the idea that being cool at schools means promoting "no more bullying" among your peers. In doing so, they hope to make this leap and start operating in Mexico, one of the countries with most bullying problems in Latin America.
In 2014, after winning TIC Americas, Alvaro and Robinson participated in the finals of the Global TIC in Asia and won the mention of best marketing and commercial strategy Award. Separately, Alvaro was named by El Mercurio as one of the 100 most influential young people in Chile. Since June 2014, YouVo team is working closely with Microsoft’s ImagineLab Incubator in Santiago de Chile. When Alvaro and Robinson are not working with YouVo, they are giving motivational talks at their Alma Mater and other business schools to encourage more young people to become entrepreneurs.
Finally, YABT took this opportunity to ask for some advice aimed at young people who are currently participating in TIC Americas 2015. Alvaro confessed, “the key ingredient to succeed is to start as soon as possible and conceived the idea of being an entrepreneur more as professional career than a hobby. In the end, the opportunity of participating in competitions such as the Global TIC and TIC Americas rewards you as an entrepreneur and as a person [...]". Robinson encourages young people by asserting, "in order to be a [true] entrepreneur, one must be eager to find solutions to problems facing your community and always be constant and strong-minded to achieve your goals".