Net Supatravanij, an alumna of Steinhardt's Department of Media, Culture and Communication, designed an app to help women experiencing street or domestic violence, find safety.
Net Supatravanij (BS ’16) is the co-founder of ila. With ila's app ALLY, she envisions a smarter, safer world for women. She began her career in marketing and behavior change at Ogilvy & Mather Singapore, before realizing that she wanted to use her skills for social impact. She is the winner of the UN Women Youth Leadership award for Thailand 2021, recipient of Thailand's Department of Women's Affairs Outstanding Woman of the Year 2022, and currently sits on the advisory board of B Corp's B Lab UK.
We interviewed her on how she is using an innovative business models to tackle gender inequality.
How did you come to create ila's ALLY? Have you always had a strong commitment to gender equity and social justice issues?
Gender equality has always been a core part of my beliefs, something that was ingrained from a young age within my family dynamics. My mother, for as long as I can remember, has always climbed the corporate ladder while still being as present as ever in my everyday childhood. The concept of gender equality was therefore so normalized for me that when I left my home in Bangkok and went to New York for the first time I was culturally shocked at the stark difference between Western and Eastern cultures. Walking down Union Square in the broad daylight, I distinctly recall being followed down multiple blocks and catcalled as if it was normal to harass women. From there I started to become more involved in gender equity, joining the NYU Feminist club and then, at my first job (Ogilvy Singapore), where I would go on to start the company’s first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative with a focus on gender violence as our pro bono client.
After a few years in advertising I realized that my love for storytelling had to have more social impact and so I went on to pursue a degree in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics where I met my co-founder. We knew the topic of gender violence wasn’t a sexy one, but because it was still so taboo to discuss, that’s exactly why we felt compelled to create a platform where anti-harassment training can easily be implemented in everyday life. Thus, ALLY was born: a UN Women award-winning mobile application that turns local venues into safe spaces by training bystanders to spot and stop abuse.
When faced with the rising problems of domestic abuse during Covid and the never-ending problem of street harassment, my co-founder and I decided it was time to create a solution."
How did your education at NYU Steinhardt's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication (MCC) influence your career trajectory?
Doing MCC gave me the foundation I needed to use all the disciplines of communications to become a compelling storyteller. During my time at Steinhardt, I took full advantage of the internship programs and explored various industries from publishing at Hearst Magazines to PR at Elizabeth Arden. There is truly nothing that beats the real-world exposure to such leading conglomerates around the world, and they were all right there, headquartered just a mere subway ride away from campus.
I will forever cherish the creative and safe environment within the classrooms of NYU that encouraged us to speak our minds, challenge social norms, and be daring in our convictions - with backed up evidence, of course. Having homework assignments that included visiting the MET or attending panel talks with industry leaders gave me the ability to think outside the box.
That’s precisely why, when faced with the rising problems of domestic abuse during Covid and the never-ending problem of street harassment, my co-founder and I decided it was time to create a solution that would bridge the gap between private and public sectors.
I will forever cherish the creative and safe environment within the classrooms of NYU that encouraged us to speak our minds, challenge social norms, and be daring in our convictions."
What advice do you have for future innovators and entrepreneurs?
Be incredibly obsessed about the product or service you want to build. If you aren’t, chances are that you’ll give up when faced with your first obstacle or rejection - and there are plenty along the way.
Be consistent and remember that small progress is still progress.
Surround yourself with mentors and build relationships with people before thinking what they can give you. Think about connecting with people who connect with your vision. The support - financial and otherwise - will follow.
Remember to take breaks! Just because you do something you love doesn’t mean you don’t need to rest along the way. And no, long weekends don’t count!