Maryse Suppiger
January 8, 2019

Founder Feature: TextUp

For those of us who do not provide direct care to customers, clients, or patients, it is easy to forget how demanding service-based roles can be. Providing personalized, around-the-clock attention is physically and emotionally exhausting. Initial communication, and necessary follow-ups, are both time-consuming and difficult to track as they accumulate in voicemail and email inboxes. Social workers, physicians, therapists, and teachers know that their job rarely consists of a standard 8-hour workday. Even when these professionals are technically “off-the-clock”, they still maintain open communication channels with those they serve. Managing these communication channels, while still respecting time away from work, is a pervasive challenge in service-based industries.

TextUp, a software platform for care providers, streamlines and manages essential communications for those responsible for personalized care. Founded by a team of social workers, Text Up uses technology to monitor text and call communications for service providers. Social work agencies, schools, medical care providers, and therapist offices have all marveled at the ease of communicating internally and externally through Text Up’s platform.

At Junto Health, we were particularly excited about TextUp’s potential to streamline doctor-patient communications. Many doctors receive an unmanageable influx of communications from patients, contributing to the stress of their already very demanding jobs. With its HIPPA-complaint platform, TextUp lessens the stress that patient communications place on doctors, without sacrificing the quality and timeliness of patient care.

Interview with CEO Michelle Peterson

We spoke with Michelle Petersen, Co-founder & Operations Manager at TextUp, to learn more about how her company’s software platform is streamlining and managing communication for a multitude of industries.

Michelle Petersen, Co-Founder & Operations Manager at TextUp. Photo Courtesy of Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, Brown University.

What was your inspiration for founding TextUp? What was your background prior to founding TextUp?

Michelle Petersen (MP): TextUp is a software tailored to the needs of care providers: professionals providing one-on-one support to clients/patients as social workers, counselors, and more. One of my cofounders—Eric Bai—and I had both worked in social work prior to TextUp. I worked in a family clinic, mostly with young single mothers, and he worked at a men’s homeless shelter. In our lives as college students, we had access to dozens of software platforms to help us find library books, prepare for exams, almost anything you could think of. But then in our lives as social work interns, we were taking notes on paper to store in manila folders, were using our personal phones to text clients, etc. We couldn’t find anything out there tailored to the needs of social workers at an affordable price, so we just decided to build it ourselves. And three years later, here we are: both of us working full-time on the business.

Can you briefly explain the functions of your product? How does it work?

MP: TextUp is designed as an end-to-end tool, meaning we support care providers throughout their entire workflow. We provide HIPAA-compliant texting with clients, automated follow-up with clients when you’re off-hours, record sharing among colleagues, and more. And all of TextUp’s features can be accessed from any web browser on any smart phone, laptop, or whatever else you have on hand. It’s designed to be accessible on-the-go.

Who are the primary users of your product?

MP: We have a wide range of agencies and private practices using TextUp—both for profits and nonprofits. School districts are using it to address chronic absenteeism. Cancer treatment centers leverage TextUp for appointment reminders. Therapists and counselors use it to support patients in crisis between sessions. TextUp is suited for anyone whose job is to provide one-on-one support.

How many users do you have?

MP: We currently have over 200 care providers actively using TextUp and many more in the 30 day free trial period. These users are mostly full-time care providers, but they also include interns, volunteers, and administrators. We’re spending most of our energy courting large contracts with hospitals, health systems, government programs, and other multi-site agencies. We’ve proven TextUp’s value on the private practice and organization-wide levels, and are looking to attract bigger customers.  Our current users log over 30,000 texts and 8,000 call minutes on TextUp each month.

Listen to Michelle explain text up in her own words here. Video Uploaded by GoLocal LIVE on 2018-07-31:

In general, how can technology be used to improve the social work industry as a whole? What needs have you identified?

MP: Social work needs innovation centered around 1) keeping clients/patients engaged and healthy and 2) keeping themselves engaged and healthy. Technology can help social workers and other care providers create the most effective care plans, free up time to see more clients/patients, streamline and centralize recordkeeping, and even promote their own work-personal life separation.

Can you explain the differences between your various plans?

MP: Developing a pricing model was—in my opinion—the toughest part of seeding this business. Our current mix of plans—both unlimited and pay-as-you-go—is meant to be suitable to any organization. We work with for profit, multi-site agencies, but also private practices and small nonprofits. We want to be accessible to care providers, no matter the type or size of agency they work in. So we have plans starting at just $5/month/account, ranging up to $50/month/account

What are the next big 3 milestones for TextUp?

MP: Our next steps are...

  1. We’re bringing four additional staff on in January 2019. Establishing a supportive, bold company culture is going to be a critical step.
  2. Signing our first health system-level contract
  3. Expanding to service clients outside of the US. In the last month we’ve done demos for organization executives in the US, Canada, South Africa, and Kenya.

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