While completing internships in social work, Brown University graduates Michelle Peterson and Eric Bai, along with their friend Hanna Oh, a graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, all came to a startling realization: They were all overwhelmed by how overworked their colleagues and supervisors were.
They were working 50 hour weeks, taking emergency phone calls from clients at 3 a.m. on a Saturday and staying up all night trying to convince clients to stay safe.
The stark reality of the situation led the three to team up and found TextUp, a secure messaging and software platform that empowers social workers to be more efficient with their work and improve the professional quality of their life.
“Everyone was using three or four platforms; there was nothing to automate record keeping,” Peterson told Rhode Island Inno. “We didn’t think that made a lot of sense.”
TextUp offers a number of features to streamline work loads. The platform gives every social worker their own private phone number that can be accessed through one’s cell phone or computer.
This allows social workers to avoid publicizing their personal numbers and saves them or the organization or agency money from having to purchase work cell phones. With the private number, social workers can customize messages, auto-populate texts and set parameters for when they do and do not want to receive messages.
“Google Voice has a similar feature, but we have built a lot on top of that,” said Peterson. “We wanted to create the work-life balance.”
TextUp also allows social workers to share contacts with other members of the treatment team to ensure continuous care and constant contact, and automate record-keeping of client communication, all of which is uploaded into a customer relationship management system.
This is a huge benefit for social work organizations, said Peterson, because agencies are often subpoenaed whether its from a lawsuit or to verify a client’s story or provide a diagnosis of a client. In the past, it has been difficult for organizations to get records off of someone’s personal phone due to federal HIPAA and FERPA laws, she said.
The platform was co-created with social workers at the Cranston-based Harrington Hall homeless shelter, and the company has organized a technical client council composed of those social workers to help it come up with and pilot new features and get feedback.
So far, TextUp has signed about 10 contracts and has about 150 users, most of which are social workers. Partner organizations include a medical program at Brown University, Rhody Food on the Move, the Twin Cities Mobile Market in Minnesota and the House of Hope, which is fiscally sponsoring TextUp.
The company charges clients on a monthly basis or on a pay-as-go plan, which Peterson said has been more popular thus far.
While the TextUp team just graduated and began working full time, the company has already been accepted into the newly launched MassChallenge Rhode Island accelerator, during which Peterson hopes to accomplish a lot.
Her goal is to incorporate the company as a 501c3 nonprofit and sell the product to local governments, agencies and other nonprofits.
Then Peterson wants to spin off a for-profit side of the business and license the product to other industries such as law firms, foster care, education and she has even gotten inquiries from car dealerships so you never know.
Ultimately, Peterson sees TextUp’s target market as anyone who sees long-term clients, has clients that are transient and high maintenance and needs to keep track of client records despite both client and staff turnover.
The company plans to try and raise a seed round of funding sometime in the fall.