Thursday, January 16, 2014

Caregiving Made Simple with Mobile Suite

Company: Semafores 
Julie Tittler - CEO, Mother of Inspiration, Software Engineer
Location: Dedham, MA

The holiday season came and went within the blink of an eye, but that doesn't mean the season of giving should also be left behind. Semafores, a MassChallenge finalist, is focused on simplifying caregiving to ensure stress is minimized and engagement is maximized. 

What is your elevator pitch? What problem are you trying to solve?
At Semafores, we believe family caregiving is one of the most important and challenging tasks people have. Whether caring for yourself, children, older relatives, or pets, solo or as a team, Curi, our simple mobile suite, will take the chaos out of caregiving. Engaging user-generated alerts to action takers ensure consistency. Minders provide caregivers a human fail-safe when technology fails or fails to engage. Caregiver hand-off tools streamline coordination, and one-glance status panels give peace-of-mind. Wtih Curi, your family becomes a dynamic, caring team.

How did you get started?
About 2 years ago, my son got diagnosed with a number of special needs requiring a handful of medication multiple times per day. My husband and I had just reached that time in life where life is better lived through chemistry. My dog got diagnosed with Lymes Disease and needed medication 3x per day. I had a 1yr old daughter I was still nursing. I was trying to keep an eye on my mother in NJ, and I was trying to launch my own company. It was a lot to juggle.

Unfortunately, one morning in the chaos of getting everyone out the door for the day, my husband and I made a mistake and both accidentally gave my son his morning meds. He subsequently passed out in school and almost had to goto the hospital. Fortunately he was OK. But, as I sat there nursing my daughter while watching him sleep off the overdose, I said to myself "This cannot happen again!" I figured there had to be an app for family caregiving coordination. After a couple weeks of research, I realized there really wasn't at that time. 

I had an epiphany. What I had been designing as a backend for the business I was launching at the time, if skinned slightly differently, could solve this caregiving coordination problem I was having. I pivoted to our current product and haven't looked back.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Yes, STEM is male-dominated. Don't let that stop you. Follow your talents, and follow your heart. Stand your ground. You will have to be confident and strong so others take you seriously and don't take advantage of you professionally. Tech is interesting. You will find very entrenched bastions of male chauvinism, but you will also find that tech companies are some of the most accepting places to work, particularly for families. When looking for a job, talk to current employees. Ask other women engineers what it's like to work there. Find women mentors. They'll be invaluable for learning to navigate and negotiate. And never be afraid to advocate for your needs and your rights to be treated equal. It's the only way we can change this dynamic for good.

As CEO, what kind of culture are you trying to build at Semafores?
I am building a life friendly culture at Semafores. We work to live, not live to work. We are in the Wellness space and take it very seriously. There is more to wellness than health. We intend to nurture that in our company and in our employees. Employees are adults and treated as such. Hours are flexible, and positions and tasks are meant to engage and challenge our employees, always putting them that little bit outside their skill comfort zone. Only in this way can we all strive and thrive. Sometimes hours will be long, but life happens and family first. We all work as a team to bring health and wellness both to our customers and our company.

What do you think is the most interesting trend in mobile right now?
I think one of the most interesting trends is the high adoption rate of smart devices by baby boomers and other older demographics. I think that tablets and smartphones replacing laptops as the computing standard will bring undreamed of solutions, opportunities, and life enhancements to society as a whole. The key will be to keep them from consuming our real life connections with people and the world around us.

How would you describe being a female in the tech entrepreneur space?
Being the mother of two young children, (an 8yr old and a 3yr old), one of whom has special needs, is time consuming in and of itself, never mind the CEO of a hi-tech company thing. It means that I work at 4am before the kids get up, and 8p-12a after they go to sleep. It means putting my 3yr old in full time daycare so I can play CEO during the day. It means being willing to let my husband take over the household when I'm away and purposefully not worrying about it. It means that sometimes I cannot make that important networking event in the evening, or have to reschedule that important meeting because a child is sick. It means that many people assume the men in my tow are the CEO or CTO of my company instead of me. But it also means I'm setting a great example for my daughter, and am making my husband proud as hell.