Pandemic Pivot Pays Off for Newark-Based Speak2 Family

Speak2 (Newark), a Newark Venture Partners portfolio company, found that it needed to make a pivot during the pandemic.

The company offers voice technology based on the Amazon Alexa to help senior living centers and hospitals triage requests from residents. While it was doing well, the founders decided to enhance its offerings to appeal to families of seniors and shut-ins, said founder and CEO Matt Smith. To do this, it created a new entity, called “Speak2 Family.”

“It’s now about connecting families and caregivers. Anybody in an aging adult’s life can now be connected to our platform. We have more content on it and it can include audio and video files.” In fact, Speak2 Family allows people to send and receive messages; manage reminders and activities; consume information; and gain assistance in an easy, natural way, the founders said. The company’s motto is “connecting our screen generation to aging adults.”

 A simple user interface is provided to the entire community of trust, making it possible for people to access the information they need.  

The company’s offerings are enhanced by support for senior living from Alexa Smart Properties, which enables companies like Speak2 to deploy and manage Alexa devices on a large scale across the country. 

The pandemic proved that people are more interested in connecting with each other than ever before, Smith continued. While it used to be about creating efficiencies and saving money at senior living facilities, its now about people at home and aging in place, he said.

In January, Speak2 Family acquired the clients of Soundmind, a healthcare-tech company based in Brooklyn.  The acquisition was driven by Amazon’s announcement of its intention to support senior living through Alexa Smart Properties. Soundmind was not built on the Amazon Alexa platform, so while Speak2 Family bought their clients, it did not buy their technology.

“Customers need solutions that they can use based on the culture of the person communicating. Kids use apps on small screens, Gen X uses laptops, seniors can use their voice. Caregivers are juggling many tasks at once. Speak2 brings these people together in the way that best suits their role and existing way of life,” said Jillian Guerra, cofounder of Speak2 Family. “The Soundmind customers are accustomed to a great user experience, and we can take that approach further by leveraging the Alexa Smart Properties senior living solution.”

Guerra said that for its new senior community clients, the company wants to work with organizations that have the same values the company does. “Our goal is to expand within the current communities and add a few more. And by adding our platform, the clients can also ask for help and maintenance through the same platform.”

Asked what the biggest lessons the founders learned during the transition from Speak2 to Speak2 Family, Guerra said, “Patience. We had to understand where everyone was in the process. Everyone is at a different rate in adopting technology within their community and within their own lives. We had to make sure we were patient with them as they were going through their own transitions and adding technology to their lives. We had to make sure we were giving them features that added the most value to their lives.”

Smith said that what he has learned was humility. “When you are a founder, and things are all going great early on, you become very internally focused. What we’ve learned is that it is never about us. It’s always about what the customer needs.”

He continued, “You know, it’s not about raising money and going in front of every pitch event and doing every VC event. We don’t measure ourselves by how much money we’re raising. We measure ourselves by how many lives we’re impacting, and every customer of ours, every person that touches our technology, making sure we’re actually helping in some way.”

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