A household budget is just as important as any other. It has a considerable impact on the financial lives of the people in the house. If there is any flaw in the budget, it can cause various problems. Sheri Atwood recognized these problems and started SupportPay. SupportPay seeks to address the specific needs of parents dealing with child support. It provides a much needed automated child support platform to help parents manage the process of sharing child expenses and exchanging child support.
SupportPay takes the emotion out of the equation and protects your finances from becoming a victim of quick tempers and pent up aggression. It is the embodiment of a simple solution to address a complex problem. In an interview with The Enterprise World, Sheri Atwood unfurls the journey of SupportPay.
1] Tell us about the company.
- Smart Family Tech, Inc is a software company that seeks to help families manage their financial relationships. We want to make family life easier by changing the way families manage money across households – from a conflict-ridden, time-consuming & stressful event to a collaborative process between family members.
- We want to make single, divorced & blended families lives easier by delivering innovative applications that will save parents time, money and headaches. Parents will now have more time & energy to focus on what matters most, raising happy, healthy children.
The company is committed to donating a portion of profits to make children’s lives better.
2] What inspired you to start this enterprise?
Prior to SupportPay I had a very lucrative career as a marketing executive in Silicon Valley including being the youngest Vice President at Symantec. I was a divorced single mom busy juggling a career and raising a child and quickly realized that you get a bill for everything in life but you don’t get a bill for child support.
I searched high and low for a solution and was shocked to find out there was nothing available. At the same time, my daughter had to have emergency brain surgery which really forced me to look how I was spending my time. I realized then that if I was going to spend so much time away from my daughter I wanted to work on something that made an impact in the world. I decided to quit my job and start SupportPay – giving parents who live apart a solution to manage their child support and share expenses.
3] What were the initial challenges you faced?
The biggest issue facing SupportPay has been the lack of knowledge that a solution exists. Since SupportPay is the first solution to help parents manage child support and share expenses directly with each other a significant amount of effort has gone to educating the market that a solution exists to this very painful and complex issue.
4] Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?
As more parents and legal professionals learned about the solution our growth rate has continued to steadily increase.
5] What have been the best parts and toughest parts of your journey? Brief us about the marvellous journey. If possible, kindly help us with statistical insights as an overview of your individual achievements.
I started SupportPay got the platform to over 40,000 users and raised $3M in seed funding. In December of 2016 I closed a $4M Series A round. The capital enabled me to continue to grow the company but it also meant I gave up control of the board, with me being only 1 of 3 votes (the other 2 were investors).
Seven months after raising Series A I was fired from my own company and replaced with an investor insider. Within 30 days of me being fired, 20 of the 25 employees quit or were fired and within 2 months the product didn’t work and a few months later I found out, with the other shareholders that they were liquidating my company.
I reached back out to the board to let me come back and fix the situation. I felt I owed it to the investors who believed in me and the parents who rely on our platform. Unfortunately, my request went unanswered. After several offers to acquire the company were cancelled because I was no longer involved I decided to make one last attempt.
In early 2018, I formed a new holding company and made an offer to acquire all the assets back. My offer was accepted and I used the rest of my savings and a personal loan to buy SupportPay back. Over the past year I have focused on fixing the product, getting the previous users back and driving revenue to ensure we are now financially independent. If nothing else, I am a founder with grit and determination.
- Sheri Atwood’s professional experience
Sheri Atwood is the Founder & CEO of SupportPay by Ittavi (an acronym for “it takes a village’). Sheri is a former Silicon Valley executive, a single mom & a child of a bitter divorced. Raised by a single mom & the only person in her family to go to college, she married at 19, completed undergrad in less than 4 years, finished her MBA 10 days before her child was born, while working full time, divorced at 25 & was the youngest Vice President at Symantec.
After 12 years in high tech, Sheri decided to risk it all and start her own company. She taught herself how to code and is an expert in front end development. Her first company, Ittavi, Inc build SupportPay and successfully raised over $7M in venture funding by top Venture Capitalists including Tim Draper, salesforce.com & Aspect Ventures.
She was fired from her own company 7 months after raising her Series A and the company was liquidated 3 months later. In early 2018, she formed Smart Family Tech, Inc. She took out a personal loan and used the rest of her savings and successfully acquired the SupportPay assets back. She is now continuing on her mission to help the millions of parents and children who deal with financial conflicts in order to make everyone of their lives just a little bit easier.
Sheri has been named “2017 Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business”, “#5 of 50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley” and a “Top 40 Under 40 Executive in Silicon Valley”. She has also been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Oprah Magazine and many more.
She holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science & Theatre from the University of California, San Diego and an MBA from San Jose State University.
- About SupportPay:
SupportPay® is the first-ever automated child support payment platform, poised to transform the complex, time-consuming & stressful process that impacts nearly 300 million parents exchanging more than $900 billion in child support & child expenses worldwide. With SupportPay, today’s modern families can spend less time managing and arguing about child support, expenses and alimony and more time focused on raising happy, healthy children.
6] What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
SupportPay enables parents to manage child support and share expenses directly with each other. This enables children to get the financial support they deserve, from both of their parents, while enabling parents to focus on what matters most, raising happy, healthy children.
7] How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
We are focusing on delivering features that will drive revenue and offer continued value to our customers. The more revenue we are able to achieve the more features & solutions we are able to deliver & the more customers we can help.
8] Constant vigilance- a need or a strategy? Please share your views.
A need. Being vigilant to customer needs, product requirements and the competition.
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