Pete sat down for another edition of ‘On the Couch’ and this time with the team from Speech Frog to find out more about their online platform and what problems their startup is designed to solve.
Carl, can you tell us what problem Speech Frog is trying to solve?
Carl: Speech Frog is tackling problems around speech therapy home practice. We’re looking to make speech therapy home practice engaging for kids and also want to deliver useful information back to therapists.
Speech therapy home practice essentially is the activities that clients do between sessions. So after they’ve seen a speech pathologist generally, there’ll be about a two-week gap between when they see them next so home practice involves all the little things they do between then, and we’re looking to improve that specific area. When I explain what Speech Frog does I use the analogy of fitness training, for example, if you go and see a personal trainer you may go and see them every two weeks and when you see them you have this really great session and you work really hard with them, but then you don’t do much between sessions and between those two weeks you’re essentially doing nothing, therefore, you’re unlikely to make much progress. But if instead after seeing your personal trainer you went away and you used what they said and had consistent practice every day you’re more likely to make great progress and that’s very much the same for speech therapy and for people who are seeing speech pathologists. So what we want to do is make it easier for clients to have consistent practice between sessions.
Our research has shown that when we speak to parents and when we speak to speech pathologists this is a really big pain point for them. The issues are that a lot of their clients, unfortunately, don’t do enough consistent practice between sessions and they know that it makes a big difference. So it’s really difficult for them and also I guess for parents the problem is making that practice between sessions enjoyable for the kids and engaging enough. So that’s really the problem that we’re trying to tackle.
Sophie, can you tell us a little bit more about the product itself?
Sophie: We’re aiming to digitize and gamify home practice. Part of the problem is that speech therapy homework at the moment is on worksheets and it’s quite old-school. So we’re putting it into the hands of kids in iPads or computers so that they get to practice doing games that they love. One of the issues with speech therapy is that the practice has to be repetitive, meaning you have to say the same word over and over again, which can be pretty boring but if you get kids to say those words as part of the game it helps them to advance and enjoy their therapy. So that’s what we’re doing.
On Speech Frog the therapist can log in they can set their home practice homework for the week based on where the kids are practicing and when the kids get home they log in and they can choose what game they want to play based on their interests. The therapist then can then login and can see the homework completed by their clients, and they’re able to listen to the recordings of their client so they can actually track their progress and start planning for their next session.
Can you tell us a little bit about what each one of the Speech Frog founder’s professional history and how you all met?
Carl: I’m actually a special education teacher, I’ve been working with kids with disability for almost 20 years here in Australia in the UK a lot of my work has been involved with speech pathologists. I’ve worked really closely with them throughout my career and I’ve seen a lot of the challenges that they face such as limited resources and time. Sophie has extensive experience with project management, building and leading teams, and experience with software development. Together we also run a little empire of e-commerce stores that service Australia and New Zealand and we’ve been doing that for about six or seven years. Dan runs a digital agency that works with businesses in the social impact space. We actually met Dan in antenatal classes because Sophie and I have a little boy together and when we met Dan and his wife we just got along really well! We all love building businesses and also have a strong desire to do something good for the world in terms of social impact so Dan came to us with the idea because he’d been developing some really interesting AI tech around speech recognition. So from there, we did a lot of research to investigate what Speech pathologists actually want and that’s where Speech Frog came from.
Have you got one highlight from our 16-week accelerator program?
Sophie: It was when we got our first sale. I think we were in about week seven or eight and we had a very basic version of our product and we decided to go to market to see if we were on the right track. So it wasn’t really perfect but it was something that we thought we could test the market with so we had a list of 20 speech pathologists that had shown interest in products and we thought we’d send an offer out to them and see what happened and within 24 hours we had three of them purchase our product. So it was a really big deal for us as we all realised that the problem we thought needed to be solved was something that people wanted so. The lesson we learned is that an imperfect product with an imperfect pitch is ok to go out early just to see whether you’re doing the right thing.
Carl: I’ll probably add to that it goes without saying that the people with met in Remarkable have been fantastic! The people in the Remarkable team and all of the learning we’ve experienced from their advice has been awesome!
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
Carl: Yeah, I think we really want to be an international solution to this problem because we know it exists around the world. There’s a lot of people that need assistance with their speech and we see Speech Frog as a tool that therapists love and that would just be part of their day-to-day practice and that’s why we’re so keen to work closely with speech pathologists to really delve into the areas that they need help. We’ve got great ideas with workaround AI so that’s an area we’re really interested to expand on in the future and then as well as that we just want to make the experience for kids to be something really enjoyable we want to blur that line between just repetitive practice and an enjoyable game. So the kids are just having fun at the same time.