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Our Investment in Expressable: A Different Kind of Digital Speech Company

Lee Hower
May 13, 2021 · 3  min.

I’m pleased to announce our recent investment in Expressable, a company focused on delivering better speech therapy in our digital age. Founded by Leanne Sherred, Nick Barbara, and Spencer Magloff, Expressable is based in Austin, Texas and offers virtual access to synchronous speech language pathology (SLP) services combined with asynchronous support and personalized learning curriculum. NextView is proud to have co-led Expressable’s $4.5 million seed round along with Lerer Hippeau.

As NextView Partner Melody Koh previously wrote, we at NextView are strong believers in the potential for telehealth models to drastically improve treatment quality, access, and affordability across the American healthcare system. While vertical telehealth models do not fit every condition, when we met the Expressable team, the vision for digital first speech therapy immediately clicked. On a personal level, we as a team have experienced both the difficulties and the benefits of childhood speech therapy.

Our teammate Leah Fessler, who sourced this investment for NextView, grew up with a speech impediment, and remembers the personal challenges when teachers would publicly pull her out of class for “speech.” As a child Leah never imagined being able to talk without a lisp, but today is a frequent public speaker and an accomplished journalist prior to becoming a VC. And some of us at NextView have seen the positive impact of speech and language services for our own children.

Leah was among the minority of American children privileged to receive access to SLPs in public school. Nationwide, over 40 million Americans have a communication disorder, but half of those eligible go without any SLP intervention. This dynamic is particularly problematic for children; strong communication skills are vital for children’s academic, social, and emotional success, yet annually at least 50% of children in need of speech therapy go without services.

A growing body of clinical research suggests that parental intervention in communication disorder treatment — including incorporating the same techniques taught by speech therapists throughout daily interactions with their children — dramatically improves pediatric outcomes. However, speech therapy services are traditionally delivered through schools and in-person clinics, which have been slow to incorporate this growing evidence about parental intervention into their care models.

When speech therapy is offered in school, it’s often in large groups without necessary personal attention. Historically, quality of speech therapy services across school districts varies, with many districts offering limited or no services at all. Alternatives include in-person private SLP sessions which are expensive, often uncovered by insurance, and unrealistically time intensive for working and single parents who cannot drive their children to and from appointments.

Having built her career as an SLP specializing in pediatrics, Expressable Co-Founder and President Leanne Sherred was intimately familiar with the ample aforementioned challenges. She knew that the pandemic would make children’s access to SLPs within public schools even worse, and worried about how her many clients would progress during this extended period at home. However, she, Nick, and Spencer also noted the pandemic as an exceptional opportunity to finally build the remote speech therapy practice Leanne always envisioned, empowering both children and parents to seamlessly access high-quality care customized both to SLPs’ needs and children’s unique conditions.

So that’s what they did. Today, Expressable is serving thousands of clients through their four-part clinical telehealth model, which reduces costs of services by ⅔ of traditional providers and improves client experiences. It includes teletherapy, wherein clients are matched with a licensed SLP specialized in their area of needs, secure SMS, personalized education models, and weekly homework assignments sent by SLPs to help parents reinforce techniques at home for continued skill building. Expressable’s customers are able to access this high quality care regardless of where they live or what their school situation may be.

While Expressable is primarily focused on pediatric clients, they also provide services to adults living with an array of speech and communication diagnoses in the future. We are excited by the ease of access Expressable is providing both for clients and SLPs, and inspired by the founding team’s unique understanding of their users’ challenges and opportunities. We can’t wait to see the Expressable business grow and develop; if you’re interested in their services, begin onboarding today.


Author
Lee Hower
Partner

Lee is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has spent his entire career as an entrepreneur and investor in early-stage software and internet startups.