Meet Summer and Andrius from AbleFinder

Summer and Andrius are the Founders of AbleFinder and they had our first Remarkable wedding when they tied the knot in May (in week four of the program). We asked Summer to tell us more about AbleFinder and their story.

Tell us about AbleFinder and the problem you’re solving?

At AbleFinder, we’re solving the problem of social isolation by creating the world’s first on-demand peer-to-peer support network for parents of children with disability. Using chatbot technology, we enable parents to connect one-on-one and in real-time with other parents just like them.

What inspired you to start this?

AbleFinder’s story started while I was working as a Speech Pathologist at a Sydney school for children with disability. I’d gone down to the school gate to collect one of my students, Elijah, and encountered his mother Michaela in an extremely distressed state. Elijah had severe autism and had been up since 2am having a meltdown. That wasn’t unusual for this particular family, but what struck me was how utterly alone Michaela felt in her experience. I realised in that moment that she didn’t need my expertise. What she needed was to talk to another parent who understood exactly what she was going through; who could tell her everything was going to be okay. That night, at our dinner table, the idea for AbleFinder was born.

How did you both meet?

I guess you could say our AbleFinder story started before this…under a giant statue of Buddha on a mountain in Phuket in fact. I was in sunny Thailand to attend my best friend’s wedding and Andrius had made the snap decision to explore Asia’s version of digital nomadism. We met while receiving a blessing from a Buddhist monk and Andrius eventually convinced me to get on the back of his motorbike. And the rest, as they say, is history. We spent two years navigating an international relationship and returned to Thailand just last month (4 weeks into the accelerator!) to get married in front of our nearest and dearest. I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d rather be riding this crazy startup adventure with!

Summer & Andrius wedding in Thailand

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing and how do you think remarkable can help you overcome this challenge?

I think one of our biggest challenges is launching a product that immediately meets the need of our extensive and varied parent community. Remarkable will be an enormous help in this respect, as we continue to grow our reference group of parents, product people, and industry experts.

What parts of the accelerator are you most looking forward to? Are there any parts of the program that you’re nervous about?

The opportunity to work with other like-minded startup founders was, and remains, an integral part of my Remarkable journey. Prior to commencing the program, my co-founder and I were living and working from Bulgaria so that we could keep our costs low. Though this gave us the opportunity to invest a lot more of our savings into AbleFinder, I found it much harder going it alone. As for parts of the program I’m nervous about, that would definitely be demo day, as I’m not the world’s most confident public speaker.

Do you have any tips for startups who are trying to get on an accelerator program?

I think the most important thing is to have, and be able to communicate, a really strong “why”. At this stage of your business, people are investing in you, not your product.

What is your top tool, blog, book or podcast?

To be honest, my biggest tool is the comments, emails and messages I receive from our global community of parents and persons living with disability. I couldn’t recommend more highly going out and speaking to as many of our potential “end users” as possible!

Getting to Know Mentor, Alex Allwood

Alex Allwood is the principal of the customer experience consultancy, All Work Together; author of the book Customer Experience is the Brand, regularly facilitates Customer Journey Mapping workshops and speaks on customer-centric transformation. Alex is a long time friend of Remarkable and this year, she is mentoring AbleFinder.

Alex Allwood
Alex Allwood

Alex, tell us a bit about you and your background experience

My focus is connecting customer and culture to empower customer-centric growth. Working with B2B2C, I help improve experiences that enhance customer value and distinctively differentiate. With a 20 year track record in leadership, operations and marketing, my strength is developing customer experience strategy: customer understanding and empathy, experience vision and guiding principles and the customer narrative to enable collaboration and alignment.

What are your core areas of expertise, particularly when it comes to mentoring for Remarkable?

My personal top 3 strengths are: strategic, communicator and connection. I have a 20 year track record in leadership, operations and marketing; incorporating my first business, a full service advertising agency in 1997. My expertise is applying customer needs and expectations to a growth agenda; this approach will assist entrepreneurs develop contemporary business practices.

What inspired you become a mentor for Remarkable?

I’ve always been involved in social cause work. I was fortunate to stumble across Remarkable through a mutual partner.

What is your top tool, blog, book or podcast that you’d recommend?

Apps: Headspace – mediation; Pocket – saves online articles; Trello – Productivity tool; Podcast – player on mobile.
Books: Good to Great- Collins; Pitch Doctor – Flett; Competing Against Luck – Christensen.
Podcast: Social Media Marketing – Stelzner
Facebook Page: Michael McIntrye fans

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your work life that you would like to pass on to the startups?

Always treat others how you want to be treated. If it doesn’t feel right – don’t do it. Play to win.