An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Annette Miller, the co-founder and CEO of Enriched Couples, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Enriched Couples – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Enriched Couples began as a research idea when I was earning my Masters in Counseling Psychology. We’re now a real company with a real product and real users!
Personal finances are an explosive source of anxiety for 15 million millennial and GenZ couples in the US and America’s #1 life stressor. On a daily basis, couples are trapped by rising financial pressure and (before COVID-19!) 88% reported finances as a significant source of relationship stress. The root problem is that family finance is misunderstand as a simple “communication” issue. There’s a harmful myth that money is all about logic, not emotion. This is rooted in the stigmatization of mental health and is a very problematic barrier to couples being able to share how they honestly feel within their financial partnership.
In grad school, I realized many evidence-based psychotherapy techniques (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapies) could be applied to this problem to actually prevent it (fighting about finances). Premarital counseling and relationship enrichment, for example, are effective interventions but not widely accessible by the public. Case in point: behavioral health elements are missing altogether from financial wellness initiatives.
We developed a new methodology using evidence-based psychotherapy techniques as our building blocks. We then built it into the Enriched Couples SaaS platform to help couples develop a relationship superpower: financial teamwork based on trust, mutual goals, and shared meaning. The platform uses interactive, personalized activities to help with assessing, developing, and maintaining healthy habits couples over time.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Straight, white men still get the majority of funding because of a broader problem in venture capital of pattern matching. Nationally, women secure less than 3% of all venture capital investments; black women get less than 1%! It is doubly challenging to fundraise locally for pre-revenue companies and when the founder(s) don’t have strong social capital (e.g., aren’t from Louisville), are female, LGBTQIA, black, south Asian, or Latinx.
The Black Lives Matter protests happening now, which we unequivocally support, are pushing us to dig even deeper to learn about investors’ character and investments. Twitter is also an excellent place to vet investor behavior. It’s valuable for understanding the people I might be working with for 3, 5, or 10 years and who might be on my board. It’s important to my co-founder and I to have compassionate, smart, authentic, equality-loving humans with us on this journey. Last week I saw someone say they think about this as “who they will win with”. We want to win with people who care about moving the world forward in meaningful ways.
What does the future hold for Enriched Couples?
Enriched Couples is at the frontier of an industry transformation. The future of finance will see banks and wealth management providing far more personalized, behavioral help to customers and in more unbiased ways. Enriched Couples has such a distinctive point of intervention that we will gain a completely new understanding of what motivates family financial decisions. We envision using that insight to build personalized guides for our users that help them anticipate and avoid challenges, while building their lives around their personal values.
While we are focused exclusively on couples to begin with, we anticipate expanding the product to help individuals in the future as well. Millennial and Gen Z adults will come to represent 49% of the US population. We are unbelievably excited about empowering so many people with holistic financial wellness.
Another way we expect to grow in the future is integrating or white labeling our product for financial services providers, similar to how I see my FICO score on my dashboard when I login to my bank account.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in New Albany?
New Albany, Indiana is just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky in a region affectionately called “Kenuckiana” by locals. The coworking space we are headquartered in, The Root, is in historical, downtown New Albany.
Because on our geographic position, I predict tech growth in New Albany will be influenced significantly by the events of 2020 and what follows. People are leaving large, expensive urban agglomerations like the Bay Area. With remote work surging due to COVID-19 and young families looking for lower cost of living/higher quality of life, I believe New Albany, specifically, will get attention as a hidden gem. For funded tech companies with operational momentum and network to buoy their raises, New Albany is attractive. The public schools are great and there’s awesome talent coming out of Purdue University nearby. We’re in an excellent location relative to tech hubs including Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville, and Atlanta. Indiana also has a $400 million state investment effort through Elevate Ventures – they’ve awarded Enriched Couples critical funding, in fact, and incentivize companies to move here. There are also several great tech VCs with anchors in Indiana. I am optimistic these factors will see New Albany tech entrepreneurship start and scale in the next 3-5 years.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Build strong friendships with peer entrepreneurs. This has been the single most important part of my journey. I’ve often said of my friend who runs a medical device startup that it was immensely helpful how I could call her up, get a beer, say “this sucks,” and she’d get it. A few places we’ve found especially helpful include StartOut.org (nonprofit that supports LGBTQ+ founders, they’re amazing); Female Founders Alliance; Tech Ladies; informal, local groups that meet in person, led by fellow founders; and Facebook groups for founders.