Ittavi Raises $2.6M To Take The Sting Out of Child Support
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in the staffing plan at Ittavi, Atwood says. Custodial parents—usually mothers—often get little help from understaffed state child support agencies with aging computer systems. The mothers’ bruised feelings spilled over when they contacted SupportPay’s customer support personnel. These female staffers ended up feeling like counselors.
“When it’s a woman talking to a woman, the entire conversation turns to all the evils that the men did,” Atwood says. Ittavi’s customer support staffers are now men. Women share fewer personal details with men, and the calls are now shorter, she says. However, the men are not unsympathetic—they include a divorced father and a stepdad, she says.
“It’s just such an emotional topic,” Atwood says. “You have to understand what they’re going through.”
SupportPay, which had 1,000 subscribers in February of 2014, grew that number to 12,000 by February this year. The application now manages $5.4 million in transactions per month. Ittavi’s current goal is to reach 30,000 subscribers by the end of June.
Atwood says SupportPay’s growth has been accelerated by an increasing number of referrals from overwhelmed state child support agencies and by lawyers, who need detailed payment and expense records when parents want to modify court-ordered child support plans or settle other disputes in court. Ittavi now has a referral network of 2,500 lawyers, mediators, private judges, and other professionals, she says. Some lawyers are also getting clients started on SupportPay as soon as their support order is finalized. So far, more than 100 divorced couples have agreed to use the service to comply with these agreements.
The company has always offered a basic service free of charge, and always will, Atwood says. Parents can enter transactions free, and review a six-month history of the records. SupportPay formerly charged $19.99 per month for a more enhanced set of features before Ittavi opened up a free registration period from September until June.
Ittavi has used this time window to make the SupportPay website and mobile apps as easy to use as possible, so customers will encourage others to sign up, Atwood says. New users get a free phone consultation so Ittavi staffers can walk them through the process of signing up and recording transactions.
In July, Ittavi will start phasing in subscription fees again. The new price for premium service will be $9.99 per month, Atwood says. With the enhanced service, parents will be able to print certified records for use in court. They’ll receive detailed reports to help them prepare tax returns and qualify for child-related tax credits, and will have access to the complete transaction history.
Atwood interviewed customers to arrive at the lower subscription amount. Some parents told her they’d be willing to pay as much as $1 million to avoid ever talking to their exes about money again. But most people surveyed were more comfortable at a lower price level, she says.
“We’ll be doing a lot of testing,” Atwood says. “We know the right price point is somewhere between $9.99 and a million dollars.”
In the future, Ittavi may develop other sources of revenue, such as a dispute resolution service. On SupportPay, a parent can already challenge an expense, such as a purchase, and propose a resolution. But if the other parent disagrees, they might have to hire an outside mediator. Atwood says her company might offer an online option. For about $99.99, SupportPay would assign an online mediator or legal advisor to make a decision on the issue within 24 hours.
Ittavi may also seek to have SupportPay included as part of the employee benefits package at corporations that provide access to legal advice as a job perk.
Atwood says Ittavi may eventually create new applications for other types of family groups who live apart but share expenses, such as siblings who support their aging parents. A detailed record of their various contributions could be useful to resolve conflicts or determine how assets should be divided when the parents die, she says.