Managing child support payments sucks. Even when divorces are amicable, the process of figuring out who pays for what when it comes to raising a child can be devastatingly difficult.
Looking to make the process just a little bit easier, Sheri Atwood, a former executive at Symantec and the founder of Ittavi, has raised $1.1 million for SupportPay, a child support payment management service.
The seed round was led by Draper Associates, the personal investment arm of DFJ co-founder Tim Draper, along with Broadway Angels and Aspect Ventures — the new investment firm launched by former DFJ managing director Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw, a partner with Accel Partners. Additional support came from several prominent angel investors in Silicon Valley.
“I am the child of divorce. I had a deadbeat dad and I grew up in that environment,” says Atwood. “Many years ago when I faced my own divorce my ex and I swore that it would be amicable and we said we’d just share my daughter’s expenses.” But even with the agreement in place, the mechanics of dividing the cost of child care was difficult, she says.
In North America alone there are 39 million divorced couples exchanging over $200 billion. SupportPay sells a service that provides private, secure, transparent and automated payments for sharing expenses and managing child support. The company’s technology standardizes the billing and payment process for child support and provides transparent access to expenses — ranging from medical, child care, education and other expenses — not addressed by court orders or state-run payment technologies. It also has tracking and reminder features for parents.
Available online or as an app on Android and iOS, SupportPay has both a free and subscription option and was built on the Salesforce1 Platform.
Ittavi beta-tested the SupportPay service last January and officially launched roughly three-and-a-half months ago. It now has 2,100 users in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.
Globally the market for child support services is nearly $1 trillion, Atwood says, and there are no competing services to contend with.
“This isn’t a 21-year-old-white-male-who-graduated-from-Harvard problem,” says Atwood. “There are tons of problems that people in my age group faced that are not being addressed by technology today, but could be.”
For Draper Associates partner Joel Yarmon, investing in SupportPay wasn’t an easy decision at first, but the longtime investor quickly became convinced of the opportunity after researching what was happening in the U.S. with child support. “I was shocked to hear that 42% of kids born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock,” he says.
And in Atwood Yarmon says he found the perfect entrepreneur to lead the company. “She’s been divorced for ten years, she has a kid, so she lives this,” he says. “Divorce today is so painful. And nobody is addressing [child support] from an online perspective. It’s an area that hasn’t received a lot of attention and it’s one that’s ripe for disruption.”