Business Monday

Startup Spotlight: Taylannas breaks reading, language barriers

Susan Perry, center, is founder and CEO of Taylannas, a company that makes products that speak for those with language and reading obstacles. From left is Daryl Viamonte, Crystal Ice and Olivia Gomez.
Susan Perry, center, is founder and CEO of Taylannas, a company that makes products that speak for those with language and reading obstacles. From left is Daryl Viamonte, Crystal Ice and Olivia Gomez. pbosch@miamiherald.com

Company: Taylannas

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: “Our products remove the language and reading obstacle to healthcare and hospitality,” said Taylannas founder and CEO Susan Perry. “Our mission is one of inclusion.”

Story: Perry created her first product, MenusThatTalk, to help people who have impaired vision or who cannot read, and a version for hospitals followed. Then she looked at traditional healthcare communication in a broader way. She thought, how can patients and their caregivers follow instructions when they don’t understand them?

“Imagine that your life depended on taking a bottle of pills properly. Now imagine how scary it would be if you were one of the 90 million people who, for educational reasons, stage-of-life reasons, or different first-language reasons cannot read, understand or process the complexity of medical instructions, especially if other members of your family or your caregivers had the same problem,” Perry said. “We developed a new range of voice-driven technologies that would really help guests and patients by providing easy-to-use tools that include reading information to them in the language that they understand.”

SpeechMED was a result of experiences with caregiving for her mother and mother-in-law and a visit to the VA hospital: “My mother-in-law is a great example of how bad things can get when people don’t understand what they are supposed to do. Her life was ruined by a medication mishap after discharge from a hospital. She spoke English, but at 81, did not read it as well.”

SpeechMED, Taylannas’ voice- and video-information platform, delivers a wide range of personalized care information and discharge instructions, as well as medications, reminders, emergency contacts, appointments and explainer videos in the patient’s own language. It also provides that same information in the caregiver’s language should it differ. More important, it provides audio instructions. It is being pilot tested now.

The initial mechanical version of MenusThatTalk was developed in 2009 and was innovative in its time. A hospital version, launched in 2012, is used by Baptist Health South Florida. Perry is particularly excited about the newest all-digital version of MenusThatTalk, which offers 16 languages— including Klingon, of the fictional Klingons in Star Trek. A large restaurant chain will be its first big customer, Perry said.

“Taylannas is driven by a desire to create fresh thinking and new solutions to large and scale-able — sometimes systemic — problems. And the company clearly is not afraid to take on challenges for which no sustainable solutions currently exist,” said Bill Connors, managing director of The C Group and advisor to Taylannas. Staying focused on the core business will be critical, but that will be guided by Perry’s passion, he said. “In the world envisioned by Taylannas, in a way literally everyone will someday have a seat at the table.”

Launched: MenusThatTalk, 2009; MenusThatTalk Hospital Version, 2012; SpeechMED, 2013.

Management team: Susan Perry, CEO; Olivia Gomez, director of operations; Daryl Viamonte, production manager; Crystal Ice, creative director, Bill Connors, advisor.

No. of employees: 8

Website: www,taylannas.com

Financing: The company has been mostly self-funded by Susan and husband Tayloe Perry, in addition to an investment by Dr. Bill White. In total, about $1.25 million.

Recent milestones reached: Launched SpeechMED Caregiver, an application for caregivers and patients to use at home. New pilot test starting at the University of Miami Hospital to test SpeechMED with congestive heart failure patients in English and Spanish. For MenusThatTalk, secured new technology partner for a planned 250-restaurant concept that will launch in December and offer the MenusThatTalk product in at least 10 languages.

Biggest startup challenge: Access to funding and finding the right business partners.

Next steps: Building the most innovative restaurant technology available and refining SpeechMED to fit patient needs by continuing to implement strategy with the understanding that validation has to be achieved at each crucial milestone.

“The biggest challenge for Taylannas now is to develop strategic alliances with more health industry partners whose patients could benefit from the potential life-saving features of SpeechMED and the related cost savings from reduced readmissions,” said Anne Freedman of Speakout Inc., who has been mentoring Perry and her team in leadership and marketing. “The company also needs to expand its reach to restaurant chains to help them satisfy federal requirements to serve the disabled, as well as simply provide better customer service.”

Nancy Dahlberg

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