Kara Killinger is a student journalist at Trinity University where she reports for the weekly student-run newspaper, the Trinitonian. She is working this summer as a Students+Startups marketing intern at RealCo long-term accelerator. Killinger wrote this profile on Tali, RealCo’s newest portfolio company.
Matt Volm, Matt Anthes-Washburn, and Matt Hoiland were co-workers at a large healthcare company in Portland, Oregon when Volm came to them with a problem. His wife Kimberlee is a lawyer who has to track every billable six-minute increment of her work day. She tracked her time on Post-It notes and would spend up to two hours nightly entering the data into a billing system.
Volm wondered if a voice-activated application could be the answer to his wife’s pain point. If so, lawyers and other professionals could use voice to enter their billable minutes over the course of the day. The “three Matts” quickly sketched diagrams for this solution on a whiteboard and the idea for their startup was born.
The trio launched Tali, a voice-enabled productivity assistant powered by technology like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, in January 2017. The app allows lawyers, accountants, freelancers, and other professionals to log their billable minutes with voice throughout the day, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual entry.
Tali’s primary mission is to allow professionals to focus on their actual jobs, rather than trivial administrative tasks.
“Lawyers go into law to practice law, not to track time,” Hoiland said. “So if we can build tools to make that stuff go away—to let the practitioners get back to their practice—then we feel like we’ve won.”
Tali enjoyed a fast rise to success, with the co-founders quickly developing a product and emailing iPhone software demos to investors. By March 2017 they had gotten their first capital investment and little over a year later joined RealCo as the long-term accelerator’s eighth portfolio company.
RealCo provides a structured system of goals and processes for the companies to achieve, and participants have full access to a variety of mentors and investors over the course of about 15 months. RealCo partner Chris Saum picked Tali for the program because he liked the Matts from the start.
“Each Matt has a unique superpower,” Saum said, “and when they work together they achieve a productive state of flow. They are super smart, capital-efficient, and they get things done.”
Founders Volm, Hoiland, and Anthes-Washburn leverage considerable experience in their respective fields. Volm graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Master’s in Business Administration and has a background in finance and management consulting. Hoiland worked as a freelance web developer for seven years and at the top design studio CreativeDash for two. Anthes-Washburn is a former physics teacher who has also helped create four different apps.
Tali entered the voice space at a pivotal moment. According to PEW Research Center, nearly half of Americans use digital voice assistants, with thirty-three million smart speakers already in circulation by 2017. Many users see voice as a more convenient way to interact with technology, with 55 percent stating “a major reason” they use the assistants is to interact with their devices without using their hands.
The Tali founders are improving their product as the voice technologies Tali links with change over time. The three co-founders are also looking to make their application more user-friendly, both by simplifying the software itself and by creating tutorial content to guide customers through each step of using Tali.
“[Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant] are brand new,” Anthes-Washburn said. “They’re adding features and capabilities on a weekly basis. And they’re growing and there’s a bigger audience, even month by month. That’s a neat opportunity for us for expansion—we’re kind of riding the waves of these platforms trying to keep up with what they’re offering.”
The Oregon-based team is working closely with RealCo mentors as they continue to refine and scale. Saum has already seen how agile the founders are in their approach to their product.
“They want to create something special,” Saum said of Tali. “They move exceptionally fast and are passionate about the problem they’re solving and the culture they want to create.”
Volm, Anthes-Washburn, and Hoiland are planning to scale their company by onboarding users globally. Most of their revenue-generating clients are attorneys, but the company plans to expand to other verticals of professional industries that require rigorous time tracking. Over time the founders plan to introduce versions of Tali in Chinese and Spanish as well.
“I like Tali because I think their team is incredibly talented, data-driven, and coachable. They’ve demonstrated a willingness to challenge their assumptions and their company’s direction,” RealCo managing director Richard Grote said. “I firmly believe they’ll find a way to win and have fun doing it. Also, they have three founders who are all named Matt. That’s kind of awesome.”
Featured image is of Oregon-based Tali co-founders (left) Matt Hoiland, Matt Volm, and Matt Anthes-Washburn. Photo credit: Kara Killinger