Austin Technology Incubator Celebrates the Statewide Launch of Aunt Bertha, an Online Resource for Assistance Programs
Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), a not-for-profit unit of the IC2 Institute of The University of Texas at Austin (UT), congratulates IT portfolio company, Aunt Bertha, on its official Texas statewide launch today. Aunt Bertha is like that family member or neighbor who knows it all and just wants to help: it is an online resource for people in need to connect to those who can help. Aunt Bertha aggregates up all federal, state, county, city, neighborhood, charity social works and assistance programs. Using information it learns about programs, and what it learns from users, Aunt Bertha intelligently matches people with services that are designed specifically for their situation.
Aunt Bertha, which joined ATI last month, launched first in Austin in June 2011, and has been researching and inputting data for cross-Texas since, going live with a Texas-state-wide resource today. Plans are to expand to Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas next, with intentions to cover the entire continental United States before the end of 2012.
Aunt Bertha is designed to be an easy-to-use website for those in need, or for family and friends trying to help those in need. All assistance program information is in one place, but Aunt Bertha also sorts through and helps guide toward the programs a person qualifies for, how to apply and what help they might receive. Imagine the barriers of intense “seek and find” missions, and then working through complex filings of dozens of applications. Those in need do not need to have to work so hard just to get help.
“At ATI, over the course of our two dozen years helping incubate and grow a variety of technology companies, we’ve helped a lot of people make a lot of money,” said Robert Reeves, Director, ATI IT Portfolio. “I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be part of helping Aunt Bertha help those in our country most in need. This one has a special place in our hearts.”
“What we do is pretty obvious and should have been solved long ago,” said Aunt Bertha founder Erine Gray. “But we found this is actually a big undertaking – finding all the right information, coordinating with over-stretched agencies and putting all the information together in a user friendly experience that actually lets people get the help they need. We are really proud we’ve figured this out for the Austin area, and now for all of Texas, and can’t wait to bring the value of Aunt Bertha to the rest of the US.”
Aunt Bertha picks up where Uncle Sam leaves off by making it easy to find food, health, housing and education programs. There are literally thousands of assistance agencies in the US, all typically working with their own challenges of small budgets, limited resources, and volunteer staff. The economic climate has resulted in more need, putting additional strain on already taxed organizations. There is no standard for agencies, and websites are often complex and unintuitive. And reviewing and approving (or not) applications is a time intensive and expensive process. Aunt Bertha helps the agencies do their work: find, engage with and help those in need, and even help processing applications.
For people in need, the process of even finding the right agency to help, let alone working through an application process, is very intimidating. Aunt Bertha delivers free, understandable information to those in need – including websites, contact information and locations, guidance on how to apply for programs. Users can search anonymously and can get reliable estimates of benefits based on factors such as number of family members, location/zip code, etc.
Aunt Bertha was started by Erine Gray who brings the rare combination of technology and web skills with government experience, having been a City of Austin project manager, as well as working on software projects for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Now, there are 3,000 Texas-state-wide education, housing, employment and health programs, and food pantries on Aunt Bertha. Aunt Bertha is a Certified B Corporation, a for-profit business that meets higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
Laura Beck for ATI