First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tristan Louis: Like so many others, it’s been interesting times. That said, we have all been healthy, so we’re very thankful for that.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Casebook PBC?
Tristan Louis: I’m a serial entrepreneur and have had the chance to work with exceptional teams for the last 25+ years. I got a chance to connect with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in late 2016, where I first learned how challenged government software systems were. Looking at the situation, I got mad over the fact that the people who are doing the most to help the most vulnerable members of our society do not have access to the kind of technology enterprise and consumers have had access to. So it makes sense to drive the best of technology to the world that needs it most.
How does Casebook PBC innovate?
Tristan Louis: We largely innovate by combining a deep understanding of the human services field (what some people know as social service) with a keen understanding of what technology can deliver. In a world where one can summon any goods and services to their house with a few taps on their phone, there is so much that can be reused to drive a similar revolution in the care of children, families, and adults who need a supporting hand to get back on their feet.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tristan Louis: The pandemic has clearly highlighted the need for mobile and SaaS solutions in human services. This was in line with what we’ve said for many years, and we’ve seen substantial digital transformation across government and non-profit in the last few months. Going beyond the pandemic itself, the rise in awareness around social issues following the murder of George Floyd have also created a new dimension in managing remote employees and increasing diversity and inclusivity on our team.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tristan Louis: The most difficult choice we had to make, in April, was around what to do to keep our employees safe, not just in terms of the virus itself but also in terms of the economic impact that this crisis was representing. As a New York-based company, we had to go through several difficult months of uncertainty and fear as the virus was asserting a grim death count on our city. This led us to look at whether we wanted to get government help or not in order to protect the jobs of our employees at a time (March and April) when we saw slowdowns across the economy as a whole. Since then, the demand for our solution has rebounded, but those were very stressful months.
Above all, if there is one thing we learned, it is about the resiliency of our team and its resourcefulness. When employees support each other, whether it is by being more flexible because a parent has to deal with double-duty as a teacher or whether it is being supportive to someone feeling the stress added by family member sickness, our team manage to stick together, supporting each other remotely so we could all get through this.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Casebook PBC in the future?
Tristan Louis: There are two different questions here. In terms of dealing with the stress and anxiety, it’s two-fold: first is self-care. If you cannot take care of yourself, your head will get in the way of your potential. So that matters greatly, and we implemented a number of mental health days across the company to help with that. The second part is having a plan: for this part of the crisis, we will do X, and for that part, we will do Y. Planning together and executing on the plan has helped us drive the company forward through the events of the past few months.
The next part is about the future and projecting one-self and one’s company in that future. There are two questions we ask ourselves internally regularly: “what has changed? what has not changed?” These two fundamental questions allow us to better understand our customers’ needs and how those needs have either been altered or not. From there, we then drive to helping our customers do more with our tools than they could without.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tristan Louis: Our market is broken into smaller companies than we are and giants of industries like Salesforce and Microsoft. In order to stay in the game, we focus on the customer’s needs and combine our expertise in human services with our expertise in technology. That has allowed us to develop category-defining software solutions that have evolved with the market and even through this crisis. In terms of staying ahead of the game, we have a few things we’ve envisioned based on what the world looks like now that Covid is part of our world’s reality. But I’m not going to tip my hand to competitors on that 🙂
Your final thoughts?
Tristan Louis: If you build something that matters, your mission can withstand changes in the global winds. What we’ve learned over the last few months is that this crisis has only made the need for software like Casebook more urgent, and we’re working to ensure that our partners and future customers can leverage what we do to help more people. By sticking to our core values and focusing on helping those who help the most vulnerable members of society, we’re using technology for good and building a counter-narrative to all the negativity that exists in this world.