April 19, 2023

Episode 245: Erine Gray, President & CEO of findhelp

Erine Gray is the Founder and CEO of findhelp, a Public Benefit Corporation, the leading Search and Referral Network in the US. Their platform is used by most major health plans, hospital systems, and select residential and cause organizations. Erine is a 2019 TED Senior Fellow. He lives in Austin, TX.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have ErineGray, President and CEO of findhelp, the leading software platform forconnecting people to social services in the United States. Erine is so excitedto chat with you and not only get to know your background and your experiences,but also kind of the, this increasing interest in connecting services to oneanother and, and connecting, services or organizations who want to help peoplewith their audience even more so it.

We have kind of most, if not all, thetools kind of there and, and, and all the information. There's a lot ofgovernment programs, but it's the connection issue that a lot of people seem toface when, when getting the resources that they need. Obviously we'll go andunpack, what that means, what you're doing at findhelp to kind of solve thatproblem.

But before we get into all that, whatwere you doing before you started the company?

Erine: Well, first thanks forhaving me and I'm excited to be here. So, before starting the company, I workedwith a. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission as a contractor. So alot of people don't know this, but Texas is growing quite rapidly.

Something on the order of 20% inpopulation growth every 10 years. Wow. So it's a very large state, over 30million people. But if you think about it, how do you account for the growth?That level of growth, and in particular, how do you account for that level ofgrowth in something as complicated as the safety?

So, and I had a chance to work with theTexas Health and Human Services Commission as a contractor that workedexclusively on, trying to solve the problem of how do you allow people in needto apply for services, government services online, like the SNAP program, theTANF program Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program through asimplified, streamlined application, but also a call center that they couldcall.

So that they could, get enrolled inservices if they ever got stuck. Yeah. So that was a very exciting andinteresting project. And perhaps probably the most fascinating life experiencethat I've had during those four years was the if you remember in 2008 there wasa financial crisis that happened quite rapidly in the summer.

And what we noticed is that the callvolume for the call center, that the state. Was increasing dramatically everysingle month. Yeah. And my team at the time was responsible for forecastingthose calls and we, we were getting the forecasting wrong. And of course,everybody knows what happens now, right?

But what happened now, but the, the, weweren't, we weren't really ready for it. And the, the, the enrollment in theSNAP program, food stamp program in the United States increased so rapidly.Many states were not prepared to even handle the paperwork necessary to getthem enrolled. Yeah. So you ended up having a public safety net that completelybroke down in 2008 and early 2009.

And, and which, which meant peoplesuffered and what, and then the, the question that was always nagging duringthose years was, what do you do when the public safety. Doesn't work. And, andthat's where I, I sort of started thinking about. What we do today and, and howwe might be able to help.

Julian: Yeah. And, and what,what do you think, obviously it sounded like there there was just this hugeamount of paperwork that had just overloaded the system, but, I guess was therejust a disconnect between those who were applying for the program and, andcompleting the process and the application to the, to its entirety and just anoverload on the services that were being provided to help?

I always, I'm always curious when youapply for those programs, it seems like the requirements are, or even, even theinformation that they're asking is, is, is pretty, pretty in depth and prettydetailed and, and I, I guess I'm curious why is that, why do we need to have somuch information and, and is it still that way in terms of the barriers toactually, get the resources you need?

Because I, I even with like, taxes gothrough taxes and you kind of delay your process because it's, it's, it's very.And so deadlines are missed. And is, is that kind of the case with applicationsfor services like this?  

Erine: Well, I mean, so it,it is complicated, so, yeah. When, when you wanna, when you wanna apply for,let's say the SNAP program or Medicaid, these are government sanctioned or, orgovernment funded programs.

Yeah. And it, it, the state, the stateshave some level of autonomy on what they need in order to determineeligibility. Mm-hmm. And the cost of living is different in different states.So there's all sorts of nuances that goes into it that I think we all, we tendto oversimplify and we tend to take for granted.

Yeah. So, For example, if, if I'mapplying for let's say, I'm lost my job and I have, let's say I, I, I'm asingle mother and I have three children at home. Filling out the applicationcan, can be cumbersome. But that's not what happened in, in 2008. So peoplewere able to successfully fill out the application.

Texas had done a very good job ofsimplifying the application process, but they just didn't. The capacity ofstate employees to process that and make the decisions because the demand wasso high. And so part of that is operational planning, which it, it was a, itwas a, what they call a black swan event.

It was a very difficult thing toforecast. But I also believe that the process, the questions necessary todetermine eligibility can be improved, meaning For example, in many statesthere's an asset test, which basically means what assets do you have? And thethinking is probably correct, meaning, sure.

If I have a lot of money in the bank, I,I have to disclose what, what I have in the bank because they might basicallysay, well, use the money that you have in the bank. Instead of applying for thesnap. But some of these rules were developed very early on, meaning a long timeago in the state of Texas, if you were disclosing assets that you would haveone asset could be a burial plot, maybe you purchased a burial plot for somereason.

Because, well, for some reason we knowthe reason why people would purchase a burial plot, but it is considered an.And you, you have to disclose that. Now, how do you value a vari, a variable aburial plot? I have no idea. Yeah. But it has to be disclosed as an asset.Another example of that at the time, a long time ago was do you have anypoultry?

Yeah. Essentially. And what's the weightof the poultry that you have, which I sort of have this image. Somebody, tryingto put a chicken on the scale, and ask them to hold still. Yeah. But you know,they, that is an asset. Yeah. And, and so now that was a very outdatedquestion.

There's probably not a lot of peoplethat have poultry Yeah. That they could sell. But but government is slow andthere's a lot of legacy questions that goes on. And, and if we think about it,how do we simplify the safety net? Yeah. And keep up with the changing thitimes. Because when you ask those questions, there are downstream effects thatmake it much more expensive to administer large, complicated governmentprograms.

Meaning if a state legislature wants todo an asset test, which makes sense in my opinion, well, let's simplify it alittle bit because if you do have to check for barrel plots and you have tocheck for poultry, then somewhere on the application you have to disclose.Somewhere there's backend state systems that have to account for that logic,which means you're, you're building business logic into some state eligibilitysystem.

And then assuming you do that, you stillneed to train, thousands of employees, of state governments to ask those typesof questions and know how to answer those TY types of questions. So yes,sometimes states overcomplicate the application process. Yeah, which is fix.And that leads to people that get confused and sort of drop out and they don'teven try to apply for these, these benefits.

Julian: And, and just needs tobe some, yeah. Yeah. And, and how, and how much of these resources are beingunderutilized, with these communities who are, looking for their, for theseresources. I don't know if there's any hard numbers out there, but you know,how how much of these programs go and, and, and the, the amount of you say if it'smoney or, or a certain something else that kind of monetizes it.

How much of this is goingunderutilized?  

Erine: I, I don't have theexact figures, but the, there's, there's a couple different arguments about it.So, so there are folks that say that there are many more people that qualifyfor the SNAP program than that actually apply. Now some of that can beattributed to the fact that people don't know about it.

Sure. Some of that could be attributedto the fact that people found the application process to be cumbersome, butsome of it can be contributed to that. There's a stigma. Involved withreceiving food stamp benefits and they don't, they don't wanna be associatedwith the stigma. My gut feeling is that the stigma is one of the reasons whythere isn't as much utilization, more so than the complication of the processbecause many state governments are making it very easy to get enrolled on thatthat's there.

So I don't think it's a lack ofinformation, with respect to government services. Sure. If you think about it,some people, and this is where the idea for Aunt Bertha which is now calledfindhelp came about and that was, maybe people, people take a lot of pride in beingindependent and taking care of themselves and taking care of their families.

Maybe they fell on some, some hard luckand they're, they're running short on rent money this month, or food money forwhatever reason. They may not want. Get enrolled in a large intrusivegovernment program. Yeah. But they would be totally fine going to a local foodpantry. And, just picking up groceries that sort of helped them through.

Yeah. The, then, the, then question was,well, how do you find out about all of the myriad of social services that mightbe available to you? In your area, and that's the question that I becameobsessed with in, in 2010 and have been ever since.  

Julian: Yeah. It's sofascinating thinking about, where these resources are typically in, in, I comefrom a family where we did have to lean on some of these resources and we foundit through local, church groups or programs that were connected with schools.

So for some reason, because I was astudent, we just had access to more resources and we, we could know about moreinformation. If we're not in an environment or an ecosystem that feeds us, thattype of information is for us to, utilize it in the moment. What do people do?Do? Where do they go find this information if there's not something centralizedfor them, like a findhelp where you know, like, your church groups or thingslike that, that you know are available for you to even.

Access, the knowledge of theseresources. What would people typically do and, and, and where and how muchinformation are they missing? Be it not being connected to something a littlebit more centralized.

Erine: That, that, that,that's the great conundrum. Yeah. And, and, and that's exactly why we, why weexist is that, I think the way that I look at it is we're. We are not here tosolve the poverty problem. Our company is not here to solve the povertyproblem. Our company is here to solve the information problem.

Yeah. Meaning everybody deserves to knowwhat options are available to them in their time of need, and they deserve thedignity of a yes or a no. Meaning they apply for the services and they deservethe dignity of a yes or no. And we believe that very much so. And, And if we,we believe, if we make information accessible through, through a great searchand we can help get them the dignity of a yes or no from the agency or thenonprofit that provides that service, then that's our change for the world.

Yeah. And in that process, we eliminateanxiety, from, from people that are, that are struggling in that moment. Andthat's, that's where we wanna make a difference in the world. And it's hard tostay focused on that because Yeah. We're compassionate people, but at the endof the day, you can't accomplish anything great if you don't focus on onething.

Sure. And, and for us, it is thatinformation problem. Yeah. And that information is what are my options and doI, am I able to get this service? Yeah. And so I, I try not to healthcare termsor, or other terms. But at the end of the day, if we, if we solve thisinformation problem, then we're in good shape and, and we have, likecollectively as a society, we've solved a lot of challenging informationproblems.

For example, indeed, which is also basedhere in Austin, Texas, did an amazing job making jobs accessible to anybodywith an internet connection, right? It used to be you wouldn't have any idea ifa job. Came open at a company that you admired, but they made it so easy withtheir service that they, they ba, they fixed a major, major information problem.

And of course e-commerce with Amazon didthe same thing. Right. And we're just trying to do it in a sector that's,That's been ignored.  

Julian: Yeah. And thinkingabout just, not even as individuals who are saying in a moment of need andwhether it's they need food or find themselves on hard in hard times, but alsopeople who are, say, trying to uplevel themselves out their circumstances.

There seems to be a lot of programs thathelp kind of sag white people either into certain industries or certaineducational programs that help them either get a better job or betteropportunity. How much more of, of those types of programs are we seeing and,and, and are there, is there kind of a push towards educating people about waysthat they can improve themselves to, almost learn new skills or learn new waysto access income or other resources?

Immediate needs. What types of programsare out there to kind of serve the long-term needs for individuals that educatethem on, ways that they can kind of help themselves and uplevel themselves andupskill themselves? Are there a lot of programs out there, or are we seeingmore now? I'm curious on what your, what your experience has been with those.

Erine: Well, it is morerelevant now, probably. Than in a long time because our, our society ischanging and it's probably gonna get worse, before it gets better. Meaning.What do you do when your job is eliminated by technology? We work in so one ofthe organizations we work with is the state of West Virginia.

And it used to be called the Jobs andHope program. And and, and in part. How do you retrain somebody when they aregoing back into the workplace whether they were out for, because of they're inthe correction system, or maybe they're getting over an addiction or maybe theyjust lost their job because, a plant closed down or something like that.

The gist is, is that yes, there are,there's about a million, a million and a. 5 0 1 nonprofits in the United Statesin total, but we've looped through and and looked at every single one of themover our 13 year history. And I would say that the majority of the programs aretax su shelters of some sort.

They're family foundations, so povertyfighting or educational related nonprofits. This is a much smaller subset ofthat million and a half amount. In our system, we've indexed 600,000 plus whatwe call unique program locations. And these are programs throughout the UnitedStates that provide social services in a subset of those programs aredefinitely education programs, job training but even, even if you do have theskills, you may not have the clothing that you need.

Maybe you're self-conscious about dressclothes. You may not have the childcare that it takes to even go to theinterview or you've never made a resume and you have no idea where to begin.Those types of programs are definitely available and indexed throughout theUnited States. I haven't looked at the trends in terms of the utilization ofthose programs.

Hmm. So in our system, whenever somebodydoes a search, it's recorded and we also aggregate and anonymize that. So thatwe can see trends over time about on aggregate, what are people looking for inTexas or in North Dakota or, Southern California. And it's interesting, one ofthe trends that we are seeing is we're adding an enormous amount of users rightnow.

We're adding approximately a million anda half new distinct users every single month. And if you think about it, that'sfilling 10. Or 15 football stadiums with a hundred thousand people every singlemonth. And and, and some of that increase is because of the economy. I mean, weare in the middle of recessionary activity not an economist, but we're seeingan increase in, need every single month.

Now some of it could be that the wordsgetting around and people are using our system more, but I think because Ilived through the financial crisis when I worked at the state, I, I think partof that is due to there's some real hardship. Now, lastly, there's, cyclicaladjustments in the economy and the G D P that affects, the need for socialservices.

But what is happening with knowledgework is pretty incredible. I'm, I've shown no interest in chat G p T over theyears. Sure. Because I don't understand it entirely and. And I sort of shy awayfrom things sometimes that I don't understand. And but the more that I'velearned and more that I've seen evidence of what it can produce that has thepotential to really disrupt knowledge work, if you will.

Yeah, yeah. Which in some cases, thatcould make the world a much better place. If a human cannot, if the, if a humandoesn't need to do something that a computer or an AI can. That may be a goodthing. But if it is commercialized in a way, it is possible that it's going todisplace a lot of workers.

So, yeah, your question is more relevantnow than ever. Meaning, how do you retrain the workforce to keep up withchanges in rapid technology? Now, we've been through all of this in the past.

We're not done. I mean, I think we'vebeen living in a renaissance since the internet was started, in the nineties orcommercialized in the nineties. And sometimes the good times are over and youknow that rapid expansion may, may not happen in the future. And socollectively we come up with more problems.

Either way. There needs to be a safetynet that operates because people are always going to have needs.  

Julian: Yeah. And just to, toget a little bit more context and to findhelp. How many organizations are youpartnered with? How many, in communities are you embedded in? How manyindividuals have you been able to help up to this time?

And what in particular is your focusfor, the next couple years that are, coming about with, circumstances? Justbeing a little bit ambiguous. Sort of, a lot of people I think, increased in,in. Unemployment rate. There's talks about inflation. There's all theseexternal factors that are really kind of, bearing a lot of weight onindividuals.

So I'm, I'm, curious to you, not onlywhat attraction have you seen up to this point, but what in particular focusedon for the next kind of milestone of, of findhelp?

Erine: I mean, it's a goodquestion. if it, it, we, we we're nationwide. Mm-hmm. So, we have, we justcrossed 23 million users 23 million distinct users. And the, the rate of growthis very strong. Yeah. We've been we started out just in Austin, Texas in 2011.And in 2014 we reached a milestone of basically ubiquity of programs in everycounty in the United States.

We have really deep customer base, so wehave over 550 customers nationwide. Our, although findhelp.org is free andthat's part of our public. And we don't monetize the data either, so anybodylistening can use findhelp.org to go and find social services and start theapplication process for you or a family member that will always be free to use.

And, you're welcome to check it outbecause life throws you a curve ball sometimes. And and, and it's gonna happento every single one of this. We all have parents that are aging. We all facescares from diseases. It's, it is. It's something you can't escape. It's the,it's the human experience.

So feel free to use it or share it, but,we have to survive as a business. We are a for-profit benefit corporation whichmeans that we have a responsibility to be sustainable as a business. So weactually have a product that we sell that is a premium version of our software.

And our customers tend to be,Organizations that tend to hire large groups of social workers. So th thosecustomers could be, health plans Medicaid managed care, health plans, MedicareAdvantage plans, or hospital systems who work with a lot of social workers orstate governments, city governments, county governments corrections departmentsand K through 12 schools.

So we have additional integrations withtheir backend systems. Electronic medical records or case management solutionsand things like that, and they pay us a monthly fee. And that's how we sustainas a business. So we're lucky in that we have 600 customers, many nationwidecustomers, like, or getting close to 600.

But many nationwide customers like A A RP for example. Serves members that are over a certain age and they're trying tocombat social isolation and loneliness. Yeah. Which is a, which is a problemfor, for some of their members. In addition, we work with the American RedCross that uses our software to help people that are victims of disasternatural disasters.

So, yeah. Addition, we work with theAmerican Heart Association and many nationwide organizations that are helping.Around the United States. So, that's how we sustain as a business. Now where dowe go in the long run? Well, we think that if we can solve this informationproblem that I mentioned earlier, then eventually that data is gonna tell usthings about the nature of what's actually happen.

So that hopefully policy makers canreally think about what is the safety net of the future. Sure. And I think thesafety net of the future is gonna look a lot different than the safety net thatLyndon Johnson, got passed into law in the sixties. And I'd like to be a partof, of helping to shape that public policy.

Meaning if we know that certainneighborhoods in Los Angeles. Are more likely to search for certain types ofprograms, maybe the mayor or LA County, or the state of California, thegovernor of California, can see that data and allow more flexibility indesigning a safety net a government safety net, at least that gets the rightpeople, the right funding at the right time.

And that data, that aggregate data, ifwe are to be, to continue the growth rate of users that we currently have,could be very helpful. If, if we look at, maybe we can spot trends that mighthappen, meaning maybe we, we could look at search data across the United Statesand someday in the future we might be able to tell that a certain organization,excuse me, faces faced an economic disaster because maybe a factory shutshutdown in a small town.

Yeah. How can government officialsactually provide a better customer service experience for the citizen? We thinkwe can help with that, with the ubiquity of data that we've been able to Yeah.Study and hopefully study in the future. And then let's say 10 years from nowwhat does the safety net look like?

Well, if you think about it, whensomebody goes without society, ends up paying for it eventually. Meaning if, ifthere is somebody who is a veteran and is experiencing homelessness And maybeadvanced in age, he's not gonna be healthy and he's going to go to theemergency room at some point. And there will be chronic health conditions thatwill take place.

But how do we sort of set up a safetynet such that when we know he's, approaching homelessness, is there a minicalculation that takes place, which basically says, Somebody is willing to fundthe rent of this particular homeless veteran and that somebody could be hishealth insurance plan.

It could be a government agency. Itcould be an anonymous donor that should just work. Meaning if, if Joe is theperson that is experiencing homelessness and he served his country, he's aveteran, then let's make our systems talk together well enough so that we canjust fund his. And take a calculated risk based on that.

And, and, and the safety net could beindividualized to the person based on the risk. Now, if, if somebody is youngand able-bodied and they're experiencing homelessness, homelessness, they mightnot have the same safety net as, the elderly, veteran. Sure. You know that,that got behind on his.

Because likely, somebody in theirtwenties can find a couch, with, a buddy. And, and so it can be thatsophisticated Yeah. Is, is my point, 10 years from now because the data isthere, it's just getting it in the right hands of the powers that be, that canmake a decision Hey, I'm going to pay the rent of this homeless veteran.

Yeah. Because I ensure that veteranthrough my Medicare Advantage plan and the government allows me to do. Becausewe think that it'll be cheaper to pay his rent for six months versus pay thehospital bills that he's inevitably going to get over the next two yearsbecause he is not getting his insulin medication and he is not getting to, his,his mental health therapy and things like that.

So, it's, that's what the future lookslike and we're trying to lay the infrastructure for that through, theacquisition of users. Right now through, through, through our.

Julian: I always like thisnext question. I call it my founder faq. So I'm gonna hit you with some rapidfire questions and we'll see where we go.

So, first question is what'sparticularly hard about your job?  

Erine: It's a good question.It, it is, you have to just learn how to. Except that criticism is gonna happenno matter what. Yeah. I, I think that can be challenging for a founder who, Ithink all of us in life are just making it up as we go.

Sure. I think the older I get I had aconversation with somebody recently and it was she, she stated that she's like,who's in charge? And, and my point to her, and this was a recent realization,is nobody's in charge. That's what you have to accept is that nobody's incharge. The governor's not in charge.

There's no, yeah. And, and, and once youaccept that, then you, life gets a little bit easier, and you realize you justhave to do what you can the best you can. And, and, and sometimes as a founder,it's hard to you're gonna be criticized no matter what. Yeah. You have to makedecisions.

There are constraints. But I think. ButI think a founder has to change with the growth of their organization. Meaningyou don't get to have a balanced life when you're starting a company. We're 13years in. You don't have that luxury. Yeah. And I, I don't care what anybodysays, you don't have that luxury unless you're millionaire and you haveunlimited resources.

But if you're going to sort of deal withthe inflection points of what a growing company is, You can't sustain, lifewithout balance. And so you need that for your own mental health. You need thatfor to have a clear enough mind on what it takes to take the business to thenext level. And and knowing when to turn your mind off to quit thinking aboutwork is also very challenging.

Yeah. I don't have it figured out.Probably the worst person to ask on that, but some of the things I've beendoing more lately, I like to journal. And I, I, I journal three pages. It'sjust a stream of consciousness and it, it's very therapeutic for me. And andthen I've also recently started seeing a physical trainer after ignoring myphysical health for 13 years.

I'm starting to get in shape again andthat helps too. And I was actually talking with my physical trainer thismorning and he said, it's hard to be angry when you're fatigued. Because youjust want to breathe and to stop the torture. Right. And I just got a kick outof it. And when I do work out in the mornings, I, I'm in a great mood all daybecause it's just like, all right, I'm not gonna just worry about stuff.

I'm just gonna. I'm just glad I'm notlifting weights or running right now.  

Julian: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.Getting the, getting the mental clarity from just almost like pure exhaustionis it is kind of a, it's almost a hack in a way to make quick decisions, makethem rapidly and, and really kind of cut out a lot of the the distractions.

I, I feel personally, which is theemotive reactions to certain things, right? External factors, decisions peoplemake, or circumstances that I can't control, and you. In that fatigue moment,you're almost just like, I can't deal with it. I'm gonna move forward and move,move in a very positive direction. Being that, thinking, you talked a lot aboutdata and really just accumulating a lot of data to understand what resourcespeople need, what information are they seeking out who can actually providethem?

One thing is like the recent changes intechnology allowed you in terms of accumulating a large pool of data, and thenactually what, what's changed in terms of the speed to service that you've seenbeing a, being that you can kind of predictively based on what people arelooking at or searching for, find them the resources that they need.

What, what have you seen in that, thatincrease in speed for individual seeking services to actually get them whenconnected through a platform like yours and, and having technology try to dothe.  

Erine: Oh, that's a greatquestion. And it's only gonna get faster, in, in every aspect of life.

Meaning, I mean, in, in the nineties Iused to use Amazon in college because the search, so I went to IndianaUniversity where I graduated and I would need a book, and I tried to go to thelibrary to find it and. I just, the search was terrible. And so I would get onAmazon, find the book because the search was so much better, and then, and thennot buy the book and then I'd have more details and then I could go to thelibrary and get the book right.

So, I didn't have a laptop at the time,but I would, in my apartment I would do it. And so, but to think 23 yearslater, I graduated in college in, in 2000, but 23 years. I could be shaving andI could order more shaving cream. It'll be put in my garage the next day. Yeah.I mean, that's outstanding.

Yeah. Progress in 23 years is not a longtime. So the workflow, the rapid acceleration of workflow is only gonna getmore rapid. And that's physical goods with planes and everything like that. Inour world, it's, it's different, right. But it, it'll accelerate completely ourfirst goal through the iteration of our business.

One, search all programs. Let's just letpeople see programs and we've yet to really add intelligence behind our, ourworkflows. But for example, let's say somebody applied, but this is what thefuture is going to look like here. Let's say somebody applied for socialservices specifically an affordable housing program, and they, they got arejection from that affordable housing program.

There just wasn't capacity at the time.What if somebody moved out of that complex two months later? Well, guess what?Somebody, that person that applied and got rejected two months ago might be aperfect fit. Yeah. What if we've sent an alert immediately that, hey, a unitjust opened up, you should, reactivate your application or apply again.

Yeah. So. People ha it's an informationproblem. Mm-hmm. Just like, I mentioned before. And what if we could also moreproactively basically state that we know you just got out of prison. We havestudied the data enough to say that this particular nonprofit does a great jobhelping people, with the emotional side of, of reintegrating back into society.

In the future, I hope we can tell theefficacy of, and the effectiveness of, of non-profits based on the outcomes ofthe people that they serve. So it could be that the data tells you that thisparticular nonprofit in this particular community, something's happening therebecause when somebody engages with that nonprofit, their lives get better.

Meaning their income goes up, they're,they're, they're less sick. The information about their income and theirhealth, it's all over the place. Sure, that information can be studied, butwhat causes that inflection point? And I think in the future, you're gonna beable to isolate that to specific organizations and maybe even to specificsocial workers.

That figure out how to connect to peopleand what if we could learn from that social worker and learn from thatorganization and they are teaching others how to be that effective. So, I'mexcited about sort of the next phase because if we've solved the, the searchproblem, that's a great problem to solve.

Just like in the nineties, I could findany book in the world better than the IU library, which was probably muchbetter funded than Amazon in the nineties. Yeah. And that's a good problem tosolve. Where you really start to change lives is that you add that intelligenceon top of that. Yeah. But you need to, you need to earn their trust as usersbefore, just like, I, I, I, I didn't give Amazon much money in the nineties,but.

I trusted them. Sure.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. That, thattrusted delivery to service kind of concept is hard to, to capture. And a lotof times it's just with the consistency of that experience being, returnableand, and something that, doesn't change and, and does kind of, help with, withthe outcome that you're looking for.

I always like to ask this questionbecause I love how founders extract knowledge from anything that they ingest.Whether it was early in your career or now, what books or people have been themost, or, or even. Ideally the most influential or most impactful in your life?Any books where people kind of come to mind?

Erine: So, that's a greatquestion. I'll rapidly go through the, the Catcher in the Rye. I read as anadult in in my twenties. Mm-hmm. I wish I would've read in high school. I waspretty bitter as a kid and sarcastic and that was a great book in that it just,Lighten me up a little bit.

Yeah. And I, I, I read it every fewyears from time to time. I, I, I, I gave it to my niece. She and I are a lotalike, but she wasn't that interested. I, I I, I love how to win friends andinfluence people. I think that should be required reading by anybody. It'stimeless. Yeah. By Dale Carnegie. From business perspective, and this is sortof an also a classic is good to.

It, it just does a good job of, of, ofarticulating what it takes to be a successful business, and that is alsotimeless. My key point from Good to Great is what is your, what is your focus?What are you, what could you be best in the world at? That you enjoy doing andthat is sustainable.

So, those are just some of the books.I'm always reading. I, I, as I mentioned, I, I, I finally buy a lot of booksfrom Amazon. And I don't always read them, but we have a library here in theoffice, which I like to just go on buying books, sprees and put 'em in thelibrary. But I also love reading biographies.

One is the Wright Brothers and that wasoutstanding. When you read a good biography, you, you realize that they werenot superhuman. They just tried and they had that singularity of focus. Yeah.And the last line in that book, I'm not gonna give it Away, is amazing. So, I'mforgetting the author, but it's the Wright Brothers a famous biographer.

And another one that I love is the Boysin the Boat. Yeah. It was a, a biography of the crew team, university ofWashington crew. That won the Olympics in 1936 in Germany. They were very, poorgroup of of guys and and they just had such great cohesion and, and they wentand won the gold medal.

And that was a beautiful book as wellwhere they the author. A member of the team that was still alive and he wasvery coherent, but he was basically on his deathbed, but his mind was so sharpand he just heard all the stories. And it's a beautiful book that I highlyrecommend that that book calmed me down a little bit too, because it talkedabout the, his life and, and, and the trouble that he had.

And then, after the Olympics, he went onto have, he was, he worked at Boeing for many years and Great relationshipsand, I love sort of the the underdog story, which is good. People I I too manyto number along the way, but some of the investors that we work with been luckyto get to know them and and they're very kind and an ear that we can go to andreally have built good, strong friendships with them.

And, and my coach, I, I'm lucky to work.A coach Peter Redding, who I met in 2014 through a fellowship that I was in,and he took me on pro bono for many years. And he has really helped be a voiceto talk me through the hardest decisions. The thing is about getting a coach isthat they're dedicated to you and not the business.

And as a C E O, you don't always havepeople to talk. Can't share your fears Yeah. With employees, because you mightfreak em out, yeah. You can't always share your fears with investors becausethey might lose confidence and you may be, but a coach is there who cares aboutyou. And, and my coaches said, Erine , if you wanna go to the woods and write abestselling novel, I'm here for you.

And, and that trust that you developwith a coach I would highly recommend. Sustaining a business and, at scale and,and sticking with it for, decades, in our case, 13 years so far. And getting toprofitability is hard. Yeah. And it, it, it doesn't get easier over time.Right.

And you have to find those things thatmotivate you. And, books and conversations with mentors are a huge part ofsurvival.  

Julian: Last little bit. Iknow we're at the end of the show here and I always wanna make sure we didn'tleave anything on the table. Is there any question I didn't ask you that Ishould have, or anything you'd want to mention that you haven't yet?

Erine: Well, I, I think whatI would say is that I really believe that the private sector has a role inrecreating the American safety net. Hmm. I don't see it as a problem ofgovernment. And I actually don't think it's fair to people who are strugglingto have an attitude. So, so for those of us that have opinions about the safetynet, to think that government should just solve it is, is a disservice to thepeople that are struggling.

Yeah. To be so simple about one of themost complicated problems in the world, which is alleviating poverty. Mm-hmm.And I think that we should really have a conversation of what does are-envision safety net look like? One with that can be operated with dignityand ease, and it's quite ignorant. And I'm being a little bold and saying thatto say that, well, that's government's problem.

Well, we should just give more money.And, we just, it's ridiculous and it's untrue. Per capita, we spend an enormousamount of money helping people in, in need. But I think as a country we do itpoorly. Yeah. But if you embrace the private sector and the things that aregood about the private sector and you find the motivations of solving aparticular problem, and rather than build your own software work withgovernments, hire private sector vendors to work with government get creativeabout what the future looks like and embrace the messiness.

Yeah. And in order to build the safetynet of the future, we need more people to go into government. We need morepeople to care about the safety net and get off Twitter and get off Facebookand get off TikTok and, quit complaining and your little like, for somebody'smeme did nothing better for the world.

But go spend your career. Fixing thesafety net. And if we do that, then we can have a safety net of the future. Butwhat it means is that if you go spend your career fixing the safety net, you,you may not make as much money. You may not get as much short term recognition,but you will have a meaningful career.

Yeah. And that matters as you get olderin life, is knowing that on a Friday night when you close your laptop, you didsomething special. You made a difference and there's no, there's nothing morerewarding than that. So I would just to close out, just encourage you tolisteners to really think about and why can't, why can't the safety net looklike things that happen in other sectors?

Why can't it be more efficient? And, andthe answer is because nobody's done it yet. And that's cuz nobody's in charge.Yeah. So that would be my closing, closing thoughts.  

Julian: Amazing. Erine , it'sbeen such a pleasure learning about your early career and, and kinda the early,early iterations of findhelp. But now kind of where you're, you're leading toand, and really tackling the information problem to get people the resourcesthat they need, but also to enable them to do it more quickly, moreefficiently, more effect.

It's been such an incredible time. Andlast little bit is where can we find you? Where can we support you as afounder? Give us your LinkedIns, your websites, your emails, whatever, whateverworks for, for people to get in touch. We're a big fan and, and maybe even wantto get involved and findhelp.  

Erine: Sure, yeah.

So I, I, I try to stay off social media,but I am on LinkedIn, so you can just search my name and I'll come up. Ifanybody wants to email me, my email is E G R A Y. findhelp dot. And I live inAustin. And if you're interested in working with us, we're always looking forgood people.

And if you're, if I can be helpful inany way, find me on LinkedIn and you can, you can track me down easily.  

Julian: I love that. Erine ,it's, it's such a pleasure chatting with you. I hope you enjoyed yourselftoday. I'm Behind Company Lines, and thank you again for being on theshow.  

Erine: Nice to meet youJulian, and I really appreciate the experience.

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