Introducing Loris, Conversational Design for When It Matters Most

At Floodgate, we are inspired by founders who are at the start of something big. Rarely do we encounter a founder who has multiple experiences in inspiring thousands of people to action by sheer force of will and power of narrative.

Nancy Lublin is the founder and former CEO of Dress for Success, Do Something and Crisis Text Line and Nancy is a Prime Mover.

Nancy Lublin speaking at a public event. Photo: The Nantucket Project

Nancy approached me in November of last year with Loris, an idea born out of Crisis Text Line, which trains thousands of volunteers to respond to people in crisis situations via text messages. The Crisis Text Line algorithm has processed over 56 million text messages in which conversations were algorithmically assessed to funnel to thousands of volunteers who have gone through over 30 hours of rigorous training. Volunteers are trained in everything from collaborative problem solving to reflective listening — the soft skills that power nearly everything we do. But these soft skills are some of the hardest skills to attain, and rarely come with hard data — that’s where Loris comes in.

Nancy believes that this data is not only applicable to empathetic conversations with people who are in crisis, but that this data can now be applied to train employees to handle conversations to bridge misunderstandings and increase the effectiveness of words within organizations. I believe this too.

In Silicon Valley disruptive innovation has become an end unto itself, and many young founders mistake disruption for a top-line business strategy. Movements, however, are not characterized by the disruption they create in the world but rather by the positive change they initiate. The role of technology should be to generate a more abundant and caring world. To date, we have fallen short on this dimension and Loris is the first company I have seen that carefully articulates how companies can bridge that gap. Technology has a role in enabling, not disabling humans and it starts at the core with soft skills.

We thoughtfully design so many things — clothing, software, cellphones — and yet take for granted how we design the literal fuel for all of the things we build — conversations. Conversations don’t happen when we are just talking about easy things. The fire that tests and tempers our relationships happens when we disagree or when we need to tell someone something they won’t want to hear or know.

As an investor I have seen many great tools created to measure culture but nothing that actually builds it. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with Nancy and her team on this journey we have embarked on. If anyone can do something in this space, I know it is Nancy.