The culmination of a 10-year journey…
At the heart of TeachTown is the story of an authentic beginning with one clear mission, to help children with autism and special needs.
Co-Founder, Dan Feshbach, a successful entrepreneur and nationally recognized figure in mortgage information and analytics, and his wife Lisa, were raising their son with autism, Reed. At age 3, Reed, who was practically non-verbal, was showing great interest in animated storybooks and his appetite for new animated stories was growing. In the spring of 2000 Lisa attended an Autism conference of technology and was told about an animated tutor created by Dom Massaro, a Research Professor of Psychology and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His presentation was an epiphany for Lisa and Dan. This aligned with their vision of how to deliver engaging animated stories that teach language and communication skills, which is a fundamental deficit of children with autism. So Dan began to pursue Dom Massaro to make this vision a reality. Together they formed a company called Animated Speech Corporation. They won several competitive grants from NIH and NSF to help fund the building of prototype products and received the backing of a group at the Sierra Angels, Kieretsu Forum and other independent angels.
Dr. Chris Whalen PhD, along with Lars Liden, Eric Dallaire, and Sven Liden founded TeachTown in 2003. Chris was the Founder and Chief Science Officer, and had come up with the idea for an autism software company while she was working at the University of Washington Autism Center. Dr. Chris Whalen PhD is a licensed psychologist in the state of California and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst specializing in autism and related disorders. Dr. Lars Liden had been a researcher in the field of Cognitive and Neural Systems and Artificial Intelligence, in addition to his extensive experience in software development and technology management. Eric Dallaire had many successful titles in the market as a video game writer, designer and producer. And Sven Liden had been an executive in multiple wireless and software firms. TeachTown received financial backing from the prestigious Washington Research Foundation, a business incubator in Seattle, and a group of influential Seattle based angel investors, some of whom had children with autism.
As TeachTown grew, the company kept close to its users through countless personal visits, school district forums and special education conferences. TeachTown expanded not only its professional staff but also its relationships with leading special education experts. Along the way, the company won highly competitive grants from the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to expand its product-based research underpinnings. As a result, TeachTown received the prestigious Tibbetts Award, given to only 3% of grantees, for its educational collaborations and the impact of its technological innovation.
In 2006, TeachTown merged with Animated Speech Corporation and Dan Feshbach became their largest investor and CEO.