Nancy Lublin & Ann Miura-Ko | 2018 MAKERS Conference
Nancy Lublin, Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line, interviewed by Ann Miura-Ko, Co-Founding Partner, Floodgate, on being a female founder and the importance of innovation
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Nancy Lublin and Ann Miura-Ko.
NANCY LUBLIN: So, before we sit down, we want to bring out Gitanjali. Because this is kind of the tech startup panel. Come on. It's the tech startup panel. So, go ahead.
ANN MIURA-KO: So, you know, I loved the pitch that you gave. And as a venture capitalist, I invest in startup companies. And I noticed, though, one thing that was missing. And as a mom, I'm always going to look for that one thing that was missing and tell you what it was. What was it?
GITANJALI RAO: Funding.
ANN MIURA-KO: Funding. You have all these people here. You forgot to ask for funding. So take two, take two.
NANCY LUBLIN: So you've got--
ANN MIURA-KO: Tell them.
NANCY LUBLIN: So, you've got $25,000, right?
GITANJALI RAO: Yes.
ANN MIURA-KO: What else do you need?
NANCY LUBLIN: What do you need?
GITANJALI RAO: Another $25,000.
ANN MIURA-KO: OK, so she's got a prototype, what you saw. It's going to have to go through a lot of experimentation. We are not starting until this room raises $25,000. She has [? men-- ?] we have one taker.
NANCY LUBLIN: So we've got one--
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'll take the whole thing.
NANCY LUBLIN: You'll take the whole thing?
ANN MIURA-KO: Take the whole thing.
GITANJALI RAO: Thank you.
ANN MIURA-KO: And it's that easy.
NANCY LUBLIN: That's amazing.
ANN MIURA-KO: It's that easy. You've just got to ask.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
ANN MIURA-KO: You go get her email and get the check. That's how it works.
NANCY LUBLIN: That's how it happens.
ANN MIURA-KO: That's how it works, everyone.
NANCY LUBLIN: All right, we can start now. Thank you. Awesome.
ANN MIURA-KO: Thank you, so--
NANCY LUBLIN: That's just how it happens, right?
ANN MIURA-KO: That is-- that is the way Silicon Valley works. I know, I've been there a while. So Nancy, I wanted to get an update on-- on this Crisis Text Line. Because I actually looked at those numbers, and I was thinking those look impressive. But not nearly as impressive as reality today.
NANCY LUBLIN: Yeah, so all of those numbers are different. I'm about 20 pounds heavier. And we have now processed, at Crisis Text Line, almost $62 million messages.
ANN MIURA-KO: Amazing. How many volunteers?
NANCY LUBLIN: In the last-- Rachel's here, right? In the last 28 days, how many active volunteers? it's like 3,962 I think in just the last 28 days. So almost 4,000 active volunteers. And we've trained about 12,000 people to be crisis counselors. And we've trained them all online. But yeah, 62 million messages in just over four years because there's a lot of pain.
ANN MIURA-KO: But tell us a little bit more, though, about what Crisis Text Line does.
NANCY LUBLIN: So Crisis Text Line actually grew out of dosomething.org. Because Do Something became the largest organization for young people in America, because one, it's not homophobic. And two-- that was funny, OK-- and two-- and two because it texts with its members.
ANN MIURA-KO: Right.
NANCY LUBLIN: And that's how anybody here who has a young person, that's the only way you communicate with them. So that's how they communicate with each other. And so that's how they communicate with Do Something. And so we would text people campaign ideas, and they-- 200,000 kids for each campaign, I mean great open rates on text.
But we would get out-of-flow messages from kids saying things like I'm being bullied and I don't want to go to school, or my dad's hitting my mom, what should I do? And then we get a message from someone who said he won't stop raping me, it's my dad. He told me not to tell anyone. And the letters, r u there? Yeah, so we gave her a hotline number, for him, I don't know.
And the next day came in and-- did we hear from this person? No, we never heard back from that person. And within two weeks I was like look, if they're going to text us this stuff, let's start a hotline by text. My-- you follow the user, right? So, like, people wanted to share this stuff by text, so let's launch. So we launched in the end of 2013, and it's been 62 million messages since.
ANN MIURA-KO: Amazing. What great impact.
NANCY LUBLIN: Yeah, it's largely about suicide and depression, a lot of anxiety, family issues, I mean everything. We see the opioid addiction, we see all of it. And it's all handled by volunteers, people like you, over the age of 18 who apply online and go through a background check and about a 34-hour training, and then-- and then save lives 24/7.
ANN MIURA-KO: So Nancy, it just seems-- the thing that I'm struck by is the fact that you've done these incredible nonprofit organizations today. And each one, in and of itself, is a massive movement. It moves millions of people into action. And I'm just-- I'm just trying to understand from your perspective, you know, what moves you from one movement to the next?
NANCY LUBLIN: I like solving problems. I like solving problems for real people. So all three of these organizations were helping people be better people. So Dress for Success was helping women reclaim their destinies. I have to say, this is so weird to talk about, because Gloria Steinem was the original advisory board member to Dress for Success. And I'm eternally grateful for you. I was-- no one knew how to pronounce my last name, and I was nobody in New York. And I bought a ticket to a charitable event, and then I begged her to let me walk her home. Which now would be so creepy, and you should have called the police. And instead-- and instead, by the end of that walk home, I mean literally we were at the door and she was like, OK, OK then. And I asked--
ANN MIURA-KO: The startup life.
NANCY LUBLIN: And I asked her to be on the advisory board. Gitanjali, that's how it's done. You just-- you stalk people.
ANN MIURA-KO: That's how it's done. Stalk people.
NANCY LUBLIN: Yep.
ANN MIURA-KO: Follow them home.
NANCY LUBLIN: And so I'm super grateful to you. But yeah, from Dress for Success, to Do Something, to Crisis Text Line, it's about helping people be better people.
ANN MIURA-KO: So I have to ask, what's next?
NANCY LUBLIN: Well, you know what's next. So-- so Crisis Text Line, we have this incredible data corpus, right, like Fei-Fei was talking about earlier. It's 62 million messages, all sentiment, right? It's an unstructured data set. It's entirely sentiment, it's largely severe situations, and it's tagged by humans on both sides. So we've learned incredible things about moving people from hot moments to cool moments, and words we should use and not use, things to say.
ANN MIURA-KO: Can you give examples?
NANCY LUBLIN: Yeah, so here's two examples. So one example is the word overwhelmed. We've all felt, at some point in time, overwhelmed, or you've had someone in your world say overwhelmed. The counterweight to overwhelmed, you want to guess what the counterweight to overwhelmed is, to that word? Most people guess calm, content, control. It's strong. So you take a feeling word. It's actually balanced out best by a capabilities word, not another feeling word.
But my favorite way that we use data is we stack rank based on severity. So when messages come in, we take people by severity instead of chronologically. So instead of going in the queue just by order that you text in, if you're suicidal or homicidal, we take you first. The way that we figured that out was by using some of the fancy AI that Fei-Fei was describing earlier today.
So we built an algorithm. We originally put in words like die, suicide, overdose instead of those-- if those words show up, make those people first. And then we layered on machine learning to the corpus and said, well what really ends up with us calling 911? Which we do about 20 times a day, by the way. For people at imminent risk of suicide or homicide.
And it turns out there are thousands of engrams, bigrams, and trigrams. So words and word combinations that are more powerful than the word suicide. For example, the word military, twice as likely for us to call 911 than the word suicide. Fentanyl and other named drugs like ibuprofen, Advil, five to 16 times more likely for us to call 911. The unhappy face crying emoji, four times more likely for us to call 911 than the word suicide. And so we put all of that into the algorithm. And that's how we decide who comes first and who comes second. This is using science and technology to save lives. And-- thanks.
And so-- so you asked what's next. So I have to brag about you too. So you asked what's next. Companies started calling us and saying can you teach our employees the way you taught your crisis counselors? So can you use some of that data and those learnings like--
ANN MIURA-KO: That ju-ju.
NANCY LUBLIN: That's ju-ju, exactly. I am a Jew. Yes. So can you use some-- can you-- can you use some of that to teach our employees empathy and compassion? And I was like, well that's interesting. Would you pay us? So we, this morning--
ANN MIURA-KO: The nonprofit turned into--
NANCY LUBLIN: A for-profit subsidiary, exactly. So today's the birth of my first for-profit company. So, yeah. Except-- except classically, a Crisis Text Line gets all the equity. So everyone's clapping for my husband, but whatever. And-- and so, yeah.
So Crisis Text Line is the majority shareholder. And Ann is actually the lead funder. And there's other Silicon Valley and kind of iconic business leaders who funded this seed round of this company we called Loris, that's going to train people in companies to have hard conversations, like how to ask for a raise, like how to tell an employee that their performance isn't so great, like how to have a conversation with someone of a different gender. So the set of avoiding those conversations and leaving people out, you lean into them and you actually learn how to do this well. Because we're not taught how to communicate, we're taught--
ANN MIURA-KO: You're designing. You're designing the conversation.
NANCY LUBLIN: That's right. Conversational design.
ANN MIURA-KO: Which I always thought was so-- so fascinating because it's this one skill that we learn. We learn everything, right, we talk about in Silicon Valley. We design cell phones, we design the best software. But who's ever talked about designing a conversation?
NANCY LUBLIN: Right.
ANN MIURA-KO: And that's actually the fuel for everything. And so for me, like when you told me that story around why you are building this company, it felt like it was the most important thing at this time when we-- we've lost trust in so many things.
NANCY LUBLIN: Well, I'm grateful that you felt that way and feel that way. Because now this company can exist. And we started talking to companies, people are nominating companies that we should consider, to select, to bring into the beta. So if you know a company that is either really good at this, or really cares about this, or should really care about this and learn these skills, and have their employees learn, you know, customer service, talking to--
ANN MIURA-KO: Sales.
NANCY LUBLIN: --people who are angry and anxious about bills, or things like that, to learn what the right words are, right sentence structure. We'd like to help. And when [? Loris ?] makes lots of money, Crisis Text Line will make lots of money. And that's how the not-for-profit sector should roll.
ANN MIURA-KO: And tell me one more thing, why Loris?
NANCY LUBLIN: Oh, Loris because if you Google Loris, it is the most adorable, cuddly animal you will ever see. And if it bites you, it will fucking kill you.
ANN MIURA-KO: Kind of like a bad conversation.
NANCY LUBLIN: Kind of like a bad conversation. Like, you think this stuff is soft and sweet. People think, before they meet me, I'm soft and sweet. But actually, yeah, but I'm not. And so--
ANN MIURA-KO: I'm not either.
NANCY LUBLIN: Yeah, exactly. And so-- and if you get these conversations wrong, they kill careers they kill companies. So it's like that adorable-- like, it looks like an anime sloth. I don't know.
ANN MIURA-KO: I think it's incredible. Because it's it's probably very underestimated how important that data set is. But as Fei-Fei pointed out-- and I have a PhD in math modeling, so one thing I know is how important that data set is, how unique it is. And so being able to leverage that for something so meaningful is a really, really unique opportunity.
NANCY LUBLIN: We have 15 seconds left. And I'm going to get this in before we go, because there are so few venture capitalists like you. She's also on the board of Lyft. She was one of the original investors in Lyft. She helped build the team--
ANN MIURA-KO: Only take Lyft.
NANCY LUBLIN: There you go.
ANN MIURA-KO: Until the next [INAUDIBLE].
NANCY LUBLIN: Until [INAUDIBLE] speaks. Right, exactly. And Refinery, and it was really important for me to find an investor who was going to value, frankly, my not-for-profit background, and see it still as a proprietary advantage and lead. And see the possibility here. So--
ANN MIURA-KO: Absolutely.
NANCY LUBLIN: I'm just grateful. And shake and bake.
ANN MIURA-KO: I'm so excited. Shake and bake.
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