About Life Sherpa
The Life Sherpa Story
Life Sherpa grew out of a personal crisis when Doug Meeker’s son Scott was diagnosed with autism at age 3. In the face of the limited resources and interventions available, Doug was determined to find solutions to help his son meet the lifetime of challenges ahead of him.
With his background in software development, Doug naturally looked to technology as a means to help his son navigate the future. The ease with which Scott adapted to the iPad’s visual- and touch-based interface made it a natural choice for his platform.
Doug’s initial goals to test his idea were modest but concrete: get Scott out of bed and ready for school independently—without constant parental nagging. After consulting with therapists, parents and other experts in the field, Doug collaborated with a team of technology executives like him—parents inspired by their children with cognitive challenges—to develop a virtual guide to help support these individuals throughout their day and across the lifespan.
The Life Sherpa name was inspired by Tenzig Norgay, the Nepalese Sherpa who guided Sir Edmund Hillary in their conquest of Mount Everest. The Sherpas are mountain-dwelling navigators considered indispensable to enabling trekkers to successfully summit the mountain. Like its namesake, Life Sherpa guides an individual through the perils of everyday life, as a virtual Sherpa.
Once a prototype was created, the team started a pilot program with families like Doug’s in Northern Virginia. Along the way, the team started to receive inquiries from organizations such as colleges, disability service organizations like The Arc, schools, and employers who wanted to use Life Sherpa in their own ways. This led to a series of pilot programs and research studies that have shaped and informed the development of the Life Sherpa platform.
Based on feedback from these pilots, as well as a research study at George Mason University that showed how Life Sherpa can drive more independent behaviors in the workplace, the team has created a flexible, customizable experience with a focus on helping individuals overcome executive functioning and emotional regulation challenges. In addition, employers wanted a high level of virtual support, so a private video calling feature was added to allow supervisors and any other support personnel to interact with individuals effectively regardless of location.
In early 2019, DXC Technologies, a $25B global IT company, announced a strategic partnership with Life Sherpa for its innovative Dandelion Program, which places neurodiverse individuals into high-demand jobs in cybersecurity, data analytics and related IT jobs. Deploying Life Sherpa to provide virtual support, the Dandelion program has become a model that is being leveraged worldwide by organizations like SAP and JP Morgan.
For 2020 and beyond, the team is looking to continue to expand its customer base and research partnerships, including a multi-faceted program with Stanford University and with MITRE, a research organization serving the federal government where there is a growing interest in neurodiversity employment programs for cybersecurity roles.
In the next 3-5 years, we hope to substantially impact this ecosystem:
- Help sustain 50,000+ (globally) individuals into careers that positively impacts the 3-4x stakeholders (parents, etc.) who support them.
- Build an enterprise software company where at least 30% of the workforce are neurodiverse in roles as software testers, trainers, developers, and even sales.
- Provide colleges and other research entities with an effective way to create evidence-based practices to support this population.
Closer to home, since Scott first began using Life Sherpa in 2017, he has mastered his original basic goals (dressing, brushing teeth, packing lunch), moving on to ever-more-complex programs including evening, finance, exercise and cooking routines.
All along the way, Life Sherpa has given him the support to practice perseverance and the reward of a sense of confidence and competence that he carries into every aspect of his life. Fifteen years after his diagnosis, Scott is currently a High School Junior and expects to graduate in Spring 2021. As he makes his transition into adulthood, Life Sherpa will be there to help guide him through.
Life Sherpa's Team
Doug Meeker, CEO
Doug is an accomplished digital media and technology veteran with a broad range of experience in sales, marketing and operations for co.’s including AOL, Best Software and Gannett. Doug’s passion is centered helping those with developmental disabilities overcome life’s challenges. He is the father of a son with Autism.
Michael Renner, CTO
Michael is an experienced digital technology executive, entrepreneur and “intraprenuer,” having built numerous rapid-growth technology companies and organizations. As a leader in digital product development and technology operations he has been instrumental in advancing the digital fortunes of numerous companies including PBS, Thomson Publishing, Digex, 3Pillar Global, Windward, and GEICO.
Cindy Breed, CFO
Cindy brings extensive experience in leadership and senior executive roles having served as President, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Operations for companies including Thomson Publishing, UtraDara, Windward and Intertek. Her range of experience includes start-ups through public companies in the software, financial services, manufacturing, and professional services industries.
Larry Simpson, Strategic Advisor
Larry has over 30 years as a business leader having served as an entrepreneur, executive, investor, and Board member.
Jillian Austin, M.Ed. BCBA
Ms. Austin has been in the Special Education field for over 15 years. She received her Master of Education (specializing in Special Education grades K-12) from James Madison University along with a degree in Psychology. Ms. Austin has her BCBA and is licensed to teach in Virginia.
Michelle Carney, BCBA
Ms. Carney graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from West Chester University. After receiving her Master’s Degree, she moved to Virginia to supervise an ABA pilot program. Ms. Carney has trained in several social skills programs and is a former RDI® consultant. Ms. Carney specializes in IEP support, Social Thinking® and Behavior Intervention Plans.
Sharon K. Weiss, M.Ed. Author
Ms. Weiss is a nationally known behavioral consultant in private practice in Northern Virginia. Her areas of expertise include parent and staff training in behavior management and crisis intervention. She has worked as a teacher of special needs children, program coordinator and supervisor of behavioral intervention programs for behavior disordered children.
Tammy Ferraco, M.Ed. BCBA
Ms. Ferraco graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Masters of Science degree in Applied Developmental Psychology in 2007. Her program design focused on supporting those with Asperger’s Syndrome in the areas of social skills and emotions. Ms. Ferraco has worked with children with emotional/behavioral disorders for over 15 years.
Life Sherpa's Investors
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