NE Minneapolis software maker carves a niche in the split

OurFamilyWizardWhen the founders of OurFamilyWizard (OFW) originally developed the software that would become the company’s namesake, they knew they had a special product on their hands that could really help others.

Serving as a communication tool for couples with children going through a divorce or separation, OFW adds transparency and communication to a thorny process that can be fraught with emotional turmoil.

The problem, at least in the company’s early years, was that in order for it to work, both parties need to agree to use it. And it goes without saying that couples going through a separation have a tendency to not agree on much, making OFW a necessary but tough sell.

This obstacle, along with a variety of early technology challenges, caused OFW much struggle during the early years.  Major changes around 2007 — including code upgrades and the business decision to begin marketing to legal professionals — have been critical to the success OFW has reached today.

“We realized we needed to go directly at the legal community who are decision-makers for people in this situation,” says Chief Operating Officer Bryan Altman.  “At the same time, our technology needed to be modernized and mobile. It was a very pivotal time. ”

Based in Northeast Minneapolis, Our Family Wizard was initially founded in 2000 by Jai Kissoon and Larry Patterson, friends from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. Kissoon, whose mother was a longtime family law attorney, had the idea planted by a relative who wanted a better way to communicate with his ex-spouse. Altman joined up with the company in 2003 and has been through the ups and downs with OFW.

“Larry and Atomic Data went a long way toward helping us build a really strong product during the tough times,” says Altman.

The software itself is described by Altman as “a web and mobile application that, during tough times, parents use to communicate with each other in a non-confrontational way. It goes really far in documenting parents’ activity to an extraordinary level for legal and mental health purposes.”

The service includes private and shared calendars, a message board, notifications, journals and more. Subscribers pay an annual fee to use the program, and there are also additional features that can be purchased. For instance, parents can make alimony, child support and medical payments through the program with a transaction fee.

With the right people now in place and their mobility complete, the Altman sees a strong future ahead.

“There is no shortage of separated or separating couples in the United States,” and Altman says.  “With 10 percent of divorce cases in the U.S. labeled ‘high-conflict,’ and Our Family Wizard is geared toward the “moderate-to-high conflict” segment, which is closer to 30 percent of all the cases.”

Over the next year, Our Family Wizard plans to introduce new features and collaborative aspects to the software, furthering their mission. Altman states that the company’s year-over-year growth rate has been “well over 50 percent” and sees more of the same going forward as the business continues its inspiring comeback story.

“With the right people you can change bounce back from a slow start.  For us it was about finding focus and getting the resources behind us to do those right things.”