Pressure Chamber 2017

Rachel Robinson, left, and Emily Purdom, co-founders of DotCom Therapy, grab hold of the "golden suitcase," their ticket to a trip to California to meet West Coast investors. DotCom Therapy won Pressure Chamber, the pitch contest help by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce on Monday, as part of the Forward Festival.

DotCom Therapy — a company that provides speech and language therapy to patients via live videoconferencing, and that just moved to Madison this spring — won the Pressure Chamber pitch competition Monday at the Overture Center.

It was the second victory in Forward Fest startup contests for DotCom Therapy’s Emily Purdom and Rachel Robinson.

“It feels awesome,” Robinson said.

“Pretty incredible,” added Purdom. “We’re just honored to be part of such a wonderful crew of entrepreneurs.”

Purdom and Robinson were school-based speech therapists in Springfield, Missouri, who, because of a shortage of such specialists, eventually took on regular clients elsewhere, some as far as native Yupik villages in Alaska, accessible only on bush planes or snowmobiles.

“They require and deserve more than five visits a year,” Purdom said. So the women tried tele-therapy. “It was effective, and it hooked us,” Purdom told the Pressure Chamber audience.

They launched DotCom Therapy two years ago, with just the two of them. Today, they have 56 employees and clients in 18 U.S. states and in Mexico, China and Thailand.

A pilot program will start this fall in Tanzania.

The company plans to expand to other services, such as occupational therapy and audiology, and to more areas.

“We want to make therapy available to everyone, everywhere,” Purdom said.

DotCom Therapy was one of five companies making pitches at Pressure Chamber, part of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s annual neXXpo networking and innovation program. The win gives Purdom and Robinson seats in a Chamber trip to San Francisco in late October, where five startups will meet with Silicon Valley investors.

The other young companies vying for the honor were Cardigan, an app for exchanging business contact information; Curate, gathering early data for contractors about construction projects; ThirdSpace, engaging employees in their company’s culture; and SimpleMachines, building next-generation computer chips aimed at data centers.

A panel of judges and an audience of more than 200 people gave DotCom Therapy the win.

The company also took top prize in Challenge Cup on Friday hosted by StartingBlock Madison.

For that, Purdom and Robinson will get a trip to New York in November to compete in the Global Challenge Cup finals.

In June, the startup nabbed first prize among information technology companies in the 2017 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Their prize was office space in University Research Park, at 455 Science Drive.

The women decided to move to Madison just a few months ago. Springfield did not have a lot of startup activity, Robinson said.

“We had heard of the wonderful entrepreneurial health technology hub up here so we came up here, we explored what all of this talk was and we didn’t want to leave,” Purdom said.

Robinson moved here in May; Purdum, in August.

One of the first people they met was Amy Gannon, co-founder of the Doyenne Group, a Madison nonprofit that supports and mentors female entrepreneurs. “Being able to be in front of a room of female entrepreneurs was incredibly empowering,” Robinson said.

Gannon called the pair “two of the most intelligent entrepreneurs I know.”

Pressure Chamber and neXXpo were part of the eight-day Forward Fest celebration of innovation and entrepreneurs, whose events run through Thursday.

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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.