Seniors Housing Business

OCT-NOV 2016

Seniors Housing Business is the magazine that helps you navigate the evolution of the seniors housing industry.

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34 www.seniorshousingbusiness.com Seniors Housing Business n October-November 2016 n Technology Successful entrepreneurs seeking to change seniors' lives learn success comes slowly and often at great sacrifice Tech tales of Copyright: Kninwong By Eric Taub When you think of "venture capital- ist" or "tech startup," the last thing that probably comes to mind is a senior living community. With the relatively minor size of the mar- ket, investors have little interest in consider- ing small-bore deals for the elderly when multimillion-dollar Silicon Valley returns from the Millennial generation look to be just within their grasp. It's a lesson that Allen and Diana Arseneau, a married couple in their 30s, quickly learned when they set out to raise money for their startup, Jamber. The Arseneaus figured they had some strong credentials going in: Diana was the first person in her Milford, Conn., high school to attend Harvard. Allen and his brother were the first in his working-class family of any generation to graduate college and the first to attend gradu- ate school. In Allen's case, that meant Stanford University. They believed they had a potential winner on their hands: a revolutionary design for a cof- fee mug that seniors with physical disabilities could easily hold and manipulate without pain. It seemed like a natural win. "The venture capitalists said 'we don't invest in non-tech companies,'" Allen recalls, despite the fact that the company had spent months accumulating biological and ergonomic data on how people hold cups. Looking to raise $100,000, "we were told we were looking for too little money. Many investors were looking for a tech start-up that would turn into the next Facebook." While entrepreneurs in the high-tech con- sumer space may dream of cashing in and driv- ing Lamborghinis, those working to succeed in new businesses that will serve the assisted living industry and its residents appear to be motivated by loftier goals. Financial riches are an afterthought, or not a thought at all. Sources of inspiration Many became attracted to the seniors housing indus- try after experiencing the physical challenges that a close, elderly family member faced. For Allen, that moment came while watching his then-84-year-old grand- father, a Korean War veteran and his "hero," struggle to hold a coffee mug without shaking. "He said to me, 'my wrist hurts, my elbow, everything hurts,'" says Allen. Jake Reisch, a 26-year old graduate of Cornell University and entrepreneur, saw his elderly aunt struggle to hear what was happening and stay engaged whenever she got together with her friends at her assisted living home. And Jack York, the co-founder of It's Never 2 Late, saw that he was able to change the lives of the elderly by donating computers to a nursing home. But he also saw how difficult those com- puters were to master. In all cases, the companies' founders thought that they could improve lives. But that often unintentionally resulted in their own lives becoming considerably worse. To get Jamber up and running, the Arseneaus maxed out their credit cards, borrowed money from their family and ate rice and beans — often. For the first several years, they took no salary. "It was very challenging," says Allen. "We're a con- sumer products company, and a lot of venture capitalists don't understand the senior living market." A resident uses a customized Never 2 Late display specifically designed to help seniors operate computers. There are Never 2 Late terminals in more than 2,500 seniors housing communities. "The hardware has to be built right. If not, you're going to get stuck with inventory, or have to pay for expensive retooling. Do we have setbacks? Always. Every week," says Jake Reisch, founder, Eversound. t e n a c ı t y

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