How young entrepreneurs are building businesses by solving their grandparents’ problems

November 12, 2015

Category: Future Planning, Long Term Care

Financial Post
Erin Bury | November 9, 2015 4:55 PM ET


For an entrepreneur to be successful, it is imperative to find a market with lots of opportunity for growth. In many parts of the world, including Canada, elder care is one of those markets. The baby boomer generation is aging, with the number of seniors set to almost double by 2036, to 25 per cent of the total population, the Canadian Medical Association reports.

When one-time investment banker Andrew Colterjohn, co-founder of Pearl’s Choice, experienced how difficult it is to find a retirement community that fit his grandmother’s needs, he and Bojana Nedic, who graduated in occupational therapy, built a platform that would allow users to search for, compare, and review retirement communities in Canada.

Pearl’s Choice wants to do for retirement communities what TripAdvisor did for travel: harness the power of reviews to give users peace of mind, something the founders say is especially important for family members who want to know they’re making the right choice for their relatives. Users can search for homes based on their location, and can filter by amenities, cost, and other features. Each property has a profile page with specifics, and users can create a shortlist of properties to show their parent or relative and book tours through the site.
“Our solution provides peace of mind during the research process because we help Canadians better understand what life would be like at the community before they even decide to book a tour,” Nedic said. “Our users are able to feel confident in their decision because they know they compared all of their options and read reviews left by people who have experienced life at the home before they move in.”

 The company launched in July, and since then they’ve had more than 10,000 unique visitors to the site. They’ve also received strategic investment from Simon Nyilassy, CEO of Regal Lifestyle Communities. While the site is free for users, the company offers a paid partner program that gives facilities access to features such as virtual tours, review management and social media promotion.

When it comes to building a business in the elder care space, Nedic said the company’s team is driven by solving a problem. “Good ideas are built where large gaps exist,” she said. “I believe Canada’s health-care system will be very well supported by socially driven entrepreneurs … who will work tirelessly to alleviate the pressure points.”

The founders of Mavencare were driven by a similar desire to ensure their relatives had the best care possible. Co-founder Nukul Bhasin said the problem they tackled was finding quality in-home care. Their vision is for Mavencare to be the “Uber of home care,” allowing people to search for and book in-home care on its platform. Bhasin spent more than seven years at BlackBerry, where he led several R&D teams.

“As all of us were very close with our grandparents, our mission to apply technology to allow seniors to live out their lives in the comfort of their own homes is very meaningful and personal,” Bhasin said.
Mavencare’s platform allows users to enter the details of a family member’s medical situation, outlining whether the senior needs help with day-to-day chores and meals, or if they need specific medical help or live-in care. Then they are matched with a caregiver that fits their medical situation and other needs, and can book appointments online.

Unlike Uber, Mavencare’s team of personal care workers are all employees, not independent contractors, and they go through background checks, phone interviews, and in-person interviews to ensure they’re qualified. Caregivers also use the mobile app to share videos and photos from the appointments with family members so they can ensure proper care is being provided.

Mavencare is active in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa, but the team is planning to expand in Canada and the United States in the next year.

As the senior population grows, the demand for entrepreneurial solutions to healthcare problems will also increase, but finding success will depend on maintaining quality of care, and gaining users’ trust. Bhasin’s golden rule is a good one to remember: “We don’t hire anyone that we wouldn’t trust looking after our own parents,” he said.