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Cutting-edge tech meets caregiving at St. Pete accelerator

Margie Manning



The AARP Florida caregiver accelerator in St. Petersburg is kickstarting cutting edge technology and entrepreneurial business opportunities in the $72 billion caregiving industry.

The accelerator, housed at The Innovation Lab at The Poynter Institute in the Innovation District, has worked with 43 companies over the past three years, including its most recent class of eight emerging firms from all over the United States. Two of those companies — TechUrElders and Alz You Need — won the organization’s pitch competition Monday and now move on to a national competition in Washington, D.C.

Both companies have developed technology to help people who are taking care of aging seniors. Both firms also are run by millennials.

“When I first started working in this space I thought the prototype of a caregiver was a middle-aged woman who raised her kids and is now taking care of parents,” said Monica Stynchula, CEO and founder of ReunionCare Inc., the St. Petersburg company that runs the accelerator as a vendor for AARP Innovations. “But the reality is that one-fourth of the 40 million caregivers in the United States are millennials.”

Younger caregivers face unique challenges, including juggling 20 hours or more a week on caregiving with their work responsibilities, an AARP study found.

The AARP Florida caregiver accelerator was established in 2016. Florida is an ideal spot to launch a company that provides services to caregivers because of its older population, including “elder orphans” who have migrated here from other states and don’t have a natural support system, Stynchula said.

Her goal is to find an underwriter for the accelerator program and companies to test products from the start-up companies.

Companies in the just-completed accelerator cohort took part in once-a-week online training with coaches who are skilled caregiving entrepreneurs. After six weeks of virtual training, the participants met in person for the first time Monday just before the pitch competition. Each had six minutes to pitch.

TechUrElders, headquartered in New York, and Alz You Need, based in Chicago, now advance to AARP’s national pitch competition on Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., where they will compete against winners of pitch competitions held in Boston, Silicon Valley and Raleigh, N.C. Winners of the national competition will get space in AARP’s incubator, The Hatchery, and be in line for an investment from AARP.

Here’s more about the two winning companies.

TechUrElders. Renee King, founder, met Stynchula at a tech conference and was impressed with her passion for helping caregivers and her knowledge of the industry.

King described TechUrElders, or Elda for short, as a chat friend that finds caregivers the right technology to help them with their caregiving tasks.  Elda uses a bot powered by artificial intelligence to predict and pair a caregiver with the right technology whether it is an app, wearable, device, sensor or gadget.

The company is pre-revenue and exploring monetization strategies, King said, but one of her core values is to not take money from users during a vulnerable time in their lives.

Alz You Need. Leda Rosenthal, founder, discovered the AARP Florida incubator on Twitter and was interested in applying because of the success stories that have come out of it.

Alz You Need’s platform makes it simple for families to discover technology that improves the quality of life for both the caregiver and the person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, Rosenthal said. Each family fills out a five-minute survey assessing tech savviness, pain points and other crucial information. Alz You Need then recommends products the family feels comfortable using. Families can leave comments after they use the products, allowing others to make better informed decisions.

The company generates revenue through a formal partnership with the tech innovator behind the product, and also licenses the technology tools to third-party caregiving sites. Once Alz You Need scales, Rosenthal plans to make customer insights available to the innovators.

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