Homage’s Gillian Tee on how technology can serve the world’s aging population

It’s always a pleasure to chat with Homage co-founder and chief executive Gillian Tee because of her nuanced take on how technology can help elderly and other vulnerable people.  According to the United Nations, people 65-years-old and over is the fastest-growing age group worldwide. At the same time, there is also an acute shortage of caregivers in many countries, complicated by high rates of burnout in the profession.

“It’s absolutely one of the most important social topics and global issues,” Tee said during her Disrupt session (the video is embedded at the bottom of this article).

Launched in Singapore four years ago, Homage’s platform uses a matchmaking engine to help families find the best caregivers, while its telehealth platform provides services like online medical consultations and screenings. It has since expanded in Malaysia and yesterday announced a new strategic investment from Infocom, one of the largest healthcare technology companies in Japan. The partnership will enable Homage to accelerate its Asia-Pacific expansion.

Before launching Homage, Tee was co-founder of New York-based Rocketrip. A ticket-booking platform created to reduce work travel-related costs for companies, Rocketrip attracted investors like Google Ventures, Y Combinator and Bessemer Ventures, and raised more than $ 30 million. But in 2016, Tee decided to return to Singapore, her home country, after living abroad for about 15 years. In her Disrupt session, Tee said this was to be closer to her mother, and because she felt that her startup experience could also be applied to Southeast Asia.

Tee knew that she wanted to launch another company, but she didn’t decide to tackle the caregiving space immediately. That idea materialized when several of her close relatives were diagnosed with chronic conditions that needed specialized care.

“We didn’t know how to cope or how even to start thinking about what was required, and that was when I realized, wow, I needed to get myself schooled in many ways,” Tee said.

Many families around the world are dealing with the same challenges as their populations age and social dynamics shift. Family members who traditionally would have been carers for relatives are unable to do so because they have moved away or need to work.

Families often rely on word-of-mouth or agencies to find caregivers, a complicated, time-intensive and often emotionally difficult process. Homage uses matching algorithms to make it easier. One of the most unique things about the platform is how much detail it goes into. Providers are not only screened based on their certifications and the kind of care they provide (for example, long-term care, respite care, physical therapy or rehabilitation), but specific skills. For example, many patients need mobility assistance, so Homage assesses what kind of transfers they are able to safely perform.

Then its matching technology decides which caregivers are best suited for a patient, and final assignments are made by Homage’s staff. By making the process more efficient, Homage also lowers its costs, making its services accessible to more people while increasing pay rates for providers.

This taps into another one of Homage’s goals: expanding the caregiving pool in its markets and retaining talent. Other ways it addresses the issue is by placing caregivers on its platform into the jobs they are best suited for, organizing continuing education programs and making sure they are not over-scheduled. Some caregivers on the platform have long-term contracts, while others work with Homage clients only a few days a week.

A holistic approach to “age-tech”

In June, Homage launched its telehealth service. Called Homage Health, the platform has been in development for a while, but its launch was accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote consultations fit into the “high-touch,” or in-person, care side of the company’s business because many patients need regular screenings or consultations with doctors and specialists. For patients who have limited mobility or are immunocompromised, this makes it easier for them to make routine consults.

Hardware, including wearable sensors, also show promise to identify any potential health issues, like heart conditions, before they require acute care, but one challenge is making them easy for patients to integrate into their daily routines or remember to wear, Tee said.

Overall, Homage’s mission is to create a holistic platform that covers many caregiving needs. Its new partnership with strategic investor Infocom will help bring that forward because the company, which Tee said Homage has been talking to for several years, works with about 13,000 facilities in Japan, including senior residences and hospitals. Infocom develops software for a wide range of verticals, including drug, hospital and medical record management, and medical imaging.

Infocom also runs its own caregiving platform, and its partnership with Homage will enable the two companies to collaborate and reach more patients. Japan has one of the largest populations of elderly people in the world. Tee said at minimum, half a million caregivers need to be mobilized within the next five to ten years in Japan in order to meet demand.

“We need to start building infrastructure to enable people to be able to access the kind of care services that they need, and so we really align in terms of that mission with Infocom,” said Tee. “They also have a platform that engages caregivers to apply for jobs in Japan and they see the Homage model as being particularly applicable because it’s curated as well.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Humanity Inc. raises funding to allow us to monitor and affect our rate of aging

Most of us are now familiar with apps that track what’s known as our “digital biomarkers.” These include the steps, we’ve taken, our heart rate and our weight. In recent years startups have appeared which can, in a relatively turnkey manner, track our “biomedical markers,” such as cholesterol levels, for instance. Few, however, are seeking to combine the two to get a 360-degree view of how our bodies are doing.

Into this gap steps Humanity Inc., which will seek to do exactly that. Founded by two seasoned entrepreneurs, Humanity will combine digital and biomedical biomarkers into a consumer app that will fully launch next year.

Today it announces its initial seed fundraise of $ 2.5 million in a round led by Boston fund One Way Ventures and the legendary and long-time health tech angel investor Esther Dyson, among others.

Serial entrepreneurs Peter Ward (who co-founded early social network WAYN) and Michael Geer (formerly of Badoo) are aiming to “help humanity live healthier, longer lives” with a health and longevity company that will leverage AI to maximize people’s health span.

Their aim is to give users the ability to monitor their “actual rate of aging” and show them which actions are working or not working, and how they can even potentially reverse the aging process.

They are attracting some leading names from the world of genetics and the science of aging, including George Church and Aubrey de Grey, to their “Science Advisory Board.”

De Grey is best known for co-founding the Methuselah Foundation, which runs the Methuselah Mouse Prize in search of anti-aging technologies.

In a statement, de Grey commented: “The scientists of the world are focusing more and more on aging science, which is thankfully accelerating breakthroughs exponentially. However, we still need better vehicles to deliver these discoveries directly to the people. That is what Humanity is poised to do and why I am so excited to support them on this mission.”

Semyon Dukach, the managing partner of Humanity’s lead investor One Way Ventures, said: “We’re proud to be leading this round and backing this extraordinary team, along with a number of other great investors including leading funds and angels in the consumer tech and health space. We believe in the Humanity mission and clearly the timing could not be better for people to get access to such a product.”

Ward added: “Many people feel helpless when it comes to avoiding disease and slowing down the aging process. In the COVID-19 world, where we all now clearly understand that risk increases significantly with age and poor health, people’s number one question is, rightly, ‘what actions can I take each day to stay healthy and for much longer?’ ”

Geer said: “People have never had an accurate clear feedback loop to help them know whether what they’re doing to be healthier was really working or not. We want to finally give them that superpower.”

Humanity is currently testing its Alpha product on “a few hundred users” and claims to have “thousands” waiting to gain early access. The app will launch in the U.K. and the U.S. in early 2021, followed by a global rollout in 2022.

Startups – TechCrunch