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

Workstream, a platform for deskless work, raises $10 million to serve local businesses

Deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce, but to Desmond Lim, that job title is his entire world.

Lim grew up in Singapore and saw his father wake up every morning, six days a week, at 5 a.m. to start his job as a driver. Lim and his mom, who worked as a cleaner, joined his father from time to time in the van. Lim realized there needed to be an easier way for hourly, or deskless, workers to find jobs quickly.

Lim is the founder of Workstream, an end-to-end software solution to help small-and-medium businesses fill open positions. Today, the startup announced it has raised a $ 10 million Series A round, bringing its total known financing to $ 12.5 million.

The Bay Area-based company’s core customer is hiring managers in industries that have large turnover, like hospitality, restaurant, supermarket and delivery businesses.

Workstream automates a lot of the processes that usually take place over the span of a few weeks. The company says its technology can help businesses save 70% time on hiring. It also adds transparency, so instead of a job-seeker walking into a Target, filling out an application and hoping for the best, it provides a platform to make conversation between seekers and employers more accessible.

There are two parts to Workstream’s product. First, job-seekers can turn to the platform for the entire job searching process, from open gigs to onboarding once they secure the job. A free one-stop shop to look for reliable jobs tackles the challenges Lim’s father faced back in Singapore. The job seeker dashboard also has built-in reminders to make sure users can stay on top of interviewing.

The other part of Workstream’s business tackles the employer side. Businesses with high employee churn struggle to find reliable talent that doesn’t ghost on them. An employer can post to as many as 24 local job boards with one click, as they are integrated with Workstream. Workstream helps employers communicate more directly with potential hires through real-time messaging, video conference integration and text message reminders about topics like interview timing and paperwork.

A critical feature of Workstream is that it focuses on communication with workers through text messages instead of e-mails. Front-line and deskless workers are often the most disconnected members of the global job force due to a lack of access to company-issued e-mail addresses, and to be frank, time on their hands. Individuals who are spending long stretches of time on the go need to give real-time updates in a low-tech and inclusive way. The digital divide is real, and Workstream’s focus on mobile-based text messages can get employees hired within the same day.

An example of this in action is that anytime an applicant applies for a job, they get a text message from the employer that has additional information. The text might include background in culture or additional questions in the form of multiple choice. Questions are tailored specifically for the busy and often stacked lives of hourly workers, focusing on metrics like distance from work and ability to access reliable transportation.

The company charges employers a fee based on how many hires they make per year and what features they choose to enroll in.

While Workstream is entering the crowded space of recruiting platforms, it might be able to win simply because of its focus: local businesses. The company noted that many hiring platforms coming out of Silicon Valley are built for knowledge workers, like Lever or X. In contrast, Workstream’s focus on local businesses is tailored an inch wide and a mile deep. Ethos-wise, it is a nod to Lim’s childhood spending hours in his father’s van.

Local businesses are not dealing with as many customers right now due to shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19. Because small and medium-sized businesses have more time on their hands, Lim says they have been more open during client calls to try new software, contactless hiring and video messaging. The startup currently has 5,000 hiring managers it works with, including franchise businesses like Jamba Juice and Dunkin’ Donuts. The company is finding inbound interest from medical and manufacturing companies, too.

“We’re getting a lot fewer people saying that they don’t know how to use video conferencing,” Lim said. “They’re rethinking their systems.”

These factors helped the company, which landed an impressive group of investors and closed the round before the pandemic slowed funding.

The latest round was led by Founders Fund and Basis Set Ventures. Other investors include Affirm CEO Max Levchin, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu, Lattice CEO Jack Altman and Lucidchart CEO Karl Sun. Workstream also attracted dollars from a number of former and current leaders at companies like Slack, Brex, Airbnb, Instacart, Pinterest and more.

While stacked rounds have their ups and downs, an all-star group of firms is a helpful credit to have for founders who don’t necessarily come from traditional Silicon Valley networks, like Lim.

The company did not disclose valuation, revenue or profitability with this new financing round, but said investors have been telling the startup to spend more money and reinvest in growth.

The advice is a stark contrast to what we’ve been hearing from investors these days amid market turbulence and pleas to extend the runway. And perhaps that means that Workstream’s business can afford to bet on itself, the market be damned.

Startups – TechCrunch