Welbi’s solution helps ease the isolation of seniors in assisted living facilities.
Welbi Technologies Inc. announced a $3 million CAD seed round that will enable the startup to expand across Canada and into the United States with its patient engagement software for seniors in long-term care facilities.
CEO and founder Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau said she came up with the idea of Welbi after her grandfather suffered a stroke. The family moved him into a retirement home and found, to their surprise, that his health declined even more.
He couldn’t hear properly on the phone, knew no one in the residence, and had no motivation to leave his room. His health became worse, and he passed away a few months later. “We felt responsible for it,” Audette-Bourdeau recalled in a blog post on Welbi’s website. “We felt like we could have done better to support him.”
Founded in 2016, Welbi works in collaboration with senior health care researchers and professionals to try and change the way retirees are cared for in order to provide them with a higher quality of life.
The $3 million brings Welbi’s current funding to $6 million in total. That funding to date includes a previously unannounced $1.3 million pre-seed round in 2020, with the remainder in grants and undiluted funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, and Age-Well.
The latter describes itself as Canada’s technology and aging network with a mandate to develop technologies and services to help aging populations everywhere.
Graphite Ventures, MaRS IAF, SoGal Ventures, and Roach Capital invested in the seed round. Other investors included a number of angels who preferred to stay anonymous, according to Audette-Bourdeau. The seed round closed at the end of April.
Alongside expansion to the US, Welbi plans to use the money to triple its team from 11 to 30 people by the end of 2022.
Two board members will join Welbi. Stephen Robertson is a former founder of Careworx, a startup with a platform that provides a suite of managed services for mid-market and senior care businesses. Audette-Bourdeau noted that Robertson brings a lot of knowledge about the senior care space, and how to grow a company into one that’s successful. She noted Welbi is still finalizing the details as to the second person joining, so the individual is currently undisclosed.
Welbi is on its way to supporting 350 retirement care communities by the end of the year, according to Audette-Bourdeau, who said the startup has commitments to reach close to 500 communities for next year.
“We’re growing fast,” she added, noting that Welbi charges each community for the product by the month per resident. “We have a product that has market fit.”
With Welbi, home care residents fill out a profile detailing such things as their past history and hobbies. The data is aggregated and used to start recommending others with similar interests that they can meet. “We can make those correlations between residents to make better introductions and ensure better integration to those residents within the community,” Audette-Bourdeau said.
It can also help home care staff organize activities to draw residents from their rooms into social settings. For example, if 50 percent of residents enjoy hockey, then staff might organize a hockey watching party. They track attendance at the events to see who is attending and who isn’t. If a resident isn’t participating, staff might look at trying to put together a different activity that the resident enjoys in order to ensure they’re engaged.
“We’ve built that product with our users knowing that they were having issues every single day trying to provide the care that they wanted to provide because they were overwhelmed,” Audette-Boudeau noted. “Because of the fact we built the product with them and for them, it has given us this edge on the market right now where we know everyone we’re calling is having this issue and that they need our solution to get it fixed.”
While Audette-Boudeau said some other solutions exist on the market, she claimed that none have Welbi’s approach of using collected data to provide a personalized experience.
Welbi marks Audette-Boudeau’s third business. Previously, she worked in marketing, and also ran a goalie camp for ringette players. But she told BetaKIt: “I always knew I wanted to have a bigger impact.”