Many seniors were isolated from daily interactions with family and friends before the pandemic struck. Today, COVID surges in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and cities around the world have amplified this already dangerous trend in senior isolation.
Upward AgeTech company HeyHerbie is committing itself to enhancing this population's social capital - pandemic or no pandemic - starting with a technology they already know and understand.
Ashish Mudgal, founder and CEO of HeyHerbie!, shares about his mission-driven company in the latest Upward Labs Spotlight interview.
UPWARD: Give us the HeyHerbie! elevator pitch.
Ashish Mudgal: In America, there is an average of 8 devices per household. For Americans over 65, their main device is a television: watching TV for an average of 50 hours per week. HeyHerbie! turns existing TVs into a platform for video-chatting on the biggest screen in the home. With one click of the remote, HeyHerbie! lets you connect with your team of people on your TV, safely and securely.
U: What drives you and your team to accomplish your mission?
AM: In 2018, I joined X Genesis Denver to solve a “wicked problem” as part of their health cohort around the lack of affordable care. This problem really resonated with me as I thought about my parents in India. My mom - one of the most dynamic people in my life - developed rheumatoid arthritis in the late 1990s, which limited her mobility and impacted her health due to newfound isolation. I was committed to resolving her isolation and enhancing her social capital, which is where the idea of HeyHerbie! was born. A lot of people don’t know that social isolation has similarly negative effects on health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. This is a major problem for our elderly population and those suffering from other health afflictions that decrease their social interactions over extended periods of time.
Our goal is to offer a plug-and-play, easy to use experience that makes the facility staff’s lives easier, as well as the lives of the residents. - Ashish Mudgal, Founder of HeyHerbie!
U: Why Upward Labs?
AM: First, I was eager to bring HeyHerbie! from the midwest to the east coast - Upward Labs enabled me to do that. Within the first two weeks of the program, I was amazed by the amount of partner options I was faced with - I was really not expecting such a willingness of the partners to help as I was imagining the next phase of HeyHerbie!
U: Tell us about your current pilots.
AM: We are currently piloting with Hartford Healthcare and Priority Life Care. We wanted to focus on a very specific part of retirement and continuum of care communities, for example, independent or assisted living. In these areas, the clientele has a very basic understanding of technology, they are somewhat active and seek communication with their families, and vice versa. Our goal is to offer a plug-and-play, easy to use experience that makes the facility staff’s lives easier, as well as the lives of the residents. HeyHerbie! will enhance the residents’ social capital specifically by increasing their participation in community events and communication with their families.
U: What is the key takeaway for potential clients, partners, and users of your product?
AM: This space is very technical, and HeyHerbie! solves for the usual frustrations around technology for seniors without making our product feel like the “dumbed down” version. We have found that users really do feel hip among their peers when using our tech, which is so important to our mission to leave seniors feeling emotionally empowered and connected.
U: Tell us about you.
AM: Well, I am the fireman of the team! Every startup has a fireman. I wake up and problem-solve. But I don’t get rattled easily, and I believe that’s because I regularly practice yoga and meditation. Last year I missed maybe 5 total days of yoga.
HeyHerbie! is solving for senior isolation and quality of life while away from their loved ones. Learn more about their plug and play product here.
About Upward Labs
Upward Labs is a Connecticut-based venture fund that has developed an ideal ecosystem to fast-track AgeTech and PropTech startups in the U.S. market. The program matches each startup with decision makers from leading Fortune 100 and 500 companies in healthcare and real estate industries. The startups and their corporate advisors work together for six months to first identify the use cases that prove the greatest commercial potential, and then test them in the Labs' numerous sandbox buildings and facilities. As the pilots deliver data and results, each Lab and its advisors work with the startups to refine their product and offering, thus enabling rapid growth and commercial traction. Learn more at www.moveupward.city/startups.