A few years ago, Kian Saneii watched his parents, both in their 70s, help manage the care of his nonagenarian grandmother. Seeing his father call her several times a day to check on her and remind her to take her medications, he thought, There has to be a better way.
He knew his family was facing an increasingly common dynamic. The graying of the U.S. is accelerating: Washington, D.C., research organization the Population Reference Bureau estimates that the country's 65-and-older population will grow from its current 40 million to 89 million by 2050. As the population ages, there will be more caregivers looking to manage seniors' needs while attempting to help them maintain some independence for as long as possible.
After nearly a year of research, in 2009 Saneii launched Independa, a technology firm that helps seniors (and their caregivers).
Independa's telecommunications platform works on telephones, computers and tablets. The basic service uses any telephone to deliver reminders about medications and attending appointments. The Angela platform focuses on connection; an individual can get a telephone reminder about a family member's birthday with a prompt to press a button to connect.
The Independa platforms allow people who know nothing about technology to use a touchscreen device or TV to connect to the internet, video chat or Facebook, reducing social isolation and possible incidences of depression. The platform also has games and puzzles for entertainment.
Before launching Independa, Saneii held key management roles at two Southern California tech companies, Websense and IPNet Solutions. His reputation in the local business community aided the firm, says Robert Holmen, managing director of Miramar Venture Partners in Corona del Mar, Calif. When Saneii began to look for seed funding, Holmen was immediately interested, both because of Saneii's business acumen and because medical IT is the focus of some of Miramar's investments. Independa closed a $1.6 million seed round of funding in September 2011, led by Miramar and City Hill Ventures, a San Diego venture capital firm. The investment team has authorized Independa to raise an additional $600,000 in seed funding thanks to ongoing interest from investors. In 2012, Independa will work on a $5 million Series A funding round.
Independa is using the funding for product development and to foster potential partnerships. Saneii is particularly enthusiastic about efforts to further develop the company's Artemis platform, which monitors measurements important for managing chronic disease, such as blood pressure and weight. The company is working on integrating this platform with wireless health devices and home sensors, such as blood pressure monitors, glucometers and scales. Once integrated, important health information will be reported to caretakers, insurance companies and healthcare providers. The service will also provide a communication method for seniors in distress to call for help.
"We don't think 'I've fallen and I can't get up' is the first line of defense anymore," Saneii says. "We know we can do a much better job as a society and use technology to help everyone's comfort and decrease the costs by keeping people independent longer."
Corrections & Amplifications: An earlier headline on this article incorrectly identified Independa as a franchise. It is a ventured-backed technology company.