What does a stylish, wearable fitness tracker, a successful college football program, and a well-spoken Georgian all have in common? They’re a source of innovation in senior wellness.
Ty Frix is the well-spoken co-founder of Ichor, a startup company featured at LeadingAge’s Startup Garage in Indy. LeadingAge shared startup companies “driving innovation and adoption in all the most exciting emerging categories” at the 2016 conference. The Startup Garage was a highlight of our Indy trip this Fall!
Ichor’s recent entry into the senior market followed a successful launch into college football and other athletic programs. Founded by two former University of Georgia football players, Ty Frix and Andrew Johnson, Ichor claims to “increase the longevity of guests’ stay by keeping them happy and healthy. Motivate guests by keeping track of their progress and rewarding them for their effort. Keep families in constant contact with their loved ones and allow them to stay updated with the guest’s progress“. How are they achieving this?
Listen to our interview with Ty:
Fitness Tracker Data & Predictive Analytics
Dan: This is Dan Winegarden with CCRC LifeCast. We are at LeadingAge 2016 in Indianapolis today and we’re talking with Ty Frix of Ichor in the Startup Garage. Ty, we want to hear a little bit about what’s the pain point that you solve and who is your target customer?
Ty: We work with high-end Assisted Living and Independent Living communities across the southeast. Our pain point really began in college athletics. We work with college athletics departments from the East Coast to the West Coast.
We’re all ex-college athletes and we saw a need to do performance and recovery monitoring on and off the field for our college athletes. There’s a big lack of communication between the athletes and the coaches as to exactly how hard the athletes work when they leave the building. And the other twenty hours of the day and everything that goes on…and all the different ways student athletes are pulled.
What we do is use off-the-shelf wearable devices like Fitbit and Apple Watch and other things that our athletes already have, to build a wellness data aggregation and analytics platform for our coaches to gain more insights into what their athletes are actually doing when they leave the building.
About six months ago we were approached by a couple of senior living communities in Atlanta to do the same thing there. They said, “Hey we want to put Fitbits on our residents but we have no way of using the data. Can you come in and give us your analytics platform so we can aggregate and actually use the data that our residents will be gathering with those devices?”
Dan: That’s actually an excellent market space. One of the things that you see in medicine, with the advent of remote monitoring and a lot of cloud-based data collection is…previously, we tended to get a little bit of data in snapshots, when people were in a clinical setting but as soon as they walk out the door, patient compliance went to ‘hell-in-a-handbasket.’ And we didn’t know what was going on. So it sounds like that same problem was showing up with coaches and athletes. And senior wellness.
Compliance Is A Huge Issue
Ty: You’re exactly right. And even in this industry, resident compliance is a huge issue. Take for example the fall alarm detectors that every community has. A lot of those alarms stay hanging on a door. Compliance is a very hard thing to tackle. But when you use devices the families have and use and love and understand. That they’re buying for their grandparents for Christmas. And grandparents see their grandkids are using in athletics. We use the same devices that kids have that are hooked up to their smartphones. It really eliminates the compliance problem [with both age groups]. They have and love those devices for a myriad of other reasons. We’re primarily an analytics platform that takes and makes use of all the valuable data that they’re gathering.
The Power of Data
Dan: So tell us a little bit about that. The power of data analytics. Can you do benchmarking, so that you can tell how you’re doing versus everybody else? Can you drill down to the individual level?
Ty: All of that stuff. Actually with our analytics platform we’ve been able to prove that we can show when injuries are about to happen in the college athletics world, using benchmarking (or predictive analytics). We do a lot of predictive analytics in that world and it’s really powerful predictive analytics. And in this [senior services] world, we think we can do the exact same thing. But instead of looking at my son tearing an ACL we’re looking at when somebody is going to have a slip and fall or other things like that. And those things can all be tied to trends in sleep and heart rate and activity levels.
Dan: So can you share a little bit about your strategic partners in Atlanta?
I don’t know if I can or not. But but I will say this. We’re working with several communities in and around Atlanta. They are Assisted and Independent communities. We have one CCRC that we’re working with in Atlanta that’s tied to Emory. That’s been our first foray into the CCRC market. We’re still learning. But it seems like there really is some value here.
The Ability to Predict
Dan: The ability to predict who is most at risk so that you can concentrate assistive resources before the crisis is an emerging theme. Whether it’s in health care or whether it’s in senior care. We’re trying to shift the point of service to lower intensity venues . We’re trying to be more preventive, more proactive and less reactive. Because if you’re reacting in the emergency room it’s the most expensive result.
Ty: Another great thing that a lot of people discount in college athletics is that to just get the athlete through the door you have to keep a mom and dad happy back at home. And so you know we have a family application that allows mom and dad to keep track of their son [or daughter] and see how everything’s going. And we do the same thing in this [senior services] market.
Dan: So, the distant daughter or son can see how Mom or Dad are doing.
Ty: Exactly right, they can now see how Mom and Dad are doing and how they stack up to everybody else in the community. Not specifically how another person is doing, but to the community averages and all the different benchmark data points. So they know, hey mom is doing great! Or Mom’s declining. All that kind of good stuff.
Four Athens Incubator
Dan: So you are a product of any of the University’s or other accelerator or incubator programs?
Ty: We came out of the University of Georgia. We were part of a couple of those at the University of Georgia. We’re now in a startup Incubator there called Four Athens. I think Athens, Georgia is one of the greatest place places for a startup. Rents are cheap. There’s a ton of great talent from the University. Everybody is really willing to help. We have an office right in the middle of downtown with this incubator that costs less than probably a one room apartment does three or four miles off campus, fully furnished and everything. Pretty awesome.
Dan: So you come out of that environment. Share with us your unique value proposition.
Our grandparents are seniors. They don’t want to wear an ugly piece of medical monitoring equipment – Ty Frix
Ty: In college athletics our unique value proposition that is we can go in and provide predictive analytics in a compliant manner. That’s the biggest thing.
College athletes will not wear an ugly piece of equipment 24/7. No matter what you tell them. Not matter how many time you run them… it is just not going to happen. And so we go in and we give them a new Apple Watch or a Fitbit and it is the greatest thing that they’ve gotten and they wear it and they never take it off! Then we [Ichor, the coaches and the folks] get access all those powerful predictive analytics.
And this [senior services] space is exactly the same thing. Our grandparents are seniors. They don’t want to wear an ugly piece of medical monitoring equipment. We go in and we give them a nice pretty piece of jewelry that’s a watch and has all that powerful stuff packaged into it. They never even have to know about.
Dan: So do you have a marketing and or availability to individuals? You mention that family members have this interest in monitoring mom and dad that may be a hundred miles away.
Ty: Right now we have that built out and it’s only available in our community sector. So son or daughter can monitor mom and dad if they’re part of the community. In the next couple of months, we are going to have a product that’s out for individuals in their home that will be centered around the same thing and even do some more cool stuff.
Dan: So this is kind of self-interest here but one of the reasons we’re in this market space and interviewing is we’re kind of a classic sandwich generation baby boomers and that we’re taking care of our adult parents in retirement. But it’s also influencing our view of what we want to do for our future retirement. We can see a definite market for that. Even our folks. That’s interesting in that caretaking for older parents space.
Ty: In that space what do you think the biggest need is?
Dan: You know the fact that you already have the communication worked out — you’re relying on their smartwatch and smartphone type of technology. What people need is medication reminders and [remote] checking [for compliance]. Even if it’s like take a picture that you took the medications.
Ty: That is exactly what we do in college athletics and taking a picture of pills. We have a platform built out so a coach can say, hey you’re on our meal checklist. Kids go into the dining hall and they get prompted to log their meal. They take a picture of it and it stores it in a back end system so the coach can go review those meals at any point in time.
Medication and Nutrition Management
Dan: And so medication and nutrition management are huge. The passive collection of the activity level of “Did you get out walk today?” is great. And there are some studies done on what are acceptable wearables. So pendants that look like medical devices are not really popular with elderly and they don’t want to look any sicker than anybody else. So using consumer level devices for the hardware makes perfect sense and it also keeps you out of the hardware business, which constantly evolves. And the power is in the data. So I like that business model quite a bit!
Ty: I appreciate it. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But so far so good!
Dan: So what’s revenue or your future look like for the company?
Ty: So right now we’re a software as a service product. We are a recurring revenue monthly, per resident (or athlete) per month as our model. We have signed deals where it’s a community-wide license fee per year. We’re growing in the athletics world. We work with colleges from the East Coast to the west coast. It’s been great. We’ve been there for about a year and a half. Revenue is good.
Dan: Have you had first round funding?
Ty: Yes, We took our first round funding about two years ago. We made our first revenue about a year ago. And we’ve been growing ever since. In the senior living space, we’ve been in the senior living space only about three months. We’ve been looking at the senior living space for about six months and we’re already making revenue in this space as well.
Dan: So two years from now, five years from now, what do you see? How do you scale?
Ty: I don’t know.
Dan: Is this grow with a major strategic partner or multiple strategic partners?
Ty: We are looking for strategic partners for some of our next initiatives. And those deal with the kind of real-time location and RFID type stuff. We have a couple of those we’ve been talking to and I think we’ve got a really good plan built out in that space. It will be very interesting. Right now we’re looking to bring on some strategic mentors in the senior living space to really help guide us through the next couple of years of growth.
Dan: Okay. Excellent. Very good.
Our Conclusion: Fitness Tracker and Seniors
Is there a spot for Ichor in the Seniors market? We liked the focus on data aggregation and using it for predictive analytics. It will have a long-tail future even as the fitness tracker design/market continue to evolve.
We’ll share some of our conclusions about Ichor and the other participants in LeadingAge16 Startup Garage in a subsequent column. For now, it’s sufficient to say we think Ichor is on to a huge opportunity in a senior wellness market, hungry for data and predictive analytics. It’s also interesting that there is so much in common between athletics and senior wellness.
Best of luck to you Ty Frix and Ichor. We’re betting there will be a spot for Ichor in this market!