It’s estimated that by 2050 the number of people over 65 will be double today’s figure. And with people living longer and the population ageing, there’s increasing pressure on already strained care systems.
Birdie, a London-based startup, thinks it can help. The platform, which helps care providers to plan, monitor and assess patients digitally, has just raised $11.5m in a round led by Index Ventures.
The investment comes against a backdrop, the company’s CEO Max Parmentier says, of a lack of funding and tech innovation into elderly care. While healthtech has seen record levels of investment lately, the number of startups working on caretech is still low.
Caretech includes care coordination apps, as well as tech for use in nursing and retirement homes.
“The question of ageing is a fascinating one, because of the magnitude of the problem it’ll present,” Parmentier tells Sifted.
“We’ve got to serve the older generation better, and we’re failing a bit on that on the innovation side. There’s been so little investment into caretech compared to healthtech.”
Innovations in the wider health industry, such as the shift to decentralised care and telemedicine, are slowly starting to impact care.
How Birdie works
At present, the at-home care industry is very reliant on pen and paper, Parmentier says. Care agencies will send different carers into people’s homes, sometimes up to three times a day.
“From planning the care, to reporting visits, everything is done on paper, which creates a lot of friction and time wasted on admin,” he says.
“If you see a home care agency you’re going to see a backroom with piles and piles of archives that people are editing all day long.”
Birdie centralises this information into an app, where carers check in and check out, get prompted on tasks that need doing, and can report details about a patient to a central system.
The idea is to save care workers time on admin and organisation, which they can spend with the patients. The app also analyses the input data to flag patients at risk of things like falls or depression.
Birdie’s work culture
Birdie’s doing something different in terms of bringing funding and tech into the care industry; but it’s also doing a number of things differently in the way it operates as a company.
It practices “radical transparency”, where all information in the company is open to everyone, from everyone’s salary, to how much money is in the bank.
“It brings a feeling of ownership and trust,” says Parmentier. “We say we’re all CEOs, we shape the culture together. Everybody is empowered, and everybody understands what’s at stake.”
It also means that all conversations between leadership are visible to all (besides HR or legal matters). The company monitors the use of private Slack channels.
“If we don’t feel comfortable sharing something, then we have to ask the question, why?” says Parmentier.
The company practices “radical candour”, a leadership style popularised by coach and former Google employee Kim Scott that encourages employees to critique each other in a healthy way.
It’s a principle often espoused by tech startups and VCs. At Birdie, employees are asked to rate themselves and each other on their ability to be candid, “to make sure people challenge each other constantly.”
Does that lead to better tech?
“The question that I’ve had many times is, does it help the business?” Parmentier tells Sifted.
Yes, he says. Staff feel empowered and feel that they have a stake in making the company better, something which comes across when they talk to care providers.
“When they feel that they have in front of them someone, a sales person, a product manager, or someone else, who has the same values in terms of care and responsibility, they resonate better.”
It’s also helped the team be more resilient throughout the pandemic, he says, with high levels of solidarity and support between staff.
Parmentier admits that keeping a culture of flat hierarchy and radical candour could be tricky as the company grows.
They operate a remote-first policy, recently hiring people in Lagos, for example, but he questions how easy it’ll be to keep a company culture going if people are fully remote.
Parmentier says he’s not sure how the culture will change as the company grows. “It’s a bit of an experiment, but so far, it’s working.”