The Disruptors – marketing Age-Tech Start-up

Innovative companies are working hard to tackle common problems faced by the silver generation, but how do they bring their ‘age tech’ products to market?  Gillian Thornton spoke to a series of entrepreneurs to learn more.

KEYLU – digital life planner,

Co-founder: Ian Dibb

When Ian Dibb lost both his sister and mother within two years of one another, it didn’t take long for him to realise how difficult life can be for those who are left behind.  Not just in terms of planning funerals and dealing with the estate administration/probate whilst grieving for your loved one, but also in accessing precious photos, videos and written memories from happier times.

So in 2019, Ian launched Keylu, with his co-founders Sarah Wilkinson and Shaun Cook. The name Keylu is a combination of ‘Key’ (Key information) and ‘Teylu, from the Cornish word for family.

Based in Charlestown on the Cornish coast, Keylu provides a secure online space for important documents that can be accessed anywhere at any time, as well as for capturing precious videos and photos. No matter what life stage you are at – from student to retiree – Keylu doubles as a digital life planner, helping to remove the stress of managing our day-to-day. Keylu also offers the ability to share this vital information with your Trusted Contacts.

‘As a dad myself, I wanted to ensure that my daughter had a library of precious memories that I have captured with her, as well as access to any important documents she may need.  Our goal at Keylu is to help people to simplify their lives now, whilst also making life easier for their loved ones in the future.

‘Initially, Keylu was launched as a direct-to-consumer platform, however, given the attention we received from organisations in the legal, financial, charity and corporate sectors, we pivoted our focus to work in partnership with these organisations.  We are in conversation with multiple leading organisations including leading banks, insurance companies and financial organisations, who are looking to embrace Keylu for both employees and customers.

‘We are seeing a global interest in Keylu, however our focus is on the UK market for the next 12 months. If you are able to use a banking app, you will have no problem using the secure Keylu platform or mobile app.’

HAZEL – help with choosing your perfect home

Co-founder: Mark Whitcroft

Finding the right name for a new product is an essential part of any marketing campaign, so co-founders Mark Whitcroft and Shoomon Perry weren’t precious about changing the brand name for their property search service before a soft launch in July 2023.   Many older people struggle with the decisions involved in finding the ideal property for the next stage of life, but the original company name – Downsizeable – didn’t feel quite right.

‘Pensions and equity release were well covered in the market, but nobody was addressing the big property decisions faced by older people,’ explains Mark.  ‘But our early market research showed that many older people aren’t downsizing at all.  They may simply be looking at a different location or style of property, or even adapting their current home to suit changing needs.’

Statistics show that one-third of UK homeowners over 65 live on their own and that two-thirds of that group are women.   Even in couples, women are often the main influencer when it comes to moving house.  And so Mark and Shoomon renamed their new service Hazel, a traditional name that their target audience could relate to and – most importantly – remember.

A market research grant from the UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing enabled the two finance and technology experts to delve deeper into the needs of their target market, devising a digital system that would help consumers to make property decisions and even find their dream home.   The service is free to users, Hazel’s income coming from financial service firms and other trusted partners.

Facebook ads are already proving successful and future campaigns will include the broadsheet property supplements.  But although it’s early days for the start-up company, Hazel’s founders are already seeing hundreds of customers using the site.  ‘The “older adult” market splits into many different sub-groups and we plan to cater for a number of these,’ says Mark.

YOURSTRIDE – personal alarm watch

Co-founder: Adi Kasliwal

Daily problems faced by their own grandparents were the inspiration for young entrepreneurs Adi Kasliwal and Ewan Marshall to solve a problem affecting older people.   And in January 2019, after extensive talks with their target market, the friends launched their Personal Alarm Watch, now renamed YourStride.

‘It’s a discreet watch that gets you emergency help at the touch of a button wherever you are,’ explains Adi.  Whilst many pendant versions already existed, Adi and Ewan wanted something that was not only less obvious, but would always be on the wearer’s person.

‘We were confident we were meeting a need but marketing it was a new challenge.  Our previous product was sold direct to the B2B sector and this time we were targeting consumers.  So we started with Google which involves minimal financial outlay in the early stages.  If someone is searching for, say, “personal alarm for my mother”, we would only pay if they then clicked on our link.  Where you appear on the ranking then depends on how much you are willing to bid.’

The team gradually scaled up their digital marketing through other channels such as Bing which attracted a different and mostly older audience.  ‘But it requires continual management because your competition changes and so, therefore do your campaigns.  We then moved into print advertising through magazines such as My Weekly, The People’s Friend, Yours and national papers.  This can be hugely expensive but has worked well for us.’

YourStride speak to every purchaser shortly after an order to ensure they are happy and to help them get the most from the service.  Feedback and sales figures prove overwhelmingly that the watch meets a real need.  ‘But best thing of all is hearing the impact it has on people’s lives,’ says Adi. ‘And to know that we are now top personal alarm service on Trustpilot.

Interviews by Gillian Thornton.

Read Part 2