The Village Movement at UC-Berkeley
Helpful Village founder, Manuel Acevedo, made this week a public presentation as one of the 19 hottest Startups of UC-Berkeley and the whole University of California system.
LAUNCH is Berkeley’s leading accelerator, designed to transform early stage startups into fundable companies. From 130+ applications this year, their judges selected the 19 hottest startups in the UC system. Teams are paired with serial-entrepreneur mentors and are led through a rigorous curriculum by the acclaimed UC Berkeley Faculty. The three month long accelerator phase is designed to help UC startups grow quickly.
Why does UC-Berkeley care about the village movement ?
With baby-boomers now reaching retirement age, the senior population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as their counterparts in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population. This is what we call “Revolution Aging”.A
We know that 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, but our increasingly complex society threatens their autonomy. The best solution for this challenge, is for seniors to unite in mutual-help communities of seniors that want to age in their own homes. We call such a senior association a “Village”.
These villages are an innovative type of grassroots organization that has emerged in the last decade in the organizational field of support services and is rapidly growing.
The early days of the Village Movement
When the Village Movement was in its infancy, there was so much to do that the technology component was not priority number one. We can easily imagine how hard it is to create a new community, so creating a community concept was an daunting task that incidentally required the founders of the first village to do a few pivots to better match the actual needs of its members.
While putting everything together, the movement made a smart decision and chose an existing club technology online provider that somehow matched the needs of the first villages.
The success of the first village in Boston, attracted the attention of experts and media that were very interested about the seniors taking control of their life and suddenly an important number of villages started emerging all across the country.
Today, there are around 200 established villages and around 200 hundred other villages in the development process across the country. A national association, called Village-to-Village Network, provides help to assistance for founders of new villages in an ever increasing number of places.
Why Helpful Village ?
Now that the Village Movement has reached a critical mass and proved the interest and resourcefulness of the Village concept, it has attracted the attention of Silicon Valley and UC-Berkeley.
Manuel Acevedo, the founder of Helpful Village, was inspired to work on the aging space by his personal story with his mom reaching retirement age.
Manuel’s mom is only 63 and in his own words “the strongest woman on earth”.
When reaching retirement age, she couldn’t picture herself quitting her job and spending all day at home in front of her TV so it was time to look for a model that would allow her to be as helpful and socially active as she has always been, and no surprise the Village Movement was the perfect Model for her.
The mutual-help and trusted community principles of the Village Movement were perfect, but Manuel, who holds a Masters degree in Computer Science from one of the most prestigious European Universities (EPFL) and is a successful serial-entrepreneur could not understand why the villages were using such a a poor mix of technologies.
Modern day technology is instrumental to greatly simplify Village operations, require less office work and accelerate the inception of new villages.
So he started getting serious about it and gave himself a new mission:
Making villages more efficient and socially active !
The result of that process is a powerful product called HelpfulVillage.com and a strong vision of technology-enabled villages that got HelpfulVillage into the prestigious Launch program, the University of California Startup Accelerator.
The product is currently used in some of the most visionary villages of the Bay Area and is able to save them up to 75% of the office time that was previously required to match volunteer requests. Volunteers have powerful online services on their desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones that greatly simplify their service requests selection and a large range of new online services become available over time.
With HelpfulVillage, existing villages are now able to spend less time doing redundant tasks and can spend more time to take care of the community and the member.
What happened during the UC-Berkeley Launch Program
When Helpful Village was selected to join the UC-Berkeley program, they already had a strong product and vision so the 3 months spent with the UC-Berkeley Startup Accelerator program were put to good use to take Helpful Village to the next phase: growing the number of villages having access to their technology much faster.
HelpfulVillage received a great deal of support by prestigious UC-Berkeley professors and mentors that helped reshape the Helpful Village growth strategy.
Another, unexpected outcome of the UC-Berkeley program was improving the way they let non-villagers understand what they do and why is it so important to grow the Village Movement and make the model available to a larger number of seniors.
Letting more people know about the Village Movement
The last chapter of the UC-Berkeley Launch initiative was a public presentation in a packed room of investors and entrepreneurs at the Andersen Auditorium of the UC-Berkeley Haas Business School.
Manuel Acevedo made the presentation for Helpful Village, as one of the 19 hottest Startups from UC-Berkeley and the overall University of California system. He was able to inform this influential audience about the importance of the Village Movement and how HelpfulVillage.com is providing the best technology to make villages more efficient, easier to operate and more socially active.
The Village Movement and Helpful Village were able to raise awareness and attracted an enormous amount of interest of this demanding audience of entrepreneurs, social activists and investors coming from the whole Bay Area on a Movement that will grow increasingly powerful over the next few years.
So, what’s next ?
As we said earlier, the audience showed a lot of interest in what we are doing, they provided valuable feedback and some proactive members of the community promised to support HelpfulVillage going faster and further in the amount and quality of services offered to our senior population.
This is just the beginning, we now have a much better understanding of our space, of our potential, of our plan and we have also raised important expectations that we absolutely want to fulfill.
So we are now back to work, more passionate, more committed and energized than ever before to go back to our customers, our dear actual villages and work hand in hand with them to provide the best service possible to the largest amount of seniors.
Let’s build better and more efficient villages together!