We raised $10 million and are partnering with multiple health insurance plans to cure the loneliness epidemic
The idea behind Papa was born three years ago, when my family hired a college student to assist my aging grandfather, who we called Papa, with basic tasks around the house, and to keep him company during the stretches of time when we couldn’t be with him.
Seeing the positive impact these social interactions had on his general health and wellbeing, the idea behind Papa was born.
One of our first customers, Barbara Carol Marks, originally contacted us because she wanted company on Christmas. We matched her with a set of college students, who we call Papa Pals, to serve as her companions and to help her with basic tasks. Today, she continues to rely on her Papa Pals to help her run errands and take her to the hair salon.
We’ve come a long way since then.
Today, Papa announced that we’ve raised $10 million, led by venture capital fund Canaan with additional investment from Melinda Gates’ fund, Pivotal Ventures; and reinvestments from Alexis Ohanian’s fund Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, and Sound Ventures. We also announced partnerships with multiple large health insurance plans, which will make Papa’s services available to their Medicare Advantage members.
This is an important moment for our company. With new funding and health plan partnerships, we will be able to expand our services to older adults in 25 states by the end of next year — a giant step forward in realizing our vision to end the loneliness epidemic in America.
Tackling loneliness by creating intergenerational connections is core to Papa’s mission.
Loneliness is more than just a feeling. It’s a growing epidemic that has serious negative health consequences for those who experience it. Researchers have found that being lonely has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, and that people who experience loneliness face a 29% increase in risk of death¹. Seniors are at the highest risk of social isolation — according to a recent survey, nearly half of all Americans report that they are lonely².
Because social isolation is not a disease that can be cured with traditional medicine, combatting the loneliness epidemic requires creative approaches to building meaningful social connections for those who need them most.
We founded Papa to do just that. By connecting older adults in need of companionship and assistance with basic tasks, to college students who can support them — Papa fills a massive void in care for seniors who want to live independently but still need support. Papa matches our Papa Pals to older adults who need assistance with transportation, house chores, technology lessons, and other services. We provide the technology needed for both groups to manage their experience, including a member app where seniors and caregivers can request visits, and an app for Papa Pals to track and manage their visits. We also have a concierge team to provide older adults with access to Papa’s services in the way they feel most comfortable, including a simple phone call.
We are leveraging the tools of digital healthcare to bring our services to our members. But it’s the Papa Pals themselves who are the heart and soul of what we offer, providing much-needed friendship to the older adults they support.
The data we’ve collected from our members suggests we’re making a big impact — 56.7 percent of seniors enrolled in Papa report feeling less lonely after enrolling in the program.
As of today, Papa is available for seniors in 14 states. By 2020, thanks to our new partnerships with these healthcare plans, we expect to off our services in 25 states. And we’ll continue to work to expand until we are can reach all American seniors who need us.
I’m very proud of the team we’ve built to make these interactions possible. I met my co-founder and current Chief Operating Officer, Alfredo Vaamonde, when Papa was little more than an idea, and together with our team we have built the company into what it is today.
I speak for all of us in saying that we are beyond proud of what we’ve already accomplished, and optimistic about where we are headed.
-Andrew Parker is the founder and CEO of Papa