Media4Care: A senior-friendly tablet for more happiness!
“Today, I would describe our organisation as a technology enterprise with a strong social impact feature.” - Marc Aurel Engels
The idea to start Media4Care came from a situation within your family. How did the experience with the dementia of your grandfather shape your mind-set and inspire you to develop an entrepreneurial solution?
When visiting the nursing home, I quickly realised how difficult it can be for relatives and professional caregivers to interact with dementia patients. My siblings and I always felt an immense pressure whenever we were about to visit my grandfather. Will he recognise us, what will we do, how long shall we stay, and which mood will he be in? One day, I brought a tablet with me and showed him pictures of the summers in his holiday house on Lake Garda and a YouTube video about sailing. I was surprised how curious he became, although his illness was much advanced. It probably also had to do with the luminance of the tablet. The beauty of it was that the other residents showed significant interest, too. Something new was happening. This made me aware of the fact that the tablet can be a wonderful tool to make these visits easier. The idea to support the professional caregiver came very quickly, too. On average, each helper has to take care of 20 residents per day while trying to offer value to them, for example by playing a card game or reading the newspaper aloud. A well configured tablet with suitable content can be a great support in achieving this.
So you quickly jumped from your personal solution to an entrepreneurial vision.
Yes. After my second bar exam, I was lucky to be in a situation where I wanted to become much more entrepreneurial. I was aware of these kinds of problems, since the dementia of my grandfather was a constant issue within my family. My vision was to allow caregiver to work with the tablet on a daily basis and to activate the residents. My thinking was: If the problem is big enough and I can solve it with a business model, then I’ll go for it.
Your idea includes a double impact dimension.
Did you primarily target caregivers and relatives or did you have the improvement of the patients’ condition in mind when developing the concept?
An interesting question. In fact I remember that I rather put myself in the shoes of my grandfather in the beginning. I focused on his retreat and the difficulties that everyone around him seemed to have when dealing with his condition. As a consequence, I initially tried to sell the solution as an improvement for dementia patients. Yet the breakthrough only came when we positioned it as a solution for caregivers. Suddenly, the nursing homes started to take us seriously. And the side effect is great: If caregivers are motivated to activate patients with appropriate tools, everybody benefits: the caregivers, the nursing homes, the residents and the relatives. Had I developed a product with a strong impact on patients’ dementia but with a complex and time-consuming handling for caregivers, it wouldn’t have worked.
How did you translate the concept into a business model?
First, I sat together with a team of software and content developers. Our initial core concept for the product was that if residents react to the tablets with curiosity, we have to offer content that they are able to consume and find inspiring. We compiled and produced proprietary texts, films, photo streams, games, music collections and similar content.
And your second core concept?
When implementing our offering, it was important for us to convey that we don’t offer an online media centre or app, but an entire package with preinstalled software, content and tablet. Our customers should be able to start immediately, without having to go to the maintenance guy, get Wi-Fi access and download content from the internet. We wanted to remove any technical hurdles right away. This is why we included an insurance policy for the tablet, in case it should be dropped and break, as well as a two-week trial period and a moderate rental agreement without the need to buy the tablet.
Did you pilot your solution in the nursing home where your grandfather was staying?
Yes, and we had a great experience there: After the first two months, the head of the nursing home operator came to us and asked if we wanted to implement our solution in the other 27 nursing homes of the group.
You founded Media4Care in 2013. What were the most important first milestones that you have achieved?
After we secured this first customer in 2013, we were able to participate in the Pro7 Sat1-Accelerator Program in early 2014. To see that others believe in our business model was a major inspiration to the entire team.
Another important milestone was the investment of Ananda Ventures in 2015. Until the summer of that year, we still visited every nursing home in person to sell our solution, until Johannes Weber gave me a much better idea. When he joined me on my trip during his due diligence, he came up with the suggestion to explain our product over the phone, since our customers can freely test it for two weeks anyway. Then we piloted this approach before the investment and it worked wonderfully. As a result, we were able to scale up to 1,000 paying nursing homes by the end of 2016 — a real quantum jump.
Such a degree of scaling is a huge success but probably was also a major challenge for your organisation.
Absolutely. Ananda Ventures helped us tremendously in pursuing this step: They showed us how to scale, but also gave us reasonable performance targets to implement the plan. Another investor would have probably been more risky and expected us to go full speed.
You are referring to traditional venture Capitalists
Yes. But the team of Ananda Ventures told us that there isn’t anything better than to define plans that we are able to fulfil with a clear conscience. As a result, we have achieved a very solid basis now and feel confident to think and act bigger.
I have the impression that you didn’t consider yourselves as a social enterprise in the beginning, correct?
This is true. When we started, we didn’t think about setting up a social enterprise. We simply wanted to do good by using entrepreneurial means. Only when we were looking for investors, we came across this label. Today, I would describe our organisation as a technology enterprise with a strong impact feature. Yet we regularly have to question and redefine our mission. This is an aspect in which Ananda Ventures supports us, too.
If you suddenly deliver your products to 1,000 nursing homes, you can easily develop the idea that it would be great to offer an accounting settlement software on top. There is definitely strong demand. But this creates the danger that you drift away from your core business. Regarding this aspect, the team of Ananda Ventures reminded us — rightfully so – to focus on our solution’s core benefit and to apply the brakes.
The classic allure of mission drift.
Correct. Of course, such a feedback can be inconvenient. But we are happy to have an investor on board who shares our international vision but also checks with us how we can first achieve our full potential in Germany. This was a positive surprise for us.
Marc Aurel Engels
Marc had the initial idea for Media4Care. The trigger to found the impact oriented enterprise came when he visited his grandfather, who suffered from dementia, in a nursing home. Marc is the first of two founders of Media4Care and acts as Managing Director for Product and B2B Sales. He studied law at the University of Konstanz and the Ludwig- Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, and is a qualified lawyer. Marc gained some experience in Berlin start-ups before founding Media4Care.