Carewell, the family-run company with a mission to improve the lives of caregivers and their families has obtained over $ 5 million as VC funding from e.ventures, the strategic arm of the publishing company Bertelsmann and Levy of Primetime. Other partners in the round included Chewy.com’s former VP of growth marketing, Jason Klinghoffer, and Dia&Co founders Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert.
The website says it all-“Our story began with one goal: to find a way to provide better care for loved ones through easy, personalized service. As a family, we needed help and guidance on caregiving products and needed a trusted company that we could turn to for information, products, and reliable service. What we were looking for didn’t exist, so we created it, and Carewell was born.”
The company was in the spotlight as the Coronavirus pandemic leads to a greater need for care and compassion for the elderly, whom the virus hit the hardest. Personal protection kits were in greater demand and Carewell was the platform for caregivers to purchase vetted supplies at competitive prices.
Carewell, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, was co-founded by Bianca Padilla and Jonathan Magolnick, a husband-and-wife team who say they launched the company after Padilla found herself in the role of the informal family caregiver. The company has core values in family, service, dependability, and trust and strives to develop strong relationships with the families they serve.
Informal caregivers are a group separate from those who are professional caregivers, with one of the key differentiators being that the former are unpaid. It’s estimated there are some 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S., working out to some 20% of the population, with numbers still increasing. But as Padilla found out, even with these big numbers, there were precious few resources available to her to figure out best practices; and as an individual (not a nursing home, not a hospital, not an agency), there weren’t really places she could go online to buy supplies that she could trust to be good brands and good value.
And that’s how, in 2015, Carewell was conceived.
Padilla, who is the CEO, is clear about the vision of the company and does not view it as a commercial marketplace. “Carewell is an e-commerce site, so there are not any third-party product listings on the site,” she said.
“A huge part of the services we provide caregivers include researching and expertly vetting products before making them available for purchase. In partnership with manufacturers as well as our caregiver community, we offer a deeply curated product offering that addresses the unique challenges of caregivers and their loved ones. We want to ensure the quality of the entire customer experience, and maintain the integrity of the products being offered.”
And indeed, the company looks to be more than just a place to buy things which explains probably why e.ventures and Levy of Primetime, both with roots in publishing, were interested.
In addition to selling hygiene, home and personal care, meal, and other products, it also provides a series of guides intended to give information and advice to informal caregivers. They include subjects like getting around Medicare, dealing with mealtimes if someone has dementia, profiles of caregivers in the wider community, exercise ideas, and more.
“Carewell works specifically with the 53 million family caregivers taking care of their loved ones. Today, 90% of the care and support received by ill or disabled family members is provided by inexperienced family caregivers,” she said. “Almost half are providing complex medical or nursing tasks with no experience, so we cater to that audience. I saw this firsthand when my mother and I began taking care of my grandmother after knee surgery. We didn’t have the resources for guidance to really know what we were doing. That lack of education available for the caregiver community is why I started Carewell with my now husband.”
The COVID 19 pandemic saw the doubling of its revenues in the first month and since Feb nearly 40,000 people have purchased products on the site. The pandemic saw people preferring getting family members out of old age are care homes as the threat of spreading of infection was on the upswing. Also in general, closedowns lead a restricted social movement, and older members were looked up upon more than before.
Carewell has defined the economic need for such platforms that are curating products and offering them at competitive prices. The trend in healthcare and aging seem to point to more, not fewer, caregivers needing advice and supplies, and so that points to an interesting business opportunity for startups like this one.
Carewell estimates that some $88 billion is spent on caregiving products out-of-pocket versus $30 billion on products covered by insurance. “There’s a common misconception that insurance covers many caregiving products,” said Padilla. She added that with the exception of prescription medications, the vast majority of them are paid for out-of-pocket by family caregivers. We don’t work with insurers and are 100% cash pay, but most of our products are IRS-approved QMEs (qualified medical expenses), so HSA (healthcare savings account) funds can be used.
Five years ago, Bianca and Jonathan saw a need in the market, and that need is even more prominent today,” said David Beisel, a partner at NextView Ventures. “As the home care industry undergoes a rapid transformation and the number of unpaid family caregivers continues to climb, Carewell’s supplies, services, and support are of critical importance — and we see a tremendous opportunity for growth.” Beisel is being promoted as a board observer with this latest funding.
“Carewell is poised to become a national brand and top-level leader in the home care market,” said Mathias Schilling, co-founder and managing partner of e.ventures. “Through an empathetic approach and authentic customer engagement, they’ve formed a strong community and laid a solid foundation built on trust. We’re thrilled to support the Carewell team in expanding their impact and improving the everyday lives of an even greater number of caregivers.” Schilling too is joining the board of directors.
The pandemic has given a new ray of hope to the healthcare industry as people got sufficient time to ponder over how to rebuild a better life ahead. With investors pouring money and funds seeing the growth of e-commerce sites that address groups of people who have not been considered all that valuable in the past — in this case, the elderly and their unpaid caregivers — is one shining star in the dark night.