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Sage notches $9M seed to be the "OS for elder care"

Illustration of a cane forming the center staff of a caduceus.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Sage, a startup hoping to replace nurse call systems at senior living facilities, notched $9 million in seed funding, CEO Raj Mehra tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Despite the growing population, elder care in the U.S. remains antiquated.

  • Most senior care facilities use a variety of analog tools to communicate and coordinate care — creating a window of opportunity for tech-forward startups like New York-based Sage.

Deal details: Goldcrest Capital led the round. Insiders ANIMO Ventures, Distributed Ventures and Merus Capital joined.

Context: There's been a lot of recent traction among startups aiming to keep people — seniors or otherwise — at home, but less activity among companies focused on improving senior care facilities. For instance:

  • Honor, a San Francisco-based provider of elder home care services, raised raised $70 million in Series E funding and $300 million in debt financing last October.
  • Tomorrow Health, a New York-based home care startup, raised $60 million in Series B funding in June.
  • Athelas, a Silicon Valley-based remote patient monitoring company, raised $132 million in January at a $1.5 billion valuation.
  • Papa, a Miami-based startup that pairs older adults and families with trained companions, raised $150 million in Series D funding last November.

💭 Our thought bubble: Sage could eventually be an M&A target for a nursing facility operator interested in using such a service to cut costs and improve outcomes.

By the numbers: In 2050, the number of people over age 65 is expected to hit roughly 84 million, almost double its estimated population of 43 million in 2012, per the U.S. Census.

One (un)fun thing: Mehra and co-founders Ellen Johnston and Matt Lynch met at Palantir Technologies, where Mehra was helping to build out the company's health care practice, and connected over similarly negative experiences with senior care.

  • When Mehra's grandmother, who had lived with his family for years, began to grow increasingly frail, his parents did their best to care for her but found themselves stressed and frustrated.
  • One day, she fell — and help didn't arrive in time.
  • "I thought to myself, everyone is doing their level-best here and everyone is still losing," Mehra says.

How it works: Sage's software aims to prevent emergencies by connecting older adults in senior care facilities to caregivers when they're in need. Its hardware replaces tools like pull cords and help buttons with press-able and voice-activated devices.

  • While caregivers can use Sage to coordinate their responses and triage care, care managers can review Sage's data to better understand how individuals' needs are changing over time and to assess how staff are performing.
  • The company currently has contracts with four health systems that account for roughly 20,000 residents.

What's next: Although Sage is starting in elder facilities, Mehra says he foresees a future for the company at hospitals and even, potentially, in the home.

  • "At the start of the pandemic we saw a light being shined on how bad the infrastructure at elder care facilities is," he says. "So while we might go into the home in the future, we felt compelled to start here."

🏠 The take home: Entrepreneurs across the U.S., driven by their own gloomy brushes with elder care, are increasingly pursuing tech-infused approaches to change the way older people are cared for.

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