Dallas—It’s a fundamental lesson for entrepreneurs: Sometimes your expectations for your product and its market don’t work out.
“We had our sets of assumptions as far as what’s going to happen,” says Michael Walsh, founder and CEO of Cariloop, a Dallas startup whose software helps manage the care of seniors. “And then when you get out into the market, you realize that a lot of what you assumed, you missed something.”
Cariloop launched in 2014 with software that couldconnect users to a database of senior care providers—a list put together from those listed by state regulatory bodies—that includes adult care and long-term residential facilities. Users communicate their needs by completing a survey, then the software checks that information against the database and whittles down the options. The startup made money by charging the facilities a lead generation fee.
While the startup got a few hundred facilities to sign up and attracted some users, Walsh says a year ago, he and his fellow founders realized Cariloop was attempting to solve the wrong problem. “The problem is they have no idea where to start,” Walsh says. “When people are taking care of a parent or grandparent, it’s a lot more complex than even we realized.”
This summer, Cariloop switched gears. Instead of considering the facilities as the customer, Cariloop would focus on selling to the loved ones of elderly people. It wasn’t as simple as connecting users to a care facility, Walsh says—they needed help navigating an entirely new world. So, Cariloop changed its service, making the UX into a project management interface, something akin to Basecamp or Slack.
“This is for all our users to rally together in one place,” he says. “They can also store important documents that they need: insurance, legal documents, advanced directives, medication lists.”
Cariloop also provides its users with educational material and access to a “planning coach” that can help users work through the options depending upon their needs.
So who is willing to pay for this service? Walsh says analyzing user data from his company’s first year or so of operation yielded this key fact: Users are typically women, between 40 and 50 years of age, and they were logging onto Cariloop during the day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Walsh says the got the idea to approach the employers of this demographic. His pitch was basically, ‘Hey, these are the sort of people who are looking for these services during the workday. Why don’t you help your employees deal with these challenges?’
Cariloop’s message to employers is simple. “When this happens, and it will happen, there’s a high or increased risk of (Family Medical Leave Act) utilization, absenteeism, or turnover,” he says. “For a couple of dollars a month, you could offer this service to your employees.”
The startup charges companies $3 per employee per month and so far has signed up 12 companies with a combined 1,000 or so employees. He says these companies range from oil and gas companies to law and accounting firms. Cariloop has raised $1 million from angel investors and family offices. Walsh says the startup will seek Series A funding this fall.
Cariloop has 75 companies in the sales pipeline but that to truly scale up the business efficiently, Walsh says the startup has begun talking to benefits consulting companies and insurance firms. “These are folks that already have a whole book of business, providing health and dental plans to companies,” he says. “We’re working with them to get them excited about Cariloop and what our product can do for their clients.”
This content appears as it was originally published on XConomy.