Miami-based startup Papa has raised another $ 18 million as it looks to expand its business, connecting senior Americans and families with physical and virtual companions, whom the company calls “buddies.”
The company’s services are already available in 17 states and Papa will expand to another four states in the coming months, according to CEO Andrew Parker.
Parker started the business after reaching out to Facebook to find someone who could serve as a friend to his own grandfather in Florida.
After realizing that there was a need among senior residents across the state for companionship and assistance that differed from the type of personal care that would normally be provided by a caregiver, Parker launched the service. The type of company Papa̵
With the social isolation as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are even more reasons for the company’s service, says Parker. About half of adults consider themselves lonely, and social isolation increases the risk of death by 29%, according to statistics from the company.
“We created Papa with the sole purpose of supporting older adults and their families during the aging journey,” Parker said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the conditions that have led to loneliness and isolation, and we are honored to be able to offer solutions to help families during this difficult time.”
Dad’s friends are undergoing a rigorous screening process, according to Parker, and only about 8% of all applicants become friends.
These buddies receive an hourly rate of about $ 15 per hour and have the opportunity to receive bonuses and other incentives, and are now available for virtual and personal sessions with the older adults they are matched with.
“We have about 20,000 potential dad friends who apply each month,” says Parker. In the early days of the company, only college students accepted to work as buddies, but now the company accepts a wider range of potential employees, with assistants from 18 to 45 years. The average age, says Parker, is 29 years.
Papa monitors and manages all virtual interactions between company employees and their fees, and reports issues that may be raised in discussions, such as depression and potential problems accessing food or medication. The monitoring is designed to ensure that meal plans, therapists or medication can be made available for company fees, Parker said.
Now that there is $ 18 million more in financing for the company to work with thanks to the new leading investor Comcast Ventures and other supporters – including Canaan, Initialized Capital, Sound Ventures, Pivotal Ventures, the founders of Flatiron Health and their investment group Operator Partners, along with Behance founder Scott Belsky – Papa focuses on developing new products and expanding the scope of its services.
The company has so far raised $ 31 million and expects to operate in all 50 states by January 2021. The company’s complementary services are available to members through health plans and as an employer benefit.
“Papa enables a growing number of older Americans to age at home, while reducing the cost of health care care and creating meaningful jobs for health care professionals,” said Fatima Husain, principal at Comcast Ventures, in a statement. “