Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator Startup grandPad Takes Strides in Senior Market

The mantra that drives Scott Lein, CEO and Co-Founder of GrandPad, to build intuitive, transparent, and engaging technology that enables seniors to enjoy life to the fullest.

The GrandPad tablet fills a key technological void: a mobile device that is not only user friendly for seniors, but truly connects seniors with their loved ones. Every aspect in the design of GrandPad has been tailored to suit the senior demographic, assuming absolutely zero prior computer experience, so much so that GrandPad stands by their “90/90” rule: A 90-year-old can fall in love with GrandPad within 90 seconds of opening the box. 90 seconds: the approximate length of time it takes to turn on and get through step two of an iPad set-up process.

How can a 90-year-old fall in love with GrandPad within 90 seconds of opening the box?

First, the device arrives pre-charged and instantly turns on; there is no “on” button. This alone prevents any negative first impressions with suspicions of complicated technology. Second, the tablet arrives pre-configured and set-up with ultra-fast Verizon 4G LTE connectivity. Absolutely no “set-up” for the GrandPad is required. Thus, during the 90 second trial window, rather than configuring Wi-Fi networks, setting up Apple IDs, etc., the senior is experiencing the feel of the device – a 7” tablet, in a non-slip case- and, using a special stylus designed for seniors, is interacting with the device by moving through the various easily seen applications.

GrandPad easily allows seniors to:

1)   place phone and video calls

2)   receive and send email via voice recognition

3)   view family photos and videos

4)   take and send pictures using the built-in camera

5)   see the current weather for each family member’s location

6)   play a variety of games

7)   listen to music

8)   “lookup” anything via Wikipedia

9)   and call an Uber.

The result? They fall in love. The countless pictures uploaded to Facebook and Instagram throughout the family get automatically pushed to GrandPad, making sure Grandma and Grandpa are constantly in the loop. They can place a hassle-free video call and easily stay involved and connected to their family. Finally, Grandma and Grandpa have a device that keeps them simply connected to their family.

The GrandPad Journey

After Scott first introduced his 80-year-old mother to Skype, the video calls were an instant hit and quickly became a regular part of their weekly routine. However, over time the calls that had brought so much joy to both Scott and his mother crept further and further apart. Something was always wrong. Skype needed to be updated. The network modem needed to be restarted. The PC froze. An unrelated application went awry and demanded precedence.

These “normal” issues are solved with secondhand precision by tech savvy “youngsters”, but present a very real roadblock for less computer literate seniors. Indeed, these challenges left Scott’s mother constantly confused and eroded her self-confidence. Skype video calls went from bringing joy to being psychologically and physiologically harmful.

The problem was clear: technology is built for people 20 years of age, not 90 years of age. Nevertheless, conventional wisdom says that seniors just need to be trained, they need to be pushed, and they need to try harder. After all, seniors are very smart people, there’s no reason they can’t adapt. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. When Scott realized there was no technological solution for seniors, GrandPad was born.

Solving this technological problem wasn’t exactly straightforward, but began without preconceived notions regarding what the solution should be. Instead, Scott and his son- Issac Lein, GrandPad Product Designer and Co-Founder- approached the process very scientifically and allowed the solution to reflect the problem.

For example, after quickly realizing a tablet was the best form factor, what was the right size? Many iterations later, the 7-8” size was ultimately chosen as providing the best balance between weight, screen real-estate, and portability. Prototypes were built, tested, and the results were carefully recorded. These results, in turn, influenced the resulting prototype, and the “build, test, learn” cycle continued. In what must have been a dizzying initial 6 months, over 1,000 iterations of prototypes and software were cycled through.

Minnesota Connection

Scott grew up on a farm in Decorah, Iowa- a small town about 1-hour south of Rochester, Minnesota. Scott attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa where he double majored in computer science and business. After college, Scott worked in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for nearly 22 years where he held an executive position with BestBuy for over 7 years, as well as positions with Target and Accenture. His relocation to Silicon Valley occurred roughly 6 years ago following a 3-year stint living in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Today, Scott splits his time between Orange County and Wabasha, where he owns a home. Despite Scott’s part-time Midwest residency, there’s clearly good reason to consider himself a “mid-west guy.”

Although GrandPad originally grew out of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator (and remains a current tenant), the organization is split, roughly 50/50, between Orange County and Minneapolis. The Orange County division houses the technological aspects, whereas the Minneapolis division houses the operational aspects of the company. Although separated by ~1900 miles, this company division seems to make a lot of sense. Technological innovation is the heartbeat of Silicon Valley and first class customer care is instinctive for Minnesotans.

The Future

Currently there are approximately 20 million seniors in the US and this population is expected to increase more than two fold, to ~70 million, by 2030. Accordingly, it doesn’t take a mathematician to understand the market for GrandPad users will follow a similar trajectory. Expanding globally, this market cap increases roughly 10 fold and therefore, on solely the basis of potential customers, the future for GrandPad is very bright.

Very few companies are targeting the senior demographic, leaving this particular market relatively untapped. Although Scott Lein and GrandPad are shaping up to be leaders in the tablet market, it remains unknown whether or not other technology platforms targeted at seniors will also gain a foothold.

Advice

For aspiring technology entrepreneurs, Scott offers two pieces of advice. First, identify your goal and focus everything you do around that very specific goal. Critical to success is doing one thing well – “don’t be an inch deep and a mile wide”. Startups lack two precious resources: time and money. Accordingly, do not be afraid to say no to anything that does not directly support your mission. Second, put the customer first, resolving any issues that arise ASAP. Technological innovation should be customer driven, and this simple, yet fundamental point, should be imprinted into the DNA of your company and employees.