There’s a caregiving crisis in the US that is hard to ignore. The population is aging quickly, and despite the fact that the at-home care industry’s market size is close to $130 billion, it is simply impossible to find enough qualified caregivers across the country. In fact, the number of vacant care jobs reached 1.8 million, representing nearly 10% of all vacant job postings in the US, according to BCG research.
But one North Carolina startup is taking a novel approach to fill critical gaps in the caregiving space.
Its secret ingredient? Tech-savvy college students.
CareYaya was born in the Research Triangle with Duke and UNC students interested in healthcare career paths. After going through a vetting process, CareYaya matches students with families in need of their caregiving services, be it helping with meals, housekeeping, or providing much-needed companionship.
Get To Know CareYaya
CEO and co-founder Neal Shah describes it as “Uber for caregiving,” as the platform offers “a convenient, easy to use” option for families seeking help with aging loved ones, adults with disabilities, or medically vulnerable children.
CareYaya is selective in terms of which college students are able to join the platform and start booking shifts. On top of university enrollment verification and background checks, students go through one-on-one qualitative interviews and get a rating following every shift. The goal is to find students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, be it aspiring doctors, nurses, social workers, or physical therapists.
Less than 25% of those who apply are selected to become “Joy Givers” on the platform.
“The baseline in that we want people who are interested in the healthcare field and health professions. But really we want to bring joy and happiness to people. I think a lot of times in the traditional care industry, people want to go do a task like help [someone] with going to the bathroom or with meal preparation. But we really feel like what is ignored is the opportunity to encourage and bring joy,” Shah added.
The platform also provides higher quality of care because students on the platform are motivated, fairly compensated, tech savvy, and dedicated to building up their resume as a care professional. The hourly rate for booking a student on the platform starts at $15, which goes 100% to the student doing the work.
Bringing Tech To Caregiving
Booking and scheduling caregiving appointments is done online through the CareYaya app, something that Shah says is innovative in the low-tech caregiving industry. This helps dramatically improve no-show rates, which Shah explained to Hypepotamus is typically around 15% at traditional caregiving companies.
Creating a marketplace of college student caregivers is only one aspect of CareYaya. The startup is also dedicated to bringing tech-focused caregiving tools to market.
Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are central to CareYaya and can be used to “complement” the caregiving experience.
Those living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s need “novel cognitive stimulus,” something VR experiences can provide.
“Through VR therapy, we can bring [people] safely to the London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, or take them underwater diving off the coast of Australia. These are things that, at a minimum, [make people] super happy…but it also helps with reducing the deterioration of the brain.”
Shah said the team is also bringing AI-based companion chatbots to life in order to help “stimulate conversations” while caregivers are in the home and will be bringing other healthcare provider-focused AI tools to market in the future.
Scaling in the Southeast
Shah, who grew up in North Carolina, built up most of his career on Wall Street and in New York’s private equity world. The role of caregiving became very personal for him after he watched his mother leave the workforce to become a caregiver and then when he himself became the primary caregiver for his wife during her cancer treatment.
After bootstrapping for the first year and a half, Shah said the team raised a pre-seed round from “strategic angels” in the healthcare space, including retired healthcare CEOs, “prominent physicians,” and those on boards of large health companies. He added that a venture round is likely on the horizon “in the early fall.”
CareYaya’s mission is not just resonating with investors. Shah said that because of “inbound demand,” the platform has expanded to help communities across North and South Carolina.
Tennessee and Georgia are next on the expansion list.
Having launched in Atlanta less than a month ago, CareYaya has already seen strong interest from local students. Shah said well over 100 students have already applied to be Joy Givers. The majority of those early adopters are students from Emory University and Georgia State University, says Chief Communications Officer Roxy Garrity.
Growing in the Atlanta area is strategic for the startup, Shah added. 1 in 7 Atlantans are over the age of 65, but Shah said “about 90% of people are priced out” from the traditional caregiving market and simply can’t afford for hire in-home care or go to a specialized care home.
CareYaya is joining a number of startups in Atlanta focused on the caregiving community. Many of those startups will be familiar to Hypepotamus readers, specifically those building up the city’s AgeTech vertical and those involved in Age Tech Atlanta.
Jeffrey Gray of Age Tech Atlanta told Hypepotamus that he is excited to welcome CareYaya to the Atlanta community.
“I think CaraYaya’s unique student “careforce” is one of the smartest innovations I’ve seen, and the economics are a win for all of the stakeholders they serve. I’m excited that they’re coming to Atlanta and have joined the growing AgeTech Atlanta community,” Gray said.