A startup that could alter the senior care landscape by offering on-demand in-home services has secured $20 million in funding, including $15 million from influential investor Marc Andreessen, the company recently announced.
The service, called Honor, is being likened to Uber, the smartphone app that enables people to request and automatically pay for car rides on an as-needed basis. Honor is the brainchild of Seth Sternberg. He was co-founder and CEO of Meebo, which Google acquired in 2012 for a reported $100 million.
While Honor specifically is a new model for home care, Sternberg believes the company might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how technology can be harnessed to profoundly alter both the way older Americans secure and receive services and the way in which professional caregivers do their jobs and get paid.
“In general, I think the technology sector has not done a good job of producing amazing products that wow seniors and their families and professional caregivers,” Sternberg told SHN. “And I think there’s an incredible opportunity for technology to fundamentally improve the quality of care that a senior gets and fundamentally improve the dynamic between the senior, the family and the care professional.”
Honor is a system to both match home care providers with clients and to provide monitoring so that family members can keep track of the care a loved one is receiving. The service is set to launch this month in Contra Costa County, Calif., then throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Increased caregiver pay
To match caregivers with those in need of services, Honor is recruiting a roster of care professionals. Each is “deeply background checked and personally vetted,” and only about 5% of applicants so far have been accepted, according to the blog post that officially unveiled the service.
At launch, Honor caregivers will be qualified to perform private duty home services such as housework, and not nursing services, Sternberg confirmed to SHN. Honor requires all its workers to be certified nursing assistants or have some other type of certification, he said.
Honor caregivers will earn at least $15 per hour, compared with the industry average of $9.50, Sternberg stated. The move could resonate within the home care industry, which recently has seen workers stage dramatic actions to advocate for higher wages.
“We don’t treat our care professionals very well right now. That’s a bad situation,” Sternberg said. “We’re raising the [wage] floor for care professionals. I think that technology can help make that happen by helping to bring efficiency and better care to the space.”
Enhanced care monitoring
To secure the services of an Honor in-home caregiver, people will be able to download Honor to their cellphone, describe their needs and be matched with a professional on an as-needed basis. Home care will be available for as little as one hour per week.
However, the goal is for relationships between caregivers and clients to be ongoing. In this way, Honor is unlike on-demand technologies such as Uber, which do not prioritize long-lasting relationships between users and the people providing the services.
Honor services will be paid for entirely out-of-pocket by clients, as programs like Medicare and Medicaid at least initially will not be in play, Sternberg said.
While the pricing levels have not been set, home care typically costs between $20 and $30 per hour, and Honor users likely will be paying at the higher end of that spectrum, the company told SHN. And—again like Uber—payments will be automatic.
Another Honor component is an “appliance” that will go in the client’s home. This is a device that informs clients about their care—for example, it might show a message stating that the care professional is scheduled to arrive at a particular time of day—and enables clients to rate the services they receive.
“Care professionals that do not get good ratings would not be allowed to stay on our platform,” Sternberg emphasized.
Contrary to some media reports, the appliance does not monitor the activities of the care professional in the home, he clarified. However, such monitoring will occur.
For instance, the care professionals will be called on to check off services that they perform via an interface that is separate from the in-home appliance. Honor also can monitor the caregivers’ phone activity so that the company will know if a worker is, say, routinely surfing Facebook while on the job. Honor will be “very clear” in explaining to care professionals what kind of monitoring will take place, Sternberg said.
Family members also will be able to download an app to view care professionals’ activities and to see how long they stay in the home.
The idea for Honor came to Sternberg after he realized that his own mother could one day benefit from in-home services.
“I’m trying to build something so that when my mother needs care in her home, Honor is there for her,” he told SHN. “That’s the guiding principle.”
While Honor is a passion project for Sternberg, the project also appeals to a roster of high-profile investors. They include PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey and actress Jessica Alba.
Andreessen, who cofounded Netscape Communications Corporation and is cofounder and general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is on the Honor board of directors.
This $20 million Series A round of funding will go toward building the core service, beta hosting and team-building costs, Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.
Written by Tim Mullaney
[Editor’s Note: The original version of this article has been updated with further information about pricing and the service model, provided to SHN by Honor.]