Just as we needed the help of our parents when we were kids, aging parents sometimes need the help of their kids; completing the circle of life. Yet, there is a fine line between controlling and caring. An estimated 45M Americans are the financial caregivers for their elderly parents. Carefull is a financial services platform that enables financial caregivers to get a holistic picture of what’s happening with their parents’ finances, allowing the adult children to support, manage, and monitor while maintaining sensitivity to independence. Given that people 50 and older hold 83% of the wealth in America, elder fraud has been on the rise and many of these cases go unreported. By introducing transparency and collaboration, Carefull also prevents the elderly from falling victim to these types of scams.
AlleyWatch caught up with cofounders Max Goldman and Todd Rovak to learn more about the platform, the company’s future plans, and recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a seed round of $3.2 million, led by Charles Birnbaum at Bessemer Venture Partners and Rob Go at NextView Ventures. Other investors include Adam Nash, Rob Bernshteyn, Steve Schlafman, K50 Ventures, and a few others.
Tell us about the product or service that Carefull offers.
Carefull is a new platform for “financial caregivers” — anyone who helps manage someone else’s day-to-day finances, usually those of an aging parent. For the adult children of aging parents, financial caregiving can be a decades-long journey, and often starts when something goes wrong — a missed bill payment, an illegible check, a scam, or a medical diagnosis that prompts families to start planning for the future.
The work of financial caregiving includes setting budgets, paying bills, catching errors and fraud, and coordinating family support, usually without any formal training and often from far away.
We’re building a financial services platform that will partner with families throughout this journey, starting with a mobile application that enables families to see the full financial picture of their loved ones — what money is coming in and going out, which bills are coming up, how much is left in the bank — and alerts them to issues that may be problems.
Ultimately, Carefull aims to support the relationships between family members while maintaining the independence and dignity of aging loved ones, so the platform has numerous functions to help siblings and others caregivers to collaborate and resolve issues together.
What inspired the start of Carefull?
Our story dates back to 2014, when Todd, then CEO of Fahrenheit 212, started to focus on financial caregiving while exploring underserved areas in financial services. Through his research and countless conversations, he became aware of the tens of millions of Americans who were quietly helping a loved one with financial tasks. He imagined a new kind of financial company that could attend exclusively to this unique part of a family’s journey and partner with families throughout this stage of life.
In 2014, Max was working at Google following the acquisition of his last company, Directr. Todd pitched his idea to Max, and it just didn’t click. But fast-forward five years and, by then, like so many in the so-called “Sandwich Generation” who are caring for both their children and an older loved one, Max had started to experience the challenges of the financial caregiving journey for himself. Together, we could see that there was so much that could be done to support financial caregivers and their families, and we joined forces to start Carefull.
How is Carefull different?
For most people, the reality of financial caregiving today is: logging into online bank accounts pretending to be their parents, calling bank customer service and sitting on hold, forging signatures, maintaining spreadsheets to keep track of which sibling paid for what, digging around for sticky notes with passwords and account numbers… it’s a nightmare. The reality is that today’s banking systems weren’t built for caregiving.
We envision a number of ways that our technology can address these challenges. Today, our product does this in a few ways: first, we show families their loved one’s full financial picture within seconds, and then we alert caregivers to issues that a bank won’t catch but which can be common to seniors — a late or missed bill payment, an accidental duplicate payment to the electric company, a charitable donation that was accidentally set to be paid monthly instead of one-time.
On top of that, the multiplayer approach within the app enables families to coordinate and resolve issues together.
What market does Carefull target and how big is it?
We estimate that there are 45 million Americans who are financial caregivers for aging loved ones, based on research from AARP and Merrill Lynch. Within this market, our initial focus is on immediate family members taking care of their parents, or close relatives.
We’ve also identified an interesting use case with financial advisors and wealth managers. We believe that many financial advisors are, in fact, already acting as financial caregivers for a number of their older clients, and so it’s a market/use case we are pursuing in parallel.
What’s your business model?
We charge a subscription fee for consumers. We believe that this model aligns us with our customers (vs. selling data or ads), since privacy and security is so critical to families, especially in a caregiving situation.
Additionally, we are also working with institutions that are looking to bundle and offer our service as part of other offers and platforms.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
One unforeseen result of the pandemic is that it has actually prompted many caregivers to look for new tools and technologies that enable them to handle day-to-day tasks from afar. That shift has driven a lot of interest in what we’re building.
Separately, we’ve observed that the increased prevalence and awareness of stimulus check scams has prompted a lot of adult children to start thinking about their aging parents’ financial security and vulnerability to those types of scams. That has driven some interest in Carefull as well.
What was the funding process like?
Prior to fundraising, we didn’t realize just how much this idea would resonate with investors on a personal level. We rarely got through our pitch without someone telling us a story about their personal experience of taking on this work with their own parents. A common response was: “I’m dealing with this right now.”
That was undoubtedly positive for the discussion but definitely a different experience for both of us. It felt like speaking with a customer, not just a potential investor.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We were really fortunate to have worked with some great investors in the past who were interested in partnering with us again, and a number of our investors already had strong backgrounds in the consumer-facing financial technology sector, so they immediately *got* what we were trying to do.
One question we did think a lot about was how to be strategic about our fundraise — how much to raise and for what purpose. It takes time not only to build something useful for caregivers, but to earn their trust as well. It’s critical to us that we do that well, and that impacted our fundraising decisions.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
As it happened, Charles Birnbaum at Bessemer had actually written an entire roadmap about “Fintech for the aging,” in which he discusses the demographic shifts and trends that are facing the US — an aging population, rising healthcare costs, a shrinking social safety net… Right off the bat it felt like we were speaking the same language.
We were also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Rob Go at NextView Ventures, with whom Max had worked in the past, and so he had confidence in the team behind the project.
Like us, our investors strongly believe that Carefull is ultimately a category, not just a company.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Over the next few months we’re focused on adding new features that our customers are asking for and keeping our customer satisfaction scores high.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
For us, the process of studying and understanding our target market was invaluable in developing a solution that resonated. A company without the funding to launch can learn a lot in this phase — really honing what it is they are trying to build — so that they are better prepared for fundraising in the future and less likely to make future mistakes.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
The financial caregiving journey involves a lot of complicated decisions and interactions over a long period of time. Our goal is to continue bringing intelligence and simplicity to the entire journey.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC
Colonia Verde in Fort Greene has an amazing outdoor setup. Highly recommend.