By Marcella McCarthy
Isolation has long been a problem in the U.S., especially among older adults. And the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the feeling of loneliness for adults over the age of 60, who are at an even higher risk if they contract the virus, forcing many of them to stay home alone.
So, it’s no surprise that companies that help older people live a more dignified and independent life are one of the hot trends in tech right now, including Fort Lauderdale’s very own UpsideHom, a startup that provides turnkey co-living apartments in condo buildings to older people looking to live with friends or roommates. Live like the Golden Girls, they say.
UpsideHom, founded by Jake Rothstein (former co-founder of Papa with his cousin Andrew Parker) and Peter Badgley (COO) is “deconstructing the assisted living facility” by providing studio to 3-bedroom apartments in amenity-rich condo buildings across Florida and beyond. One of the upsides - as the name indicates - of co-living, is that in addition to the built-in companionship, the cost of living is often decreased, too. The company makes money from rental revenue, and by getting discounted vendors to pay what amounts to a referral fee.
Upsidehom recently started Techstars’ “The Future of Longevity Accelerator” along with 9 other companies. The Future of Longevity Accelerator is a collaboration between Techstars and Melinda Gate’s Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company aimed at advancing social progress in the United States, enabling better lives for more people. The accelerator is remote and goes for 13 weeks ending this December.
Rothstein is a serial entrepreneur, and UpsideHom is his 5th company. As mentioned earlier, he and Parker co-founded Papa, the Fort Lauderdale startup that went through Y Combinator and recently raised $18 million. Papa provides what they call “grandkids on demand” (college age students) to help seniors with anything they need, from picking up a prescription to going to the movies together. Both companies recognize, as discussed in Forbes, that intergenerational relationships benefit both youngsters and elders alike. Back in the day, many kids grew up with or near their grandparents, but in today’s globalized economy, that’s no longer the norm.
Instead of building a residence and turning it into a co-living facility for elders like other companies have done for millennials, UpsideHom buys or leases units in existing buildings and then subleases them to individual renters. This approach allows them to offer an array of residences at varying costs (starting at $1,500/room/month), but also allows them to expand more quickly, especially out of state. Rothstein and Badgley launched UpsideHom in February of 2020 and already have “homs” across Florida, with Raleigh and Atlanta coming soon. They are growing at fast pace of 20% week over week. Since launch, they have been requiring 12 month commitments, in part because of Covid-19, but plan to offer more flexible options going forward. “We have the ability to grow with our residents,” said Rothstein, explaining that residents will later be able to bounce around between the different UpsideHom residences as they expand across the country.
Rothstein noticed a need for UpsideHom when he looked at his grandmother and her friends, many of who are either widowed or divorced and hated living alone but also wanted to keep their independence. Their target market is the 90% of older adults “who want to age in place and not in an institutional setting,” Rothstein said. Thus far, their residents’ age range is from 60-85. “The older you get, the more people you lose, so you have more holes to fill,” said Rothstein, whose background is in sales. “Now we can help solve loneliness at scale and solve unaffordable housing at the same time,” he added.
HOW IT WORKS
When a person reaches out to UpsideHom, which they do over the phone, they can request to move into their own studio or one-bedroom apartment, bring their friends and share an apartment, or be matched up with roommates in an existing apartment. In fact, the matching software is one of the company’s proprietary pieces of software. They use it to screen new applicants and match them according to interests and living styles with existing residents, but they don’t leave it all up to the tech. UpsideHom either meets with - or has a video call with - each new resident to make sure they are a good fit, too.
While going through Techstars, Rothstein and Badgley are also in the process of building a proprietary property management system to run their business more efficiently and effectively.
And while Rothstein’s original idea started with a Golden Girl’s image, he says that now more than 30% of the residents are men.
But UpsideHom doesn’t just provide a place to live, they take care of “the rest,” too. The base price includes furnished common areas, housekeeping, cable and electric, maintenance and Papa Pals 2 times per week. For an extra fee, residents can get services including meal delivery, transportation, entertainment and travel and leisure concierge services.
They also help their residents get connected to the community through their partnerships with Jewish Community Centers and local YMCAs. And when Covid-19 clears up, they plan to host events for their community of residents, too.
UpsideHom is currently venture-backed, and while they wouldn’t disclose specifics, they say they’ve raised less than $1 million to date. But when Techstars’ Demo Day comes around on December 8, 2020, they’ll be looking for more funding to expand UpsideHom nationwide. The company is growing quickly and is looking for talent in all areas while they grow their Fort Lauderdale headquarters.
An UpsideHom property in Boca Raton. Pictured at top of post: UpsideHom co-founders Jake Rothstein and Peter Badgley.
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