By transitioning out of stealth mode and announcing an expansion to nine new markets, New York-based Hometeam has become the latest home care startup to make waves as an increasing number of companies vie to transform the industry.
Among its new markets will be San Francisco and Los Angeles, meaning that Hometeam will go from concentrating on East Coast locations to offering services in the same California metros targeted by Honor and HomeHero — two other prominent startups with similar models.
Like Honor CEO Seth Sternberg, CareLinx President and CEO Sherwin Sheik and others, Hometeam founder Josh Bruno launched his company after a personal experience: trying to find home care for his 93-year-old grandfather.
Dissatisfied with several aspects of that experience, he did some research and realized what a huge need — and opportunity — exists for technology to help improve the status quo, Bruno tells Home Health Care News.
At the time, Bruno was working for Bain Capital Ventures. He transitioned out of that job and began volunteering with home care agencies to learn the ins-and-outs, in preparation for launching his own venture.
In all, he volunteered at 40 different agencies in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he says.
Bruno spent time working with and observing various aspects of the agencies, including sitting in on trainings and being present when caregivers would call the home office. He wanted to get a sense of the issues they encountered on the job and how the agencies supported their workers.
“The agencies were doing their best, but there was so much more we could do,” he says.
Hometeam officially launched in August 2013. Last year, it secured $11 million from investors including Lux Capital, IA Ventures and Recruit Strategic Partners.
Like Honor, HomeHero and some other companies, Hometeam is utilizing technology to match seniors with caregivers and to provide family members with more real-time information about the services being provided. In the case of Hometeam, this is accomplished via an iPad set up in the client’s home.
Since February 2014, Hometeam has been operating in “stealth mode,” quietly providing non-medical home services to clients through four offices in the three states — New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — where Bruno had done his volunteering.
As to why Hometeam is open to publicity and expanding now, Bruno points to two factors.
One is that metrics have proven that their operations are successful in providing consistent, safe, high-quality care. He also cites the company’s Beautiful Days program.
The program kicked off about six months ago, as a way for the startup to realize one its primary goals, to increase seniors’ independence and overall happiness.
To help clients experience “beautiful days,” Hometeam has a framework for learning about their personal histories and passions, Bruno says.
This begins with the initial contact through the website or over the phone, at which point Hometeam engages with not only family members but the older adult in need of services, as well.
“Too often, they’re left out of the conversation,” Bruno says.
At an initial in-home assessment, a registered nurse asks questions such as “what makes you happy?” and “what did your days look like five years ago, and what made you happy about those days?” The answers get baked into the client’s care plan, Bruno explains.
One example: a woman who loved attending church, where she would bring homemade pierogies. The caregiver asked for lessons in pierogi-making, and then helped the client with her mobility issues to enable her to get to church.
Images of the woman back in church, pierogies in hand, were able to be shared with her family members, Bruno says. The photos show that in this case, the care plan achieved one of the goals of the Beautiful Days program: Getting clients to smile more.
While it’s hard to quantify smiles, Bruno says that Hometeam has retained all its clients since beginning the Beautiful Days initiative.
“Once we saw the results from that, we felt confident [expanding],” he says.
Bruno says that the Beautiful Days program and the company’s overall strong emphasis on client happiness is one differentiator between Hometeam and some of the other startups seizing attention.
Another difference, Bruno says, is that Hometeam hires its caregivers directly.
That is, Hometeam is not a middleman connecting independent contractor caregivers with clients, but has its workers on W-2s and is providing them with health insurance, workers’ comp coverage and a promotion schedule.
This eliminates many of the hidden costs that caregivers have to cover when they are independent contractors, Bruno says.
“That sends a message to the employee that we really care about you,” he says. “That makes a difference in how proud they feel in their work.”
Hometeam pays its caregivers between 30% and 50% more than the average hourly rate in all its current markets, and will continue to do so as it expands, Bruno says. It is able to pay at this level because of the efficiencies it creates by leveraging technology; a point made by some of the other startups in this space as well.
The rate for clients is $20 to $24 an hour, which is in the middle of the price range in its current markets, Bruno says.
As to when exactly Hometeam will begin operating in California and other areas, Bruno is not yet ready to say. And Hometeam is not yet disclosing where it is expanding in addition to the Bay Area and L.A., except to say that all the markets will be major metro areas.
When asked about the bigger picture, given the number of startups seeking to disrupt home care, Bruno emphasizes the huge and quickly growing demand for these services and caregivers.
“Any time I see companies entering the space, I get really excited to see how they can change the lives of caregivers and adults,” he says.
Written by Tim Mullaney