We spoke to Paul Slaughter (CEO) and Wayne Muter (Creative Solutions Director) about the product, the business and the future of Care Messenger®.
Growth Funders (GF): What does the company do?
Paul Slaughter (PS): i-Spy Digital (owners of the Care Messenger® brand) is an innovative digital media company that develops and licenses its own communication applications for niche markets. These solutions include digital signage software, and more recently simple messaging applications for the elderly and disabled - Care Messenger® (CM).
GF: What's your background?
PS: My background is in digital media and education (I have B.Mus and M.Ed degrees from Edinburgh University). I’ve always been interested in technology and innovation - as a high school head of department and local authority teacher advisor I introduced computers and music software into the classroom for composition in the 1980s.
My passion for, and knowledge of, technology led me to persuade the Director of Education to fund and install a fully integrated digital workstation into all high schools and colleges in Northumberland. This enabled students across the county to access the first self-designed distance learning programme in the UK. Interest in this innovation was such that global music electronics firm Roland invited me to speak at their international music advisors’ conference.
For the last 22 years I have been pioneering innovative digital communications and multimedia solutions, including the development of early interactive CD-ROMs for the European market, corporate websites, and digital signage software. This activity has forged partnerships with market leading brands including Granada TV, Formica, BT, Barclays Bank, and the BBC.
During this time, I have founded and led four start-ups, taking three of them from setup, into product development, through brand establishment, and launching with market generating revenues.
Wayne Muter (WM): I started my working career in chemical labs before progressing into providing chemical analysis training for Hewlett Packard and Agilent Technologies. The shift into the digital delivery of training was a new one in the sector and drew me further into designing bespoke ways to communicate content in the days before Internet Protocol (IP) video was common.
I’ve spent the last 15 years designing, implementing and supporting a range of digital media networks throughout the UK with manufacturers such as NEC and Panasonic, and developing training applications in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve always been interested in finding novel ways to do things that seem impossible at the beginning.
GF: Who are your colleagues and what are their backgrounds?
PS: Roger Boardman, our Head of Product Development, has over 15 years’ experience in senior software engineering roles. An expert in messaging systems, distributed systems and RESTful architecture, he has managed communications solutions on behalf of banks, issuers, stock exchanges and retailers.
Our Chairman, Jon Lowe, is the former MD of global Telecare leader Tunstall Healthcare, having taken their market capitalisation from £50 million to £500 million in his seven-year tenure. Experienced in business exits, he is extremely knowledgable of the sector and very well connected with senior figures within the care industry.
GF: Why is there a need for the product/service?
WM: There are large sections of the population that were left behind by the rapid digitization of communications both here in the UK and further abroad. Irrelevant of whether those hurdles are because of age, health, disability, education, confidence, or access to technology, large groups of people are falling further behind the rest of the population when it comes to inclusion and participation in many of the activities we all feel entitled to.
Providing services to such groups is proving difficult or impossible for some sectors without resorting back to more manually delivered solutions; solutions that are inflexible, costly and difficult to maintain.
PS: There is an increasing need for a simple communication platform for the large and growing elderly age group and the disabled community who don’t or won’t use computers, tablets or smartphones, but are comfortable operating their TV and a remote control, often only have their TV as a ‘friend’.
This digital ‘disconnect’ exacerbates problems of isolation and loneliness and makes it difficult or expensive for healthcare professionals and families to communicate with this group. There are more than 5m people in the UK ‘cut off’ in this way, 200m globally so it’s a serious challenge!
GF: What does the CM system do?
PS: Care Messenger® has been developed as an ideal solution to the communication challenges in the elderly demographic. It comes in the form of a compact set top box that connects with any TV and allows messages to be sent from the care provider’s web portal or mobile apps direct to the TV, overlaying the broadcast content without any need to change channels or inputs, and for a simple response to be made by the user. The messages can currently include text, images, and video, and later in 2017 will offer a simple two-way video conferencing capability.
GF: Why is it a good solution?
PS: Care Messenger® is a simple, cost effective solution that is tailor-made for the elderly and allows a vulnerable and isolated age group to 'stay connected' through their own TVs, without the stress of having to learn anything new.
GF: What is your company mission?
PS: Our mission is to become the global messaging platform of choice for the elderly population – ‘WhatsApp for the elderly’ as our customers refer to us, or ‘Instagran’! We know from independent research that 76% of families like Care Messenger® and would buy it on behalf of their parents to stay in touch with their elderly loved ones.
WM: Enabling an elderly user base to access digital communications is just the start; we want to be the platform of choice that reconnects marginalized minorities with their communities, families, and the organisations that provide them with services.
GF: What are your biggest achievements to date?
PS: Our biggest achievements to date are:
Care Messenger® is patent filed in the UK, Europe, and the US
We have already raised more than £1.1m of investment capital from institutional, bank, and private sources
We almost tripled our early revenues for the product from £49k in 2015 to £133K in 2017 and are set to grow this year with a sales pipeline of £450k.
We have a signed five-year agreement with one customer worth £1.2 million, plus recurring revenue, and are negotiating an exclusive deal in the domiciliary care space with top five national care provider Carewatch
We are already selling into the US market, and have strong interest in the Spanish market from market leader Tunstall Televida
GF: What will the investment capital be used for and why?
PS: Having developed the technology, validated it with independent market research, and made our first sales, we now want to get the message out to further drive the product into the market. As such, the investment spend will include a budget for sales and marketing, and for infrastructure to support sales growth and scaling.
We also want to continue and extend protection of our patent and trademarks, and to further develop and enhance the product to maintain a market leading position by introducing our simple video conferencing capability, enhancing the apps, and integrating with other platforms.
GF: Where do you see yourself and/or the company in five years time?
PS: We see ourselves as being known and recognised as the world’s most effective digital platform for connecting with the elderly population, with developed markets in the UK, the US and Spain, and starting to extend further across Europe, as well as Australia and South America. During this time, we see the Company becoming a target for acquisition as a powerful and established messaging platform with increasing global footprint.
WM: Having gained good ground in the elderly care market, we believe we can become an integral platform for organisations which need or want to include many channels of communications that are best suited to the needs and abilities of their users. The breadth of our offering is already being recognised by some of our partners who would like us to expand our offering to replace other tools and suppliers who are not capable of offering the flexibility, scope or value for money that we do.
Care Messenger® is currently raising £550,000 in exchange for 21.57% equity on GrowthFunders. Click here to view the investment offer. Please note your capital is at risk and the value of your investment can go down or up.