Interviews

"Our advanced protection technology for elderly people detects high risk situations without the user having to do anything"
05/01/2022
Rubén Permuy
Ángel Puertas, CEO of SeniorDomo, a UOC-backed start-up

 

SeniorDomo is a start-up supported by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) through the Hubbik entrepreneurship platform. It is headed by Ángel Puertas, who holds an Executive MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the UOC. The company has just successfully completed its first round of investment, in which the University also participated through Invergy.

This project was one of the winners of SpinUOC 2019, the annual programme to promote entrepreneurship in the UOC community, and for which applications for 2022 are currently open – alumni, students, teaching, research and administrative staff can put their entrepreneurial initiatives forward.

What does SeniorDomo do? What are its areas of expertise?

SeniorDomo has brought a new generation of technology to the market, providing senior citizens with preventive protection. Thanks to this technology, more than 750 families have benefited from a system that detects falls, unusual inactivity and monitors vital signs using a hands-free system on a watch. It also offers other functions that provide 24-hour protection wherever the person wearing it may be.

Josep Vilarasau amb la Medalla d'Honor de la UOC
SeniorDomo team (photo: seniordomo.es)

What projects are you currently working on?

At the product R&D level, we're about to launch a new device on the market that dispenses drugs and enables real-time monitoring; it forms part of the solution. Many of our families requested this, and it seemed very important. The family member only has to refill the device regularly every week or every month as required, and the medication is dispensed automatically. It's an interesting format; it's portable and doesn't need to be plugged in.

We're also continuing with new partnerships in the sector, and we've signed an agreement with care companies, such as Aiudo, to be their technological partner for advanced telecare. We've also won a public tender by Alcobendas Municipal Council to help families who have a member with Alzheimer's disease, and to provide a tool for family members, social services and the police. We're very pleased, because these partnerships only take place when the product reaches maturity and the brand is well-known in the market.

The population is ageing, and what is known as the senior economy is booming. Do you think that technological solutions like yours will be more common in a future that is nearer than it seems?

Technology is undoubtedly on the roadmap of public administrations and private institutions. The market has also taken up using wearables, telemedicine, etc. on a massive scale, and that's good news, because we have been working on SeniorDomo at the perfect time. We already have the technology available when there's increased demand for this type of service.

We've created advanced protection technology for seniors from 60 to 100 years old, which is capable of detecting an emergency and dealing with it by telephone within an average of 24 seconds, thanks to our robot that handles the emergency with family members. In other words, SeniorDomo detects high risk situations without the user having to do anything.

There may be some degree of reluctance among potential users of this type of technology due to elderly people's lack of technological skills. How do you address those types of concern?

It's very simple. Real families are involved in the design of the product, and we've made it so easy to use that anyone can do it. We've taken accessibility factors and usability principles into account in order to bridge the digital divide. Our technology is advanced, but it's adapted to their needs.

Your technology is blazing a trail and you have concluded a first round of investment. What does the financing you have obtained mean for SeniorDomo?

Above all, it will enable us to accelerate our growth in the Spanish market. We want to triple or quadruple our market in 2022, and we're ready to achieve it. We've obtained support from well-known institutional organizations like the UOC, through Invergy, which was our first investor, as well as funds such as Archipelago Next, and from renowned businesspeople and entrepreneurs.

Finally, we've opened up to having small investors on a collaborative basis through crowdfunding on the Bolsa Social platform, and we're very excited that some families who'd already hired our service have also decided to invest in the project. This is an endorsement that the technology works, and that it has great potential for growth.

The UOC has supported you since you took part in SpinUOC 2019, a programme in which you were one of the winning initiatives. Applications for next year's event are now open. How would you encourage someone who has studied or is studying or working at the UOC to enter their entrepreneurial project for SpinUOC 2022?

I'd tell them that entrepreneurship is a feeling that you have at a time in your life, and that if you're curious about doing it, it's the best experience and the best master's degree that there is. There's no better training, but, at the same time, it's a very hard road which is full of ups and downs.

You have also participated in the Mobile World Congress start-up fair, 4 Years From Now, on the UOC stand. Looking back, how do you see this journey you have travelled with the support of the University?

We're very happy with the support from the entire Hubbik team, which has been an ally since the project was just an idea, and needed these types of alliances from the outset to make faster progress. I hope that the investment in entrepreneurship by the UOC will continue to grow, because they're bringing very powerful projects which have a great deal of impact to the market. I believe it's crucial for a university to participate in the start-up ecosystem because it combines the world of entrepreneurship with the world of research. For the UOC, Hubbik can become the ideal scenario for transferring initiatives to the market that usually stay in laboratories or doctoral theses, and become an accelerator of their technology transfer.

How is the UOC currently involved in your project?

In addition to financing, Hubbik is an institutional ally that provides us with experts in both business strategy and as the facilitators or accelerators that every new company needs. The UOC gives us our workspace, in the Barcelona Activa Almogàvers Business Factory incubator, and structural services such as legal advice. It also gives us a link to its R&D hub, which will be vital intellectual capital if we're awarded a project in 2022 to take our preventive machine learning models to the next level.

We live in a time when it seems that we move from one crisis to another. What would you advise somebody who wants to start their own business and is worried about taking that first step?

That they should do something that they find fulfilling, that they should enjoy the journey, and surround themselves with people better than they are. They should also take time to mature their idea to reduce risk, and confirm their assumptions as soon as possible. You have to make mistakes quickly and cheaply.

Your relationship with the University began when you did the Executive MBA at the UOC. What has this training meant for your professional career?

An MBA is training that means you can incorporate knowledge and a new perspective from a managerial point of view. It's undoubtedly very useful when you want to apply for a management position or even start your own business, because it covers all areas of a company and studies business cases involving how all kinds of companies launched their strategy. At the UOC, I really liked how easy it was to balance the demands of my life because I did it while I was working, with a one-month-old baby and a three-year-old girl. It's impossible to balance personal, professional and academic life in traditional MBA formats.

 

UOC R&I

The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and 52 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu #UOC25years