Meet The Disruptors: Ray Spoljaric, Evan Schwartz & Lasse Hamre of ‘Aloe Care Health’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

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Meet The Disruptors: Ray Spoljaric, Evan Schwartz & Lasse Hamre of ‘Aloe Care Health’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Jason Hartman · 8 min read

Lasse Hamre, Co-Founder & CTOWhen we first started designing prototypes for our Smart Hub, we assumed that older adults all WANTED a giant red button in the center of their devices — I mean, why else would other emergency medical alerts all feature them so boldly? It turned out, as we started showing prototypes to older adults, they all said they hate those red buttons. They find them ugly and stigmatizing. We quickly set about re-designing from the ground up — and after lots of research, testing, trial and error, we’re so glad we did. We learned an important lesson and will never underestimate the older adults we serve again.

Asa part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Spoljaric, Evan Schwartz and Lasse Hamre of Aloe Care Health.

Ray Spoljaric, Evan Schwartz and Lasse Hamre are members of the “sandwich generation” –caring for aging parents while raising families of their own and juggling demanding careers. When they looked for solutions to help them do a better job at remote caregiving, they found an industry that hadn’t evolved its technology in decades. So, they founded Aloe Care Health and created the first hands-free, voice-activated, comprehensive solution for elder communication and safety.

Aloe Care launched in 2018 as a B2B company, selling to private duty home care and other direct medical alert device installers/sellers. But when COVID hit, they pivoted, developing a plug-and-play option (no complex setup or Wifi required) and selling directly to consumers. Their quick thinking and agility paid off: company revenue increased by nearly 7,000% in 2H 2020.

Aloe Care’s comprehensive, proactive approach to remote caregiving and communication and has been widely acclaimed by Real Simple, PCMag, The Senior List, Today’s Caregiver and MD Tech Review, among others. The company was recently named Health & Wellness Product of the Year by IoT Breakthrough.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Ray Spoljaric, Co-Founder & CEO: A few years ago, I realized my Dad was facing a lot of changes — not all of them easy. I had coffee with a couple friends, and soon to be co-founders, Evan Schwartz and Lasse Hamre. I shared some of what was going on, and they totally got it. To varying degrees, our families were all struggling with ways to stay connected with the older adults in our lives without being intrusive, to help, to work collaboratively on solutions. Make no mistake, helping our folks was — and is — a privilege that we all embrace with full hearts. But it can also be demanding and logistically complicated, especially when caregiving from a distance.

We realized that there was a technological solution that would be incredibly helpful to us and to our many, many friends in similar boats — it just didn’t exist yet. We weren’t looking to punt care, but to build a technology that simply and intuitively supported independent aging and remote caregiving. We’re pretty proud of how far we’ve come since then and the fact that today, we’re helping so many people throughout the U.S.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Evan Schwartz, Co-Founder & COO: When we looked at the market for technology to keep older adults safe and caregivers connected, the only product with true scale was the “Medical Alert” market. We all know the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials. Millions of people use these devices, and it is estimated to be a $12.5B market that is growing.

We looked at the products in the Medical Alert market and a few things were evident. There had not been real innovation in a very long time, there was very little focus on product design, and caregivers were ignored by most products. Our idea was to take the best of what the Medical Alert market had to offer (safety in emergency situations) and layer on today’s technology with voice, sensors, and machine learning to not just respond to emergencies, but get ahead of them by identifying changes in behavior.

Our Smart Hub can also function as a speaker phone between elders and caregivers’ smartphones. This check-in feature means day-to-day conversations are really easy — making it a helpful, joyful utility. With that, we’re no longer just a medical alert device that is a reminder of vulnerabilities — we’re now a full-service, modern way to live safely, independently, and to stay connected. In addition to the hardware, we layer on a beautifully designed app for caregivers to stay connected to each other and to the older adult.

Bottom line? We believe the people we serve deserve better products and services. By using technology to empower older adults to stay in their homes longer and more safely, and to be more connected to others, we hope we inspire others to serve them better, too.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Lasse Hamre, Co-Founder & CTOWhen we first started designing prototypes for our Smart Hub, we assumed that older adults all WANTED a giant red button in the center of their devices — I mean, why else would other emergency medical alerts all feature them so boldly? It turned out, as we started showing prototypes to older adults, they all said they hate those red buttons. They find them ugly and stigmatizing. We quickly set about re-designing from the ground up — and after lots of research, testing, trial and error, we’re so glad we did. We learned an important lesson and will never underestimate the older adults we serve again.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Ray Spoljaric: There are many, many people who have contributed to our growth and swift maturation. Just take a look at our panel of advisors. Dr. Jay Sanders, the father of telemedicine. Scott Flanders the CEO of eHealth. Early days, Evan and I took a field trip to Joe Coughlin’s MIT AgeLab — and Joe introduced us to AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System). It was a really powerful day spent there and I think it really reinforced our inclination to approach our solution from a place of deep empathy, both for the older adult and the people who care for them.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Lasse Hamre: Agreed — disruption for disruptions’ sake should never be the aim. We knew we wanted some of the familiar access points for people to get help — a care button to just push if you need help. For many people, that’s a reassuring device to have, so we include it with all of our offerings. But 86% of people report not wearing their button all the time, and of course, it won’t work if they need help and it’s out of reach. Using the power of voice to enlist aid, leveraging the power of a much more normal human response through technology, was a pretty powerful idea. So yes, it’s disruptive in that it is a technology that hadn’t been applied to this setting before, but it’s also much closer to a true human experience.

We also baked in passive monitors for motion and in-home environment anomalies, and added a feedback loop from elders’ homes to care teams through the Aloe Care family app. The app keeps caregivers informed by giving them a place to collaborate and an easy way to check-in and communicate with the older adult. Combined into one service, it forms a new application — needed, and useful. To us, that’s the hallmark of “good” disruption.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Ray Spoljaric: Stay your course.

Lasse Hamre: Design for people.

Evan Schwartz: Great service is great business.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Lasse Hamre: Our purview is large: keep older adults safer, more connected; keep people in the circle of care informed with actionable insights and lighten their loads with collaboration tools. With that, the possibilities are endless. Our team of product designers and engineers strike a great balance of continually innovating in ways that are still grounded and pragmatic, so while they wouldn’t be happy with me sharing too much of our secret sauce before it’s ready, I’m confident that we’ll keep our pace of constant innovation against our mission.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Ray Spoljaric: Our head of Product Design, Ryan Haigh, had this posted above his desk (before we all went remote), “You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people.” I think we all rallied around that notion — customer service, marketing, you name it. We’re all very focused on understanding the humans we serve. They are not a monolith, far from it, but they have been woefully under-served until now. It’s the mission of every person at Aloe Care to be part of the change for good for the communities we serve.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Ray Spoljaric: Living independently as we age shouldn’t require compromise in design or in quality of service — on the contrary, elders deserve the very best we have to offer. Likewise, especially in the wake of COVID-19, we’re almost all remote caregivers now. My deep hope is that we can learn from the extreme challenges of the last few months and move forward with greater compassion for everyone in this circle of care.

How can our readers follow you online?

Evan Schwartz: You can find Aloe Care Health on Facebook (@aloecarehealth), LinkedIn (@aloecare) and Twitter (@getaloecare), where we frequently post about company news, as well as topics that are of interest to caregivers. We also regularly post news and stories to our website, www.aloecare.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Susan Lietz
Chief Editor at Aloe Care

Writer, caregiver, dog-mom.

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