A woman in her nineties, let's call her Agatha, lives in the apartment she has known for very many years, but rarely leaves the building. “Hello Caru,” she says and looks at an elegantly designed device, which now starts to blink. During the next 60 seconds, the smart roommate records Agatha's voice message. The daughter, who lives in the neighboring village, can listen to it conveniently via an app on her smartphone. And sends a reply.
Grandpa Karl lives in a nursing home after suffering a stroke. He's in distress, but can't get to the phone. Fortunately, he can call for help via a voice command and thus directly notify his confidant or the emergency services.
A meaningful business sought - and found
CARU is the product of a Zurich-based startup of the same name, which has been on the market for two years. It is the first smart sensor specially developed for people in need of care and the elderly. The device makes it very easy to communicate with relatives or the nursing staff, via voice message or direct call. Furthermore, the device uses various sensors to measure the environment and reports any abnormalities, such as unusually low room temperatures in winter because the window was left open. In the event of an emergency, it triggers an alarm via voice or key command.
CARU was founded by Susanne Dröscher and Thomas Helbling, two colleagues who decided to set up their own business together. Co-CEO Dröscher looks back on the systematic search for a promising business idea: “We looked around in different markets and eventually came to the topic of housing and living in old age.” A market with great growth potential: “We saw a very exciting business opportunity here, where a lot could be achieved.”
Involving the target group
Providing security for elderly people and people in need of care: This claim was geared towards the development of a corresponding product. More than 200 discussions were held with care professionals and carers, with elderly people and their relatives - “to identify the challenges and needs in everyday life”. The starting point for the development of the product was “the idea of a roommate”, i.e. the possibility that a single or sick person can call for someone if they need help or support. Little by little, CARU took shape: a voice-controlled, aesthetic device, which can be used to communicate and which also registers when something changes in the room and, if necessary, triggers an alarm. “Our main focus is placed on the needs of our customers,” says Susanne Dröscher, and she continues: “From the beginning, and during every step of development, we have sought feedback from the elderly.”
Support from S-GE
Thanks to its presence at international trade fairs, such as the Silver Economy Forum in Helsinki or the CES Las Vegas, CARU quickly succeeded in acquiring customers abroad - which were mainly companies first of all. But the number of private customers is now gradually increasing.
“We had the export processes well under control right from the start,” says Dröscher, “also thanks to the support of Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE)”.
The support was provided by S-GE at different levels. For example, with administrative processes relating to the market entry in Germany - “that helped us enormously”. Or with our presence at the Swiss Pavilion at the CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. S-GE advised the startup while preparing for the trade fair and arranged valuable media contacts - such as with CNN Money Switzerland - and it also offered an attractive presentation platform at the stand itself.
Well on the way
The trade fair not only helped the company to get to know the market and acquire customers. According to the Co-CEO, it was “also a good opportunity for the Zurich startup to study the international competition”. And also to establish contacts with large tech companies and potential investors.
“We are very happy with the market response at the moment,” says Susanne Dröscher, “and we really appreciate the fact that we can contact S-GE at any time if we have specific questions”.