Roobrik is one of five startups to win a collective $250,000 in grant funding from the nonprofit Durham-based NC IDEA Foundation. Since 2006, the foundation has awarded nearly $4.5 million to 109 startups around the state. The five companies were narrowed from 11 finalists, 26 semifinalists and 173 total applications for the Spring 2016 cycle.
It’s been nearly a year and a half since ExitEvent first covered
new NC IDEA winner, Roobrik
—the startup dedicated to simplifying later-life decision making for the aging and their caregivers.
And Roobrik has changed a lot during that time. The startup has hit more milestones and scaled more rapidly than many startups do in their first three years.
Thom Ruhe, president and CEO of the NC IDEA Foundation indicated as much when he said, "of the whole cohort (of grantees), they (Roobrik) are the furthest along."
Besides today's NC IDEA grant, the startup also landed a second round of seed funds, to total $275,000, from The Launch Place (an investment and entrepreneurial support organization based in Danville, VA). Ruhe says the Launch Place funding is a "nice external validation that others are seeing what we're seeing as well."
What might seem as a lot of recent interest has actually long been in the works. Roobrik was an NC IDEA semi-finalist last fall, but due to unfortunate timing, co-founder Nate O’Keefe was sick the day of the final round presentations and had to bow out of the grant application. And the Launch Place first invested $75,000 last September and doubled down with $200,000 last month after Roobrik’s progress and market penetration was obvious and substantial.
Graduating from the San-Francisco based Aging 2.0 incubator for aging-sector-focused startups has given it credibility in a nascent sector.
Perhaps even more significant than the recent funding, Roobrik has streamlined its go-to-market strategy and acquired paying customers—both senior-focused healthcare organizations and clinical trial research organizations.
While this company is still laser-focused on making decision-making for individual caregivers easier through research-based assessments like its flagship assessment, “Is it still safe to drive?” new assessments can be monetized through partnerships with senior care organizations like Brookdale Senior Living Solutions and local groups like Nurse Care NC.
Nurse Care NC, for example, offers the assessment, “Is it time to get help?” on its site to help individuals determine if it’s time for they or their loved ones to investigate care options.
Once a consumer completes the assessment, he or she can share the results from the assessment with the organization—creating a qualified lead for the organization and a connection with the consumer who needs assistance.
So for customers, Roobrik’s assessments aid in sales and marketing and help delineate customers who need their services from those who don’t. But Roobrik still considers its paying customers as beta ones and will use the NC IDEA grant funds to further iron out a monetization strategy, pricing, marketing and ensure product-market fit.
O’Keefe says, the “NC IDEA funding is being leveraged to take us to a more official B2B launch this fall.”
With a perfected go-to-market strategy, new assessments in the pipeline and seed funding, the company believes its well-positioned to raise a Series A round this fall. There will also be partnerships with clinical research groups who seek assistance in identifying patients with diseases like Alzheimer’s who might be eligible for clinical trials if they were diagnosed earlier.
For a brief moment however, O’Keefe and the team can bask in the accomplishments of the last 18 months. O’Keefe says, “We’re thrilled to be a part of the NC IDEA program, we’ve admired it for a while now, and are very impressed with the whole way they run the process.”
**DISCLAIMER: I provided consulting services for the NC IDEA Foundation this spring, and reviewed the finalist's presentations, but did not aid the Foundation in selecting the grant winners.