Our guest today talks about a life-saving device to support the continued independence of an aging loved one. This is a great episode to get a conversation started if you are gathering for Christmas, New Year’s Day, or some weekend football games. Our guest today is Jean Anne Booth, who shares with us her useful, life-saving, and stylish medical alert smartwatch called Kanega.
Make decisions together to provide your aging loved one indepenence with dignity.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST:
After selling her previous semiconductor startups to Texas Instruments and Apple, and enjoying a brief stint at retirement, Jean Anne started UnaliWear in 2013 for and with her mother – to extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable people. Today, UnaliWear is scaling well!
ABOUT BIG SKY FRANCHISE TEAM:
This episode is powered by Big Sky Franchise Team. If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):
Welcome to the Multiply Your Success Podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise team, and I’m excited to have our guest on today, as she talks about a life-saving device she’s created to support the continued independence of an aging loved one.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:26):
Now, this is a great episode, especially to get that conversation started with that loved one if you’re gathering maybe for Christmas, New Year’s Day, or maybe some weekend or bowl games or championship games for football over the coming weeks. And our guest is Jean Anne Booth, and she shares with us about her useful, life-saving and stylish medical alert smartwatch called Kanega.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:51):
Now, Jean Anne after selling her previous semiconductor startups to Texas Instruments and Apple and enjoying a brief stint at retirement, Jean Anne started UnaliWear in 2013 for and with her mother to extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable people. Today, UnaliWear is scaling and growing well, and you’re going to love this interview. So let’s go ahead and jump right into it.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (01:19):
So my name is Jean Anne Booth. It’s that good southern thing. Jean Anne is my name. Just kind of like Billy Joe Bob, only it’s Jean Anne. Company that I’m leading right now is called UnaliWear, and I’m the CEO and founder. And just to kind of explain that really quickly because everybody’s like, “What? Unilever?” No, no, not Unilever, UnaliWear. Unali is actually the Cherokee word for friend, and our Kanega watch, Kanega is the Cherokee word for speak. So we’re the friend who speaks to you. That’s where that comes from.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:56):
I love the word choice and the meaning behind the product here. And before we get into the product, I’d love to go backwards a little bit and talk a little bit about your background, past businesses you’ve built and exits and so on.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (02:10):
To try to do the short version of the story, so I’m an electrical engineer and I had 30 years in semiconductors. So during that time, I started two semiconductor companies, was either the founder or a founder of them. One of them sold to Texas Instruments and another one sold to Apple. And no big surprise, I retired before 50. This might be a surprise. I was a dive master on a liveaboard scuba diving boat, which that’s one of my joys is getting to be in the ocean. And then my mom turned 80, and my mom was a model.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (02:47):
She’s gone now, but for the first five years of UnaliWear, my mom was our senior user experience advisor.Everything we did, she weighed in on. And as she turned 80, we had that discussion about a medical alert product, one of those things that helps you out maybe if you fall. And I showed up with a big spreadsheet of all of the options you could get. You could get a button that was pink and another one that was blue and one that was black, and the first of the passive monitoring systems, so cameras in the home.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (03:22):
And my mom looked at me and she goes, “Don’t you get that for me. I’m not wearing it.” I mean, her teeth did not move. I don’t know why I didn’t expect this, but I did not expect that response. So I went away quite bummed, and then called her up a week later and said, “Hey, mom, how about if we build you a watch? You talk to it, it talks to you, and we’ll put a battery system on it. That means that you never take it off to charge. How would that work?”
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (03:52):
The truth of the matter is, my mom actually said, “I’d throw it out the window.” So I said, Fine. You’re hired,” and that’s how mom became our user experience advisor.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:07):
That’s amazing. It’s incredible with the product you’ve designed and in preparing for our conversation, I checked the product out and looked online. It’s really an excellent looking design and product that you’ve created here. It’s made me think a little bit about these terms that I’ve heard about what’s going on with the longevity economy and silvertech and some of these things that you’re now involved with. So I’d love for you to talk a little bit about what is this longevity economy and silvertech.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (04:35):
Longevity economy is the phrase used by Joseph Coughlin, who runs the AgeLab at MIT, and it’s his language for looking at how big the economy is for older adults. When he published his first book, he was talking to 50 plus population, because he wanted to get all the baby boomers in there, right? So now it’s a little bit older population because pretty much all the baby boomers are in the older adult category. That’s his word for basically everything dealing with older adults from an economic standpoint.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (05:15):
Silvertech is actually my word for looking at innovations, funding products that are for older adults. So silver like our hair. So in a world where we talk about fintech and healthtech and all of that other stuff, well, there’s also silvertech. And by the way, in the United States, the population above the age of 60 is over 70 million people in the US alone. And in the world, it’s over a billion. So this is not a small economy, it’s not a small population, and it’s also one that is much more active than anybody ever thinks.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (06:01):
So usually when you talk about some older adult… By the way, I’m an older adult. When you talk about an older adult, you get this picture, this mental image of some woman staring pensively out the window. She’s got her walker or her cane by her side. She’s worrying about money. And although that does happen, it’s not most everybody. Most everybody who’s an older adult, especially in the United States, by the way, we have most of the income and most of the assets, so especially in the United States, those older adults, they’re traveling places.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (06:40):
They’re going to ball games. They’re going to operas. They’re on cruises. They are active, and we don’t really think about that. We don’t market to them. We don’t sell to them. We just go, “Oh, older adults never pay for anything.” Well, that’s just not true.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:02):
That’s absolutely right. And my in-laws, my parents are retired, and we joke often, my wife and I have three kids, and we often joke that our parents that are now retired lead busier lives than we have with three kids in school and sports and all these other activities that they happen to be involved in.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:19):
And so it is spot on. While they may not “be working a regular job” anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not busy and active and doing things as they’re living their retirement life. So I echo that sentiment that I see just personally, but I’ve seen elsewhere as well.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (07:36):
Yeah, and so two interesting things that totally make your point, but from an economist point of view. So that population, the longevity economy population, has about $5.8 trillion in annual income. Trillion, that was a T. It’s about 46% of all after tax income in the United States. So now square that with that mental image of this woman who’s staring out the window worrying about money.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (08:04):
This is not our people. One final thing. Of the 123 consumer packaged goods categories, 119 of them are dominated by older adults. And yet we don’t spend any money marketing to them. We don’t spend any money building products for them. We just kind of are there. They spend about $8.3 trillion a year in the US.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:32):
That’s incredible. Incredible. Well, to me, as I’m hearing you say that, anyone that listens into this, if they don’t have a senior product or a senior service offering, word to the wise here, looks like you ought to consider adding that into your product or service mix for a serious opportunity.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (08:51):
Yes and also no. So because of those multitude of cultural biases that we just talked about and not actually taking the time to look at, learn, and understand the economic basis, it actually is one of the least funded segments of innovation in the United States.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (09:11):
So venture capital in the United States that is dedicated to silvertech is three firms. $72 million, that was an M, dollars total available for silvertech. Remember we just said that they spend $8.3 trillion a year and we’re going to do $72 million on innovations for that economy.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:35):
Wow. Well, clearly there is a huge opportunity, which it sounds like you entered into here. So talk a little bit about your entry point into this and what you’re trying to do in disrupting your industry.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (09:49):
I told you about that fateful day that mom said she wasn’t going to wear any of those pendants. And frankly, I went home and I thought, hey, look, I mean, I am an engineer’s engineer. I am absolutely a nerd and proud to be one, but even I wouldn’t wear a pendant. And so when I realized that and I thought, hey, why in the world would I expect my mom the model to wear a pendant? And that was when it was like, you know what?
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (10:18):
Actually, if you take that really disparate career that I had before I retired, it actually set me up to be able to do what we’re doing with UnaliWear today. Because of all of the technology work that I had done in semiconductors and building systems with semiconductors, it allowed us to get to the point to where I could actually say, you know what? We can build a smartwatch that has cellular, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, that uses speech interfaces, that has automatic fall detection on the wrist.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (10:56):
And it has a patented battery system that means that you never have to take it off to charge. So it’s there to help you with falls in the bathroom at night. And the number of people who would’ve had that background, I mean, I’m not the only one, but it’s a really small number. And so I truly think that it was kind of a serendipity thing that says, you know what? Mom needed something at the time that I was in a position to be able to make that happen. And so that’s what we do today.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:29):
In addition to your story you’ve shared about your mom, I’d love for you to just maybe share any examples, use cases of your product in action. I’m sure you’ve got a whole bunch, but I’d love to hear about how it’s making a difference in the lives of your customer.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (11:43):
So actually we’re super proud that The New York Times Wirecutter Magazine just named UnaliWear’s Kanega Watch the best medical alert on the go. Not one of, but then. Now, we’re still a startup. We’re a small company, and yet Wirecutter said we’re the one. And it’s for multiple reasons, but one of them is we have patented fall detection on the wrist that is some of the best in the market. And at this point, we’ve got more real live fall data on the wrist, we call it RealFall, than anybody.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (12:20):
Actual fall data, especially among the older demographic, because they fall a little bit differently. And so just to give you an idea how that Kanega Watch works, we are connected to medical alarm call centers that bypass 911, go direct to dispatch, so they’re able to provide information about comorbidities, any special situations like Jean Anne has diabetes and she’s allergic to aspirin. It’s not true. But anyway, just as an example. The entire design of the Kanega Watch is actually explicitly done for our population.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (12:56):
So you see this super bright white on black display, that’s so that if you have any visual acuity issues, macular degeneration, glaucoma, yellowing of vision, you’re still going to be able to see a Kanega Watch. And I don’t know if you’ve heard how loud that speaker is, that’s a full watt of power, which is a lot of power in a little teeny weeny wrist-worn thing. And of course, it is either WiFi in the home or cellular when you’re out and about. We had cellular Kanega Watches before the Apple Watch did.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (13:30):
And in fact, I started the company before the Apple Watch existed. It was rumored. And so you can imagine what it’s like raising money for a startup, and you’re like, “Yeah, you talk to it, it talks to you. Fall detection on the wrist. 24/7 wearing with a battery system that’s patented,” and everybody’s like, “Jean Anne, you’re crazy.” So a decade later, Wirecutter says, well, maybe we’re not so crazy after all.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:56):
How can someone find out about this, maybe buy this for a loved one, or learn more about what you’ve got going on here?
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (14:03):
We are exclusively direct to consumer. So you find us online at www.UnaliWear.com, so U-N-A-L-I-W-E-A-R.com. So that’s how you find us. Let me just give you a helpful hint. If you are thinking about buying one for a loved one, my request, because actually our tagline is independence with dignity, and this is really quite important to us. Dignity actually means control. So the number one fear people have of growing old is losing control over their own lives.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (14:39):
So if you believe that a Kanega Watch would help a loved one of yours, then look together at it. Don’t just buy it for them because they’re more likely to say, “You just insulted me and called me old, and I’m not wearing it.” And that’s not really the goal you had in mind, right? Your goal was, I love you, I want you to be safe. And so the way to do that is do it together.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:05):
Great suggestion. I love that. Well, jean Anne, this is a great time in the show. We make a little transition. We ask every guest the same four questions before they go, and the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two on your journey and something you learned from it?
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (15:19):
Sure. So I think actually one of the first misses I had, and I wasn’t sure it was a miss when it happened, but it all worked out right, was in my semiconductor career, I was working for a larger semiconductor company, and we had the opportunity to spin out a product line on its own business. So it was going to become a new startup. And everybody kept pushing me to do it, “You should do this. You should do this,” and I was scared, so I didn’t.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (15:49):
And so that was kind of that. The good news about it though was that by not starting that company or doing that spin out, it gave me the opportunity to actually join a startup probably a year or two after that, and that startup failed nine months after I joined them, which was a great lesson in what it takes to have and do a startup.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:16):
Well, let’s talk about a make or two. You’ve already shared some highlights. I’d love to hear if there are others you want to add into the mix here.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (16:24):
I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to figure this out, but it did, and that is just understanding that it really takes a village. You have to have that network at work. You have to have that network in your personal life, and you have to have that network in your professional life as well. You can have all the dreams and desires in the world. But if you don’t have a network that helps you get there, you’re probably not going to get there. And that’s super important.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:57):
Excellent. Well, let’s talk a little bit about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself personally or professionally or maybe some of the businesses you’ve led.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (17:07):
So one multiplier would be… So at UnaliWear, we actually have some customer ambassadors. So these are people who actually… I mean, they’re Kanega Watch wearers. They pay for their service.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (17:20):
We don’t actually pay them to be an ambassador, but they love their Kanega Watch so much and the freedom that it gives them and the security and peace of mind that when somebody reaches out to UnaliWear and they’re like, “I don’t know if a Kanega Watch is right for me, I want to talk to somebody like me,” then we’ve got some customer ambassadors who’ll pick up the phone and talk to them and say, “Hey, I’m 82, and I have a Kanega Watch. And I love it, and here’s what it’s done for me.” And that is a real multiplier because it’s real people telling real stories to people like themselves.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:05):
Great. Well, the final question we ask every guest is what does success mean to you?
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (18:12):
So I have actually two answers for success. So success at UnaliWear is saving lives, and I told you our tagline is extending independence with dignity. But around the office, when we’re talking about things, what we talk about is we save lives for a living. And so at that base level, we are already successful.
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (18:33):
But originally when I created that reason that we’re here, the words I use are we extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable people. So right now, we’re not yet at millions of vulnerable people, and that’s the goal that I want us to achieve is to actually meet extending independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable people.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:01):
I love that. Well, Jean Anne, as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (19:08):
One piece is I want to add just also the other side of that success piece, which is success for our investors. So I talked a little bit earlier about that products and silvertech are not as well funded, not as well backed as perhaps other consumer categories are. And we’ve got some incredible investors. They have been wonderfully supportive and incredibly patient during…
Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear (19:36):
I mean, it’s been a decade journey. So for our investors, I’d like for UnaliWear’s exit to be a big one in silvertech, and that big exit then will help the VCs understand that there is an economic need, an economic argument for actually doing the things that we should be doing.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:00):
Jean Anne, thank you so much for a fantastic interview, and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Jean Anne talked about the longevity economy and a book that was written by an MIT professor, and they talk about how big the economy is for older adults. And she shared some statistics, which said that longevity economy and aging adults generate about $5.8 trillion in annual income, and it’s 46% of all after tax income in the USA.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:38):
And of the 123 consumer packaged goods categories, 119 of those are dominated by older adults. Needless to say, there is clearly a demand in this category with lots of disposable and available income. Takeaway number two is silvertech, and it’s a word that she used to define the investment in technology targeted specifically at senior citizens. And she said that innovations and products for older adults is rather thin, even though there are over 70 million Americans age 60 plus and more than a billion worldwide that are older than 60.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:21):
And she said, there are only three venture capital firms that focus on the segment with roughly about $72 million to invest in in the venture capital world. That’s a really small number. Takeaway number three is the multiplier she described.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:36):
I thought this was amazing of how people love her product that there are customers that are willing to be volunteers or they’re called ambassadors, and essentially they’re volunteers to talk to potential customers about how much they love the product, to answer questions about the watch and the life-saving device that they wear, how it all works, and that these customer ambassadors are willing to do that. Talk about a multiplier if you had raving fans and raving customers willing to volunteer their time to talk to potential customers on your behalf.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:13):
And now it’s time for today’s win-win. Today’s win-win is we’re fast approaching Christmas and the end of the year and going into the new year, and you’re probably spending time with loved ones, or I hope that you are. And as you are, especially with aging loved ones, this Kanega product and others like it that focus on the aging population, it may be time to start having those difficult conversations and challenging conversations with your loved ones.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:47):
Remember, the focus here is to help create independence with dignity, and dignity, as Jean Anne put it, means that your loved one maintains control. And even if you’re doing it together, that’s okay. Make sure that that loved one still has control and feels like they have some control to maintain the dignity and their own dignity as you can do that collaboratively to support them versus you just making a purchase or doing something for them without them being involved.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:19):
So I just thought that was a great win-win. It’ll be time for you to spend maybe with your mom or dad or an aging aunt or uncle or a grandparent or a close family friend, it’ll be some great time that you can spend together and also allow for them to maintain their dignity as they are aging and getting older. And so that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review.
Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:46):
And remember, if you or anyone might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at BigSkyFranchiseTeam.com. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.