Virtual reality comes of age, as senior-focused mixed reality startup Rendever acquires Alcove from AARP • TechCrunch
Older people are generally not considered early adopters of cutting-edge technology, but there are startups looking to reverse this trend, betting on the opportunity to provide them with new services like virtual reality, to meet the specific needs of older consumers, Today, one of the industry’s largest startups, Rendever, announces an acquisition to grow its business. The company, which creates virtual reality experiences designed to help seniors feel less alone and currently has some 600,000 users, has acquired Alcove, a platform developed at AARP – the organization that both pressure and provides services like insurance and support to members, who are usually retirees and elderly people.
Rendever operates as a B2B service – it works with nursing homes and other organizations to create personalized virtual reality experiences which are in turn used by the elderly residents of those organizations – but Alcove is more consumer-oriented and is currently sold as a service to AARP members. It describes itself as a “family virtual reality app”. Available for use on Meta (Oculus) Quest, the app is designed as a virtual living room where families can “meet” and view photos, play games, watch movies, or just chat together.
Financial terms of the deal are not disclosed, but it is our understanding that Rendever is paying cash for Alcove, and AARP is taking an equity stake in Rendever as part of the deal.
Rendever and AARP are no strangers. The latter is one of the startup’s investors (others include Mass Challenge and the Dorm Room Fund; he’s also received grants from the National Institute on Aging and the US Department of Health and Human Services) and they originally co -developed Alcove together before AARP. has decided to no longer invest in its internal development.
“At AARP, we are thrilled to have Rendever acquire and continue to expand the capabilities of such an impactful product as Alcove,” said Rick Robinson, vice president and general manager of AgeTech Collaborative at AARP. “We know that virtual and immersive experiences can yield hugely positive outcomes, especially for socially isolated people, and we expect Alcove to continue to help an even wider audience under Rendever’s leadership.” The organization, he said, is not straying from the technology, but it will pursue it more in collaboration with third parties in the future.
This shift — as well as this M&A piece — both underscore part of a larger trend playing out in tech. Not only has the bear market made it harder for startups to raise funds right now; but similarly organizations and limiting budgets for technology projects (if not killing them altogether) if those projects don’t show a strong return or a quick path to profitability. This in turn is spurring more M&A activity as a way to give these startups and projects a lifeline in these trying times.
The fact that the asset in question here is geared towards seniors is also significant. Technology has become an integral part of how we interact with each other, which has increasingly become the case during the height of Covid-19 as people have had to isolate themselves more from each other and travel has been reduced. While there are plenty of older consumers who are resistant to a lot of technology – maybe they don’t have cell phones, or can’t troubleshoot simple problems on their computers, or they don’t use any kind of social media – this population is changing as more and more savvy consumers age.
All of this will lead to a larger market and greater demand for services and devices aimed at the specific needs and preferences of older people. (And this week at CES, building for that demographic, not just virtual reality like this, but gadgets like hearing aids, is a big part of what could be more broadly described as “accessibility” technology. , but could just as well be considered more sophisticated approaches for specific audiences.)
The idea that there is an untapped market of users, but those who might be the perfect audience for VR, was part of the premise for Rendever to start in the first place, said CEO and co-founder Kyle Rand.
“We came up with the idea of bringing virtual reality into communities of older adults to help combat social isolation,” he said of the startup’s brainchild in 2016. time, most were skeptical, he said.
“Back then, when we told people this idea and provided demos, we were laughed at. No, they said, you’re going to use this technology with this demographic [because] they must be technology averse. But what we’ve discovered is that if you can make it easier for someone to fit into the experience and provide something meaningful and joyful, the opportunities are simply limitless. He said when users first enter virtual rooms or use them to “travel” through their childhood neighborhoods using Google Maps and Street View, people “light up”.
While providing ways to mitigate social isolation might previously have been seen as a benefit, the premise took on a different urgency during Covid-19 when so many people were isolated out of caution and sometimes outright public health regulations. , and people began to understand what effect isolation can have on mental health, regardless of age. Today, the startup works with some 500 senior communities across North America and has, to date, delivered over 2 million virtual reality experiences to seniors.
Rendever is largely seeded – it has raised less than half a million dollars in the last eight years – but it is now using the fact that it is profitable and growing while catering to a changing market to come out for its Series A. we have delivered over 2 million virtual reality experiences for seniors.
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