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Vishal Gulati

What sort of a person would refuse to pay $10 for a #dementia app for their mother?

December 10, 2014

Imagine your mother, who lives in a home in another country, suffers from dementia and she often does not recognise you when you call. Would you be willing pay for a product which could help her remember you next time you call?”

How much? $10? $20, $100…..

Of course, the answer is YES!. What kind of a person would say no to this question? Especially after you were told that the entrepreneur’s motivation for developing this product came from trying to help her own mother with dementia.

This is it!! You have a product, you have people who are willing to pay for it. Get the check books out and write a big number, add a long row of zeros and sign at the bottom…

What could possibly go wrong?

….a whole lot!

There are a lot of gaps in current long term care and dementia care that can be filled with technology (ranging from apps to robots) and it has been an active area of product development in the last few years. I have seen many. Most of them have gone through the well trodden path of:

  1. identifying a need (usually in their family),
  2. shaking their head in disbelief as to why no one has tried to solve it
  3. coding the s**t out of an app (or designing a device) that does a few things really well

But there is another thing most of them have in common; the gap between stated intent to buy and actual product sales.

Is there something we could learn from this? There seem to be two categories of reasons for this and one compounds the other:

Buyer Problems

  1. People who run long term care often don’t see lack of technology as their major problem: I am willing to bet if you polled a 100 managers of long term care establishments on what their main problems are most of them will rate ‘funding’, ‘staffing’, ‘real estate’, ‘beds’, ‘flooring’, ‘heating’ much higher than ‘new technology’.
  2. Consumer priorities: Consumer of these services are either state institutions or families of old people. In either case they tend to focus on safety and risk mitigation rather than quality of life and independence (Atul Gawande talks about this in his new book). So the product fits with the needs of the user but not that of the payer/decider.

Seller Problems:

  1. Framing of the question: The best kind of market research is when the person responding is unaware of them being a subject. The opposite of this a highly emotionally loaded question like the one asked by the entrepreneur. As framed, it is almost impossible to get any result than a buying intent in 100% of subjects questioned. And that is why this result is meaningless. And it may actually be worse than meaningless, and may compound the problem by giving the entrepreneurs such a high level of assuredness of sale that they are less prepared for a longer, harder sales process which is often the reality of this industry.

Many problems around long term care including dementia are very important problems to address and I hope that more entrepreneurs try to address this problem and I hope some of them could gain from what I have experienced in talking to so many of them.