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Keeping Grandparents Connected

GrandPad Inc., which markets computer tablets for seniors, has taken the goal of “know your customer” to a new level.

The Orange-based company regularly consults with its 15 GrandAdvisors—all of them over 85 years old—to make sure the firm’s handy company’s tablet is functioning correctly for them.

“They’ve got quite a few techies over there,” 90-year-old Betty Parker told the Business Journal. “I love being with the young people” who “absolutely listen to the senior’s suggestions,” she said.

The GrandPad is the brainchild of Isaac Lien from his time at Chapman University. Now just 24 years old, Isaac co-founded the company with his father Scott Lien to help the elderly navigate their way through an increasingly frustrating technological world.

The idea came to Isaac in the midst of difficulties of having real-time communications with a grandmother in the Midwest.

“The GrandAdvisors are very direct and candid,’’ said Chief Executive Scott with a chuckle. “They help us ensure that all the other seniors who use the product love it.”

The Liens were honored during the Business Journal’s Family-Owned Business Awards on June 4, held at Hotel Irvine (see other profiles, pages 1, 14, 16, and 19).

The company, which started in 2014, won the Up & Coming award at the 20th annual Business Journal event.

Easy to Use

The 8-inch wireless GrandPad device features large, easy-to-read buttons for email, photos, and other straightforward functions.

Loved ones can connect to the private family network, even uploading photos and adjusting settings for the elderly user.

Scott, 54, notes that in a typical scenario, a grandfather passes away, leaving his wife cut off from the benefits of the cyberworld around her until she gets a GrandPad.

“All of a sudden, grandma’s back in the game again,” Scott says. “She’s got that spark back.”

Isaac, a co-founder of the business, serves as the company’s innovation chief and was recently in Taiwan to consult with investor and partner Acer Inc. The tablet is co-designed by GrandPad and Acer.

The company has more than 95 employees with offices in Minneapolis and Gorey, Ireland, in addition to Orange, and serves more than 305,000 users in more than 50 countries. It doesn’t disclose sales, but Scott said GrandPad is growing at a rate of more than 30% quarter-over-quarter.

The big break came in 2016 when Taiwan-based PC giant Acer invested in the privately held upstart technology firm.

As of earlier this year, the company was reported to have raised nearly $16 million since launching.

Other investors include Home Instead Inc., a Omaha, Nebraska-based homecare franchiser, which said it has a “significant” minority investment in the company.

GrandPad, weighing just 16 ounces, costs $10 per month for 20 months or $200 up front, with a $40 monthly subscription plan. That includes unlimited data use, unlimited streaming music and unlimited video calling, among other features. The transportation functionality with Lyft is integrated into the tablet in two ways to help the elderly travel around safely.

Since launching its partnership and distribution agreement with Consumer Cellular last May, GrandPad sales have climbed significantly. GrandPad tablets are now offered in Target stores nationwide, as well as online. In March, it launched in Ireland and the U.K. In 2017, it offered the product for Spanish speakers.

GrandAdvisors

The device has been designed to be as accessible as possible for seniors.

“There are no confusing buttons, no passwords or pop-up ads; and wireless connectivity and security is built into the device—eliminating the risks of scams and hacks,” the company said.

Since all of the GrandAdvisors are over 85, the company feels certain that any modifications will be all right for customers over 75, and of course even younger.

“We have a lot of users who are 40, 50, and 60 years old,” said Scott. He said the units themselves are manufactured by Acer.

Through the free GrandPad companion app and web portal, loved ones can connect to GrandPad’s private family network via iPhone, Android phone, iPad, or desktop computer.

Scott said the company is now working on a remote care device with sensors in partnership with Home Instead, which runs nearly 1,200 independently owned and operated senior care locations.

The product could help the elderly stay in their own homes rather than move to retirement homes, he said.

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal
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