field trial

Andrew Dowling trials his new Tapestry app

In the wake of NSW Seniors Week last week, a new tablet app has been released to better connect older Australians with their carers, their families and their communities.

The app, called Tapestry, only available on the Android platform at the moment, gives seniors access to their Facebook account, email and family photos in the one spot. Users can also get access to popular social media platforms like Instagram and Google+ from their Tapestry account.

Founder Andrew Dowling has just made the app available to all Australians, after first trialling it with senior users last year and early this year.

Tapestry's Andrew Dowling

Tapestry's Andrew Dowling

Dowling says the app has been designed to reduce the isolation of older Australians and ensure they keep abreast of newer technologies and social media platforms as they emerge.

“Tapestry is about integrating all technologies for users in the one place,” he says.

The way it works, one family member opens a family account and invites other members to join the group. The idea is that family members will add photos to the family page everyone in the group can look at.

Long-term, Dowling also sees Tapestry as a place where seniors and their carers can get access to the services they need.

Last year, he tested Tapestry at an aged care facility in southern Sydney. What was interesting was that all the people involved in the trial who had never used technology before stuck with Tapestry after the trial ended.

Dowling says his own grandmother is a fan of the app, which has helped reduce her feelings of isolation. “Her room is smaller than the one I’m in now and her only social interaction is with family members when we come to visit. She had a digital photo frame but it’s always turned off. But with Tapestry, the tablet will tell you when a new photo arrives.”

“What’s amazed us is the impact it’s had on her feeling connected with the family. If she sees a photo of someone’s birthday party she’ll give them a call.”

Dowling says a key target market for the app is aged care facilities. “Because of increasing competition big aged care facilities want to differentiate themselves. The idea is that Tapestry will be a place where people can order services like meals and a taxi from their facility.”

Funding for the app originally came from friends and family members, but last year Dowling raised $600,000 from angel investors. He expects to tap investors for a second round of funding shortly, as part of plans to tackle the US market.

“The angel community in Australia is pretty active, with a high amount of deal flow. Our experience has been positive, but it’s always hard to rise money,” Dowling says.

Originally, the plan was for the business to produce its own hardware in which to house the app, but investors were not keen on that idea, which required Dowling to re-think the business model.

“But until now, our biggest challenge was around hiring staff. There’s a tight market for skilled staff, which puts the squeeze on small businesses, particularly start-ups,” says Dowling.

The next phase for the business will involve expanding across multiple platforms. Dowling is also part of the Advance Innovation Program, a Federal government initiative that takes start-ups to early-stage venture hub Silicon Valley. He will be targeting investors during his trip to Silicon Valley.

“Accessing capital to grow is where there is a gap in the market in Australia, and that’s our next real challenge,” he says.

Dowling’s top tips for start-ups:

  • According to Dowling, “the key thing people need is perseverance because there will be plenty of doors shut in your face.”
  • He says any start-up needs to think about the competitive environment and how to defend the business against other entrepreneurs who copy your business idea.
  • When raising money, Dolwing says it’s essential to learn to pitch your business idea well and develop great marketing skills generally.
  • “Get a good mentor who will help to alleviate the mistakes you will make along the way,” he says.
  • Dowling says one of the success ingredients is a healthy dose of luck. “There’s a saying luck is just a low probability event, but if you keep on trying, it’s more likely that event will happen.”