Australian startup snapshot: Tapestry

Startup serves social media to less digitally literate seniors.

Tapestry is a Sydney-based developer of an app that aims to connect seniors to social media. Built for tablets, the app makes it simple for seniors to receive updates and photos from Facebook and similar services.

The Tapestry app displays Facebook photos and more on a tablet.
The Tapestry app displays Facebook photos and more on a tablet.

The pitch

Keeping seniors connected to their family reduces “loneliness and isolation,” Tapestry founder, Andrew Dowling, told Techworld Australia

“What we find is that younger family members are constantly adopting new technologies,” but “seniors tend not be as avid adopters of new technology,” Dowling said.

With Tapestry, seniors don’t need to register for Facebook or any other social media to read updates or see a new photo posted by a family member. Seniors can like or comment on the post through the Tapestry app.

“The light bulb moment was when I read a study saying that the impact of the aging population in the next 10 years is going to be 10 times greater than the impact of the global financial crisis,” Dowling said.

“Services need to be delivered not just the way they have been traditionally in the aged care sector,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for technology to help address some of the challenges of an aging population.”

Selling It

Tapestry is still in beta and the company is working on its billing system, Dowling said. Tests with seniors are under way to get feedback on the user experience.

Tapestry had a private beta last year in a Sydney aged care facility, and opened a global public beta at the end of last year. “We will be coming out of beta in the next several weeks and continue to improve the platform,” Dowling said.

Seniors so far have found Tapestry easy to use, Dowling said. “Half of our users had never used the Internet before... their response to Tapestry has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The current release is for Android 3.0 and up, but Tapestry is building an Apple iPad version.

Android provided freedom for the developer to take over a user’s home screen, making the experience simpler for seniors, he said. The iPad version won’t be able to do the same.

Tapestry is free for small families and $10 monthly for a family of 10 or more.

Funding it

Tapestry raised funding from Australian angel investors last year, Dowling said. The startup has also received government grants from Commercialisation Australia.

Through Advance, the company will be traveling to Silicon Valley to meet with potential American investors. While Tapestry is Australian, “half of our customers come from the US,” Dowling said.

The two-year old company has been working out of the Fishburners co-working space for the last 14 months, and is one of seven companies sharing the Ultimo building’s ground floor.

“It’s a good environment for startups and very connected to the startup community here in Sydney,” said Dowling.

“The advantage of a co-working environment is you get not just socialisation but the opportunity to find what other companies are doing and how they’ve addressed particular problems.”

Startup scene

Dowling, who also mentors startups with Startmate, has seen improvement in Australia’s startup scene in recent years. For example, he has seen more smaller-scale startups get going with less funding, he said.

“What is a challenge for Australian startups is not the angel money ... but the next-stage growth, when companies get to that point where they need to raise $3 million to really expand internationally,” Dowling said.

“The venture scene in Australia is very, very small compared to the US,” so many companies are moving overseas, he said.

Tapestry plans to travel overseas partly due to funding opportunities, but mainly because it wants to better learn how the American aged care market works.

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