After the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in its operations in the spring, the Richmond-based startup Naborforce is now getting back to work and has earned a spot in a prestigious, international business accelerator program.
The business, founded by Paige Wilson in 2018, developed an online platform that connects seniors or homebound individuals who need extra help with vetted people called “Nabors” who are looking to earn some extra cash by providing neighborly services such as grocery shopping and household chores.
Recently, Naborforce was selected as one of just 10 companies worldwide to participate in a fall program by Techstars, a Denver-based business accelerator that provides mentoring and access to investors for promising startup businesses.
The cohort is called “The Future of Longevity” and focuses on innovative and creative caregiving solutions to address the unmet needs of individuals who are providing and receiving elder care.
“From a startup standpoint, this is huge,” Wilson said. “It is a 13-week program designed help technology companies with a big market opportunity accelerate growth and get them access to sophisticated investors.
“From our perspective, it is a huge validation of what we are doing,” Wilson said, adding that about 1,000 companies applied for the program.
The selection for Techstars comes after Naborforce recently raised $75,000 in debt funding from three investors, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Wilson said she could not comment on the funding round.
Naborforce is still seeking an additional $225,000 in funding, according to the SEC filing.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Virginia in the spring, Naborforce had to suspend its in-home services to clients.
“Initially, we suspended anything that was in-person contact and went to everything being virtual or no contact,” Wilson said. For instance, Nabors could get groceries for clients but would have to leave them on the porch or doorstep.
Since then, the company has adopted safety protocols for its Nabors and is now allowing them do in-home services again. “Around late May, we had clients reaching out and saying, ‘We need your help,’” Wilson said.
“People are feeling the toll of isolation,” she said. “The whole world understand that now.”
Besides its Nabors, Naborforce has three full-time employees in Richmond who manage the platform.
Partnering with Techstars on the fall cohort is Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates. Pivotal Ventures and Techstars said the program is designed to support innovation in caregiving as the United States faces challenges associated with an aging population.
Other companies selected for the cohort, which is being conducted virtually, include MemoryWell, a digital platform that uses storytelling to improve the care of older people; Wysefit, a fitness app created specifically for older people; Candoo Tech, which provides on-demand tech support and training specifically to help older adults stay safe, independent, and connected, and Braze Mobility, which has developed a blind spot sensor system that can be attached to any motorized wheelchair.
The program “is going to really position us to begin scaling quickly, with more locations in Virginia and outside Virginia, building a corporate office here in Richmond, and adding two full-time people,” Wilson said.