Welbi Co-Founder and CEO Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau started her company after experiencing the loss of her grandfather.
Audette-Bourdeau’s elderly grandfather moved into a senior living community in the early 2010s with the hope that it would provide much-needed care. Sadly, a few months later, he passed away. The CEO attributes part of that to the fact that her grandfather was socially isolated moving into this new environment.
“It was really this awakening moment of realizing that everything we were promised or everything we thought was going to happen within the community didn’t happen and he was socially isolated,” says Audette-Bourdeau.
The personal experience led her to look into senior living communities more and she quickly noticed a problem. At these residences, Life Enrichment and Activities staff are often under-resourced. This makes it difficult for them to provide individualized person-centred care to their residents. Care can ensure residents thrive and live longer, more fulfilling lives.
Based in Ottawa, Welbi offers life enrichment management software for senior living communities that allow them to engage residents in personalized enrichment programming. Welbi modernizes outdated paper records and aggregates essential information like resident profiles and preferences into programming recommendations so senior living communities can provide personalized care. These profiles produce reporting essential for families to understand how their loved one is doing. Welbi also identifies residents in danger of being isolated so the team can provide extra support.
“When a new resident moves in, we will help them understand better each resident on a personal basis: what they like, what they don’t like, their hobbies, their past interest, their new interest, where they went to school, and things like that,” says Audette-Bourdeau. “So now we can help them build a profile and then Welbi is going to start making recommendations.”
The need to ensure there is adequate care for older adults is becoming more important as the Canadian population ages. According to The Government of Canada, within the next 15 years, there will be 40 seniors to every 100 adults between the ages of 18 to 64. Amid this change in population demographics is the concern of increased isolation for seniors. According to the International Federation on Ageing, “the number one emerging issue facing seniors in Canada is keeping older people socially connected and active.”
Welbi’s solution can help to address this problem. According to Audette-Bordeau, Welbi has saved staff up to 25 hours of work per month, and wellness programs are said to increase the average length of resident stays by 2.7 years.
Founded in 2016, Welbi specifically sells to senior living community operators. The startup has customers across Canada and started selling in the United States last year. Audette-Bourdeau says the United States is a fast-growing market for Welbi as it’s already operating in 6 states.
Welbi’s growth trajectory has been quick. When the pandemic hit, Welbi was operational in 9 senior living communities. Now, it boasts more than 400 community customers across North America. The company has also grown from 9 employees at the onset of the pandemic to nearly 30 people now.
“I’ve worked in the recreation field for over 30 years, and I have yet to see a tool as comprehensive as Welbi,” says Caroline Proulx, Regional Manager of Recreation, at Revera Retirement, one of Welbi’s early customers. “It is so intuitive and can capture data that recreation professionals often miss due to lack of resources, appropriate assessment, tracking systems, and analytical skills.”
In 2022, Welbi raised a $3 million seed round, bringing its total funding to date to $6 million. In addition to financing through OCI’s Ready 4 Market pre-seed fund, Welbi’s investors include Graphite Ventures, MaRS IAF, Roach Capital, SoGal Ventures, Age-Well, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, and many more.
The Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI) first connected with Welbi when it was just a couple of years into its journey. Audette-Bourdeau notes that support from OCI’s Ready 4 Market fund and a grant from the SmartStart Seed Fund was beneficial in helping the company find early investors.
Welbi is now focused on growing its already sizeable senior living community network. In addition to supporting retirement communities, Welbi also works with long-term care and skilled nursing communities.
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