Backed by 500 Startups, Silver Living offers honest reviews of senior communities
Many of us will, at some point, find ourselves picking out an assisted care facility for our aging loved ones. When doing so himself recently, Tal Ziv, former head of engineering at cleantech company Sopogy, realized that the arduous process of researching and visiting facilities only made the entire situation all the more difficult. For starters, long term assisted and independent care facilities don't list the most important factor in decision-making -- their prices -- online. That's a big deal when 95 percent of residents pay out of pocket to live in senior care communities. While Medicare and Medicaid view nursing homes as worthy of coverage, they don't see independent housing or assisted care facilities the same way.
The most info you can find on these places is a minimum price for a room, which translates to around less than half of the overall cost when factoring in buy-in fees, care, cable, etc. In fact, the only information you're likely to encounter online about an industry worth $200 billion is marketing materials and images.
So Ziv started Silver Living, a company aimed at bringing unbiased, transparent information on facilities to prospective customers. The company, backed by a seed round of funding from 500 Startups, Facebook mobile product manager Bubba Murarka, angel investor Jim Glinn, and Oakview Group from Colorado, launched its product last week in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Choosing a community for a loved one is ultimately an in-person transaction, which is why the tech world hasn't paid it much attention, aside from home care-focused sites like Care.com, Ziv says.
It's also in the best interest of the facilities to keep their pricing private. It's like the gyms that don't advertise their monthly rate and make you fill out 10 forms just to finally get the price; once you're in that deep, you're likely to just take the offer in front of you. But Silver Living posts all prices nonetheless, and has found that increasingly, the communities support the move toward more transparency. He compared it to what sites like Trulia and Zillow have done for the real estate industry. Or, even more relevant, what Oyster.com, the unbiased reviews site his CTO helped build to 800,000 visitors a month, is doing for hotels.
Silver Living has secured partnerships with three of of the industry's four largest national chains including Holiday Retirements, Emeritus, and Sunrise Senior Living. The company has photographed the facilities, interviewed residents, given it a starred rating and made it all searchable and user-friendly. All the research, which includes the all-important pricing, is free.
Silver Living takes a commission worth between 50 and 100 percent of the first month's rent, which averages around $4,500. The fee is comparable to what certain aggregators in the market take. But those leads are less likely to convert, Ziv says, because they're unqualified leads. With Silver Living's detailed reports, buyers are able to sort out which facilities best suit them before going in for tours.
And that's how Silver Living keeps track of its leads -- tours can be booked at Silverliving.com, and phone numbers called directly through the site are tracked by Twilio.
"Sometimes it scares (the companies) because they don't have any editorial control and don't know what we're going to write," Ziv says. "But the point of what we're doing is increasing their conversions."