Tech Accessibility Startup K4Connect Raises $7.7M to Close $21M Funding Round
Tech solutions for seniors and those with disabilities developer K4Connect has closed a $21 million Series B funding round after new investor Forte Ventures contributed $7.7 million. The startup plans to use the funds for designing and distributing its technology, a need heightened by the current COVID-19 health crisis.
K4Connect offers tools for making technology more accessible to those who might have difficulties with standard systems, such as older people and those with impaired senses and movement. The company’s K4Community platform, built on the company’s FusionOS operating system, is usually integrated into care centers and assisted living communities, with more than 800 such facilities in the U.S. using some variation of the software. K4Community provides customized features depending on the needs of the client. For instance, K4Community might support voice, video, and text messaging networks for residents, share news and informational updates, run smart home devices, or interact directly with residents to play games or answer questions. Staff can analyze health and other data shared by residents and even automatically update family members about their loved ones. The new round of investment brings the Raleigh-based startup’s total venture funding to $31 million.
“We are incredibly fortunate in our investor relationships in that they not only believe in our vision but equally value our mission. Forte Ventures is a prime example of that relationship and we’re proud to welcome them to the bench of our valued investors,” K4Connect CEO Scott Moody said in a statement. “With their support, and all of our investors, we’re continuing to accelerate to serve as many older adults through technology as possible.”
The coronavirus pandemic has meant limited or no physical visits to many such facilities; this kind of tech is especially crucial. To help communities who may not have the budget for the hardware necessary to use K4Connect’s platform, the startup gave out more than 8,000 Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers to retirement communities in areas with high rates of COVID-19. The smart speakers are part of Amazon’s $5 million worth of devices donated in reaction to the pandemic and come with K4Community built-in. Amazon isn’t alone in its AI philanthropy. Google recently gave 1,000 Nest Hub Max smart displays to retirement communities in Washington State, albeit partly as a pilot program to test a simplified interface for seniors. The adjusted smart displays sent to Merrill Gardens come with immediate access to a contact list for video calls with Google Duo, along with digital notecards explaining how to use the Google Nest Max. The coronavirus has also spurred features in other senior-focused AI, such as voice app developer WellSaid.ai’s COVID-19 screening questionnaire in its My Day for Seniors Alexa skill. There’s plenty of reason to think the use of conversational AI can improve the wellbeing of seniors. Project Zilver and Voice for Loneliness have both published studies showing how, along with keeping people connected by phone and video calls, voice assistants can be comforting companions. K4Connect’s new funding will help it bring that service to even more senior living facilities.
“We are thrilled to lead this round of funding to support all that K4Connect is doing to serve the older adult community and the senior living industry,” Forte Ventures partner Louis Rajczi, said. “This is a particularly exciting partnership for us as we are passionately behind K4Connect’s vision of improving the lives of the nation’s older adults through innovation. Forte Ventures focuses on opportunities where strategic investment will push industries forward, and K4Connect is clearly leading the innovation movement in the senior living segment.”