Startup Memtell helping Alzheimer’s sufferers preserve memories
Many early stage Alzheimer’s sufferers say that they feel like their minds are skipping beats more and more everyday. Memories are one of the few precious things in life that cannot be replaced when lost, which is why the disease is so emotionally crippling.
It is this truth that inspired Adelaide-based entrepreneurs Pushpinder Bagga and Jonothan Birkett to develop a digital solution – Memtell. Launched last month, the Memtell app that helps people create a memory vault of pictures with audio captions to preserve life’s most significant moments.
The most common method of knowledge-transfer between humans is through memory telling; people pass on information through sharing their memories of places, events, relationships and objects.
Memtell’s Co-Founder and CEO Bagga says that the raw images of devastation suffered by those who lost their homes during the recent bushfire disasters struck a chord and made him realise the importance of preserving memories.
“Journalist Amber Petty wrote in the Adelaide Advertiser that the loss of mementoes and photographs can still be felt across generations,” says Bagga.
“Memory telling is the primary source of education and learning for growing children as these memories are shared as stories in the family.
“That is the purpose of Memtell – to capture everything from a baby’s first chuckle to your mother’s recollections about an old photograph you found in a shoebox. Memtell is for sharing now with future generations. It’s the future of your family tree.”
So how does the app work exactly? There are three simple steps. Users select a photo from their camera roll, Facebook or just click using the camera option in the app. They record the memory behind the photo using their voice and save, and finally they can share the memory through Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS. Memtell can be used across most computers, tablets and smartphones, and users can follow their friends and family.
Bagga identifies some key reasons to why he felt Memtell was a business worthy of pursuing. He says he grew up in South Asia where they tell of a great cultural heritage and how its stands completely apart from the western world.
“What is culture? I would say culture is a collection of memories that are passed from generation to generation through a process we call “memory telling”. Everything we do here in Australia is a culture – be it enjoying the weekends, barbecue on the beach, Fringe parade, ANZAC Day, Easter or Christmas celebrations – if we can capture this and tell it digitally, it would be a big value add to this multicultural community in Australia,” he says.
Another major reason was the fact that there are over 400,000 people suffering from Dementia in Australia and over 65 million worldwide.
“Memtell is a priceless gift for them. We are now pursuing clinical trials in a few nursing homes to prove that Memtell helps improve the mood of person suffering from Alzheimer’s and becomes a preventive care measure for the complete family,” says Bagga.
The first memory captured on Memtell was when Co-Founder Birkett visited his 92-year-old grandfather in a nursing home. Birkett used the recordings he made to create a DVD slideshow and gifted it to his mother Maggie. Bagga says it was a “magical experience” for the team, and especially for Birkett’s mother who now listens to the memories of her father who recently passed away.
“Jono and his mother feel extremely fortunate to have captured priceless memories of his life, with his voice. These memories can be now shared with the family easily through Memtell for generations to come,” says Bagga.
“Memtell is the only source for her to reconnect with her late father and his legacy left as memories over pictures.”
Memtell graduated from the ANZ Innovyz START program in 2013 and has since raised $125,000 to launch the app. Over the past month Memtell has completed an exclusive beta test for a select group of users.
“We bootstrapped at first. It was very important to validate what we were planning to do and also gauge which way the users wanted to use it. We used the MVP and sent a couple of surveys to friends which helped us ascertain the capability of this simple concept to be applied to different situations,” says Bagga.
“After testing it on the web, users reviewed the product to be innovative but the quality of voice recorded came as a big challenge to us – we then decided to go mobile first and spent just over $20,000 building the Android and iOS Apps.”
Currently, the Memtell team are targeting the Alzheimer’s and Genealogy markets, and plan on moving into Gifts and Online Advertising sector – together totalling $20 billion. Bagga says they’re seeking to capture 5 percent of this market within three years.
“All startups have a unique marketing strategy and we have ours. We want to promote the product to people with Alzheimer’s and people who are interested in Genealogy who we have identified as the mothers in a family,” says Bagga.
“Along with networking our content across Twitter, Facebook and Google+, we are planning to partner with Alzheimer’s Australia SA and a mothers network of over 130,000 members across Australia. We are also marketing ourselves by inviting people to create memories at events like Fringe, Music Concerts and occasions like Christmas, Birthday’s and Valentines Day.”
He admits that establishing strategic partnerships has been the biggest challenge for the startup.
“We have learned that its very important to clock with how these organisations work. Startups must be open to ideas, keen to explore what organisations want and present the perfect solution which involves the least amount of work being done by them,” says Bagga.
Memtell is now publicly available for iOS and Android devices and as a web-based app, free of charge. For more information, visit www.memtell.com.