Interview by Nicole Dahlstrom @nicoledahlstrom
Susan is the Founder and CEO of Care Better, a social app connecting those who care for loved ones with Dementia and Alzheimer’s to each other and the non-medical experts needed to help them do the best job they can. Susan holds a BA in English from Providence College.
After not finding the support she needed when her mother was ill with Dementia, Susan created Care Better. With twenty-five years of startup, corporate and nonprofit management experience, exceeding sales goals while building passionate teams, Care Better was born. Connecting the 16 million people who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia to each other as well as the myriad of non-medical providers and experts to help them do the best job they can for their loved one, is her most important and lasting mission.
Susan has lived in CA with her family for thirty years. She is an author, mother of three daughters, reader, hiker and love of nature. You can read about the making of the Care Better app through her blog. She lives with the soul belief in “creating the thing you wish existed” and with each other, we will Care Better.
Susan, tell us a little more about yourself, your background, and how you became interested in health tech and Femtech?
I’ve had 25 years of experience in sales and management working with startups, nonprofits and corporations. Living in the Bay Area, I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by innovation, risk takers and visionaries. After raising my three daughters, I felt it is the right time to dive into creating my own startup to solve an exploding problem for dementia caregivers.
You are the founder and CEO of CareBetter, a support platform for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, what was the idea behind CareBetter and how did you come up with it?
I created Care Better because I could not find the non-medical support I needed when caring for my mom. I live in California and she lived in Connecticut. When she was failing and refusing all help, I would fly to Connecticut to take care of her over her 10-year decline. One year, I flew back and forth 16 times, while working full time and having 3 school age kids! I’m lucky to be married to an incredible partner and can’t imagine doing it solo. But even with the 2 of us juggling, it almost killed me. It’s just WRONG how our health care system is set up.
A National Institutes of Health - funded (NIH) study says the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment will more than double to 15 million by 2060, given your current knowledge of caregivers in America, what kind of impact will this increase have on our society? What is your vision for CareBetter in this ageing population?
There are currently 16 million family and friend caregivers of loved ones with dementia in the US. 120 million globally. It will grow by 40% in just the next 10 years. There are over 100 different kinds of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. How this will affect our workforce, our productivity, women in general who often go to part-time work or quit all together to care for a loved one and LIVE LONGER, will dramatically impact our ability to support ourselves as we age. Who knows what will happen with social security in the next 20 years? How to prepare? I hope Care Better can make a small dent in this tsunami, creating more compassionate and flexible workplaces as well as decreasing the stresses on the caregiver. Also, I want to note, 30% of caregivers are men. It’s not just a women’s problem.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2014 Facts and Figures Report, the average caregiver is a 49 year old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother. With this is mind, did you consider the female consumer while developing your platform?
Absolutely. Women are more inclined to ask for help. Not all women, but more women than men ask for help. That inclination is an incredible opportunity to support women in a caregiver role. By connecting women to other caregivers, making it simple, mobile ready, and offering the non-medical experts they need to make decisions on demand, can change the world. Why not use our phones to care for someone we love? It’s a miracle really, that we can now push a button on our phone and get an answer to help us “care better”.
What has been your greatest obstacle in creating CareBetter, what about your greatest achievement?
My greatest obstacle is the technology and the ability to support our MVP users. We’re improving. Our greatest achievement is the community we have already built. The awareness we’ve brought to all who’ve listened to my pitches, joined our social community, volunteered to test our product and supported us financially, advising, etc., blows my mind with our reach.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Our challenge is finding partners we can afford in this competitive market. I think being a female entrepreneur now is an asset. Women are tired of knocking on the same male doors for funding and advice so we have decided to go out and make our own networks, companies, create our own funding platforms, etc. Female Angel groups and VC’s are exploding. I am inspired by the activity and feel I am in the right place at the right time to grow Care Better. I call myself and have named my blog, the “Oldest, Whitest, First Time Female Founder”. It works for me. I’m owning it and proud to be creating a meaningful company.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Blow off the haters. They’ll always be out there. Know yourself and TRUST your own voice. I realize I have earned the ability to not give a shit what the world thinks. It’s very freeing and I don’t take it for granted. I wish I could somehow will women to know, just know, that their ideas, efforts and unique souls matter. Female entrepreneurs don’t have to fit a mold. The more of us with the opportunity to change the world actually TRY, the faster our world will become the place in which we thrive with our loved ones. I think of the years since the 1800’s when women weren’t educated, allowed to vote, own businesses. How much did we lose when only half the world was working on cures for diseases, inventions, holding offices and changing health care, science, education, law and government? We need to get involved! There’s no better time than now.
Is the #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
It’s 100% important to me. I couldn’t be here, building Care Better, without it. So many women have supported me and I am forever grateful.
Who are your top 3 inspirational women in tech?
1. Sallie Krawcheck with Ellevest. She’s changing women’s relationship with money.
2. Ellen Pao - The VC who opened her mouth to the sexism and survived the backlash.
3. Jessica Livingston - One of the original founders of Y Combinator who’s taking some time off with her family now. She made it OK to look at life through female eyes, to go after creating a company from a women’s perspective, and to acknowledge we are different but in an awesome way. I love her!
Facebook: Care Better
This interview was conducted by Nicole Dahlstrom, Women of Wearables Ambassador in San Francisco, USA. She has been providing marketing and project management services to non profits for the past six years. Passionate about women's health and fem tech, Nicole decided to leverage her network of established feminine health companies, industry professionals, and leaders in the women's health space to develop a network of support for founders of female health focused tech startups called FemTech Collective. Their mission is to shape the future of healthcare through technology that meets the needs of women. Connect with Nicole via Twitter: @nicoledahlstrom or LinkedIn: Nicole Dahlstrom