assistage: Steve Purdham
The serial entrepreneur on enabling technology to work for the elderly and why, after selling his firm to Tesco, he decided to focus on the care industry
Name: Steve Purdham
Company name: assistage
Location: North West
Date launched: 09/03/15
Tell us what your business does:
We test, recommend and sell easy-to-use technology that helps families support their ageing relatives, so that they can maintain their independence whilst giving family members the reassurance that they are safe.
The technology we sell includes gadgets that can monitor room temperature and indicate when a room is too cold; smart plugs that can let you know if your elderly family member hasn’t made her morning cup of tea and mobile phones with SOS alarms. Our company’s ethos is that technology can support, but should never replace, care and contact with loved ones. All the technology offered by assistage is road-tested by my mum Iris (83) and my business partner Trevor Brocklebank’s parents – Heather (79) and John (82).
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was inspired to set up the business after looking for technology to help my own mum. I felt strongly that a new approach was needed. Very often technology can be looked at from a new perspective to give it a ‘caring’ application – this is what our experts at assistage are focused on.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The number of elderly people living in Britain is forecast to exceed eight million in 2016 and many of us are now part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – where we look after our kids as well as our ageing parents, which can be difficult to juggle.
Clever use of technology can help families deal with some of the challenges they face as their loved ones age. Finding tech that strikes the balance – to be a natural fit with elderly relatives, yet linking seamlessly with the smartphone generation is extremely powerful and important.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have built up and sold a number of successful businesses during my career – including SurfControl plc, Indentum Ltd and We7 Ltd. Since selling my music company We7 to Tesco in 2012, I switched my attention to ‘caring technology’ and started a company called 3rings last year, which develops app services that connect smartphones with household technology.
In fact, the 3rings smart plug is one of the products that is being launched by assistage, along with a host of other gadgets that can keep the nation’s ageing population closely connected with loved ones.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
My mum says that I’ve always shown a flair for business. I started my first small ‘enterprise’ at the age of eight – selling bundles of sticks to my neighbours in County Durham for their fires.
How did you raise the money?
The business is self-funded, with the money to start being raised by the existing directors.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The model is quiet simply, we plan to generate revenue via product sales and monthly subscriptions.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
As always with building a business it’s about finding focus and then execution. Starting a business is never difficult, but getting the market and customers established is, so we have the foundations in place, it’s now about finding the first then subsequent customers who believe in us and our story.
What was your first big breakthrough?
For me it’s never about a big breakthrough, I have always been an overnight success but it just takes 20 years to find out which night to be successful on.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Focus, execution and passion, the three things you have to live by.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Two additional successful businesses alongside this one.