Virtual reality adult-focused mixed reality startup Rendever gets bigger as Alcove acquires AARP • TechCrunch

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Seniors aren’t typically considered early adopters of advanced technology, but startups want to reverse that trend, allowing them to offer new services like virtual reality that address the specific needs of older consumers. Rendever, one of the largest startups in the industry, announces an acquisition to develop its business. Alcove, a company that creates virtual reality experiences to help seniors feel less alone and currently has about 600,000 users, has acquired Alcove, a platform developed by AARP — an organization that typically provides and pressures services such as insurance and support. pensioners and the elderly.

Rendever operates as a B2B service – it works with nursing homes and other organizations to create personalized virtual reality experiences that are in turn used by older residents of those organizations – but Alcove is more consumer-focused and is currently marketed as an AARP service. members. It describes itself as a “family virtual reality app.” Available for use on the Meta (Oculus) Quest, the app is designed as a virtual living room where families can “hang out” and view photos, play games, watch movies or simply chat together.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but we understand that Rendever will pay cash for Alcove, and AARP will receive an equity stake in Rendever as part of the deal.

Rendever and AARP are no strangers. The latter is one of the startup’s investors (others include Mass Challenge and Dorm Room Fund; it also received grants from the National Institute on Aging and the US Department of Health and Human Services), and they co-developed Alcove before AARP. decided not to invest in its internal development anymore.

“At AARP, we are pleased that Rendever has acquired and continued to expand the capabilities of an impressive product like Alcove,” said Rick Robinson, vice president and general manager of AARP’s AgeTech Collaborative. “We know that virtual and immersive experiences can have great results, especially for socially isolated people, and we look forward to Alcove continuing to help even wider audiences under Rendever’s leadership.” The organization, according to him, does not move away from technology, but it will continue to cooperate with third parties in the future.

This shift, as well as this M&A portion, both reflect part of a larger trend in technology. The bear market has not only made it difficult for startups to raise funds right now; but similarly organizations and limiting budgets for technology projects (if not killing them outright) unless those projects demonstrate strong returns or a fast path to profitability. This, in turn, will encourage more M&A activity as a way to give these startups and projects a vital boost in these difficult times.

It is also important that the asset in question is intended for senior citizens. Technology has become an integral part of how we interact with each other, which has become more common during the height of Covid-19 as people are forced to isolate themselves more from each other and travel is reduced. While there are many tech-savvy older consumers who don’t have cell phones or can’t solve simple problems on their computers, or don’t use any form of social media—this population is changing as increasingly savvy consumers age.

All this leads to an expansion of the market and an increase in the demand for services and devices aimed at the specific needs and preferences of the elderly. (At CES this week, not only virtual reality, but also demographically framing gadgets like hearing aids is a big part of what can be broadly described as “accessibility” technology, but can also be seen as more sophisticated approaches for specific audiences.)

The idea that there was an untapped market of users but could be a perfect audience for VR was the premise behind Rendever’s launch in the first place, said CEO and founder Kyle Rand.

“We came up with the idea of ​​introducing virtual reality to the elderly community to help combat social isolation,” he said of the startup’s idea in 2016. At the time, many were skeptical, he said.

“At the time, when we told people the idea and offered demos, they laughed at us. No, they said, you use this technology with this demographic [because] they must abandon technology. But what we’ve found is that if you can facilitate someone’s adjustment to the experience and provide something meaningful and gratifying, the possibilities are endless. He says people “light up” when users first walk into the virtual rooms or use them to “travel” through their childhood neighborhoods using Google Maps and Street View.

While offering ways to ease social isolation may have previously been seen as a benefit, this premise has taken on a different urgency during Covid-19, when many people are inadvertently self-isolating, and sometimes with strict public health rules. , and people are beginning to understand the effects of isolation on mental health regardless of age. Today, the startup works with nearly 500 senior communities in North America and has delivered more than 2 million virtual reality experiences to seniors to date.

Rendever is mostly a seed — it’s raised less than half a million dollars over the past eight years — but now it’s using its profitable and growing position to capitalize on a volatile market to raise its Series A. over 2 million virtual reality experiences for seniors.

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