Victor Wang is the creator of a quirky little dog called Gerijoy, a virtual companion for seniors. About 42 million Americans provide care for a senior in their life, but care is not enough. Many of them are depressed. Gerijoy is trying to change that by simultaneously raising awareness while giving them healthy social interaction through a tablet.
There are millions of lonely seniors in the U.S. that could use interaction. “Why a dog you might ask?” said Wang. “Because dogs are man’s best friends and its pets that create positive emotional relationships.”
Here is a look inside Wang’s brain:
What exactly is Gerijoy?
Gerijoy is a virtual companion for seniors that addresses the lack of companionship and peace of mind for seniors. We are currently helping families in the US. Developed a virtual talking dog on a tablet and staff in the back that provides the conversion support. They type back responses that get spoken out by the dog in real-time. So it’s a real conversion because there are people who are typing on the other end.
How did you get started with Gerijoy?
Went looking for a co-founder for the network aspects and web aspects of it. Meanwhile prototyping – building a viable product and getting people to try it out. Then finding out they really do enjoy it.
Why a dog?
Right now it’s just a dog. It’s representative of a pet. There has been research that illustrates pets are beneficial to health. Examples like pet therapy can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The fact that a pet means we can get away with a lot because they don’t expect it to have the same behavior or intelligence as an adult human being. If we make a mistake in conversion, they will laugh and think it’s funny. If the companion was a person can be viewed as useless and needy. It would most likely be treated condescendingly and create a negative relationship.
Did you use Lean startup methodology?
Yes. We built the product based on feedback.
What businesses have you previously been involved with?
I worked in some research labs but this is my first start-up.
What are your favorite television shows and movies?
I’m just starting to watch The Dome.
Heroes, the first season.
The Lord of the rings series, the Star Wars series, and Battlestar Galactica.
What’s your favorite book?
Outside of your startup/work what are you passionate about?
Technology improving the human condition. and my fantasy of building my own Iron Man suit. I am the stereotypical geek.
What areas/opportunities do you think are ripe for startups to tackle?
In terms of need, there is a lot of hype around green tech.
Helping senior citizens is not sexy to talk about, but there are about three trillion dollars a year giving up taking care of a senior parent.
Who has been or currently is an inspiration to you?
Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot – before iRobot, having a robot in the house was fiction — he has made it a reality.
What led you to this particular idea, not something else?
Personal experience and skill set. Being able to build the software, getting people to try the software, and conducting market research.
How did you conduct market research?
Google everything you need. There are reports out there for free. Also Interviewing people.
What is one problem you are addressing?
Lack of time to spend with seniors.
If you had one superpower when building a company, what would it be, and why?
Get people to be able to recognize the facts and act on the facts.
What is your current biggest challenge?
Getting customers to build revenue.
How can our readers help you get to your next step?
Think of a friend or a family member that knows a senior that can benefit from this and tell them about this product. There are many people out there taking care of seniors who don’t know about us, who would benefit from this product.
Let’s play a prediction game. Let’s say we are 12 months from now. How would you describe your progress?
More customers more revenue – no grand plan within a year.
Now let’s reflect on who you were five years ago. What advice would you give the former you?
Keep doing what you are doing.
What was the best advice that you ever received?
Just do it! Very few people act on ideas, they make excuses. But just do it stuff will happen.
If you could have one dream job, what would it be?
I am currently doing my dream job.