Wider Circle: Serving the Unaddressed Health Care Problems of Senior Loneliness and Social Isolation

By Robert Chess, Milana Shapira
2020 | Case No. E704 | Length 13 pgs.
Moshe Pinto, CEO, and Darin Buxbaum, COO, sat in their small conference room in Redwood City in what used to be the training facility for the San Francisco 49’ers. It had been four years since they had embarked on solving one of the biggest unaddressed problems in the senior health care field: loneliness and social isolation. Their initial concept – forming community support groups – was oft met with raised eyebrows as people wondered “are you starting a non-profit?”. Uncertain how they would monetize their idea, they began with a pilot study in Redwood City. They formed groups of 10-12 seniors and one facilitator; the inexplicit goal was to create a sense of trust and cohesion such that each member would walk away with one friend. With time, they learnt that their programs could do so much more for communities than just provide friendship. By creating environments that enabled structured learning and peer-to-peer sharing, they could bridge many of the gaps in care and encourage members to look after each other and, interestingly, peer-pressure them into looking after themselves. Moshe and Darin realized that being the convener of these communities placed Wider Circle in a unique position in the healthcare value chain, which was attractive from the perspective of healthcare plans. The Wider Circle program could be a way for plans to improve the care experience and reduce costs as well to attract and retain members. Four years on, Moshe and Darin now had clinical validation that their programs were effective and had shown that their business model could generate healthy unit economics. As they prepared to scale and raise their series B financing, their minds were flooded with numerous questions, especially around scaling a people intensive business. Would they be able to identify, recruit, and train facilitators fast enough? Would they be able to recreate at scale the community experience members so loved? Would they be able to sell their program to enough health plans to have meaningful impact on elderly care? Reaching their next milestones would entail scaling from 5,000 to 50,000 members and increasing their revenue 10-fold – this would be their biggest challenge yet and they knew that if they couldn’t address these questions, success was not guaranteed.

Learning Objective

The goal of the case is to explore the impact of senor loneliness and social isolation, and what business opportunities it provides.
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