This startup makes it easier to discover great retirement communities

Since the senior living industry is fragmented by nature and in lack of a centralized online marketplace, many consumers researching new homes for their loved ones find themselves having to call or visit facilities just to get basic pricing information. LivingPath, a Chicago startup, wants to change that.

Written by Andreas Rekdal
Published on Oct. 05, 2016
This startup makes it easier to discover great retirement communities

Shopping for a new apartment has never been easier, in large part thanks to the advent of online real estate search engines. But people in the market for senior living options haven’t been quite so lucky.  

Since the retirement home industry is fragmented by nature and doesn't have a centralized online marketplace, many consumers find themselves having to call or visit facilities just to get basic pricing information. LivingPath, a Chicago startup, wants to change that.

“Senior living is a huge market, and it’s getting a lot larger as people grow older and live longer,” said CEO and co-founder Jonathan Woodrow. “The 65-plus population is going to increase by 40 percent through 2024.”

Woodrow is a former investment analyst for Welltower, one of the largest owners of senior living real estate in the country. While working there, he learned that consumers were frustrated with the process of researching facilities and trying to figure out how much different options cost.

Woodrow brought the problem to his sister, Isabelle Woodrow, who was just finalizing the coursework for her computer science degree from Stanford University. The solution they came up with together was LivingPath.

Inspired by the map-based interfaces favored by companies like Airbnb and Apartments.com, LivingPath lets users filter communities both by level of care and by proximity to a specified zip code. The latter is particularly important, Jonathan said, because 70 percent of consumers look for a facility within five miles of the resident’s previous home or the home of a family member.

The site also lets users sort results by price, which is a first for the industry.

“Until we called 300 different facilities, nobody had aggregated pricing for the whole industry,” said Jonathan.

Lacking price transparency is only one of the issues LivingPath is trying to address. Another major frustration consumers have with the industry, Jonathan said, is that many senior living communities recruit residents through referral agencies who provide information to users in exchange for their contact information. After providing their contact information, users of those services often find themselves overwhelmed by telemarketing calls and email blasts.

By contrast, LivingPath lets users do their research anonymously.

The referral model hurts consumers by discouraging them from doing their own research, Jonathan said, but the high fees charged by referral companies also hurt operators looking to advertise their communities. Instead of charging on a referral basis, LivingPath offers basic listings for free, letting communities pay for premium listings, targeted advertising and content on the company’s site.

Though neither of the siblings were living in Chicago until this summer, the pair picked the city because they had connections here and because the Chicagoland area is a good test market for their industry. The company hopes to expand its offerings throughout the Midwest by the end of this year and to be nation-wide by 2017.

According to Isabelle, the feedback so far has been good both from customers and providers.

“We were pleasantly surprised that we haven’t received much pushback on displaying price,” she said. “I think they realize they can show a lot of things online, starting with the price. That way they don’t get a bunch of unqualified leads.”

Image via LivingPath.

What's your startup's story? Send us a tip or tweet us @BuiltInChicago

Hiring Now
Fusion Risk Management
Professional Services • Software