What if you had a window into the wellbeing of your elderly family members?
After three of his grandmothers experienced falls, Peter Chamberlain was driven to put his talents in mechanical engineering and technology to work on a better future for the elderly and those who love them.
“I had three grandparents using walkers and after constant falls and injuries, I knew there had to be a better solution,” says Chamberlain, founder of WalkWise, a smart walker attachment that tracks physical activity and alerts loved ones to falls. “We rely on life alert pendants far too much. They are only pressed in about a quarter of falls because the user forgets or is unconscious, or simply doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking for help.”
By sending text alerts if a walker is inactive or tips over and monitoring activity, WalkWise can give family members insight into their loved one’s days. Chamberlain founded WalkWise in 2016 and spent the first couple years working out of a spare bedroom in his home. He built the technology, conducted small clinical trials, and tested it on the walkers of a small group of people, including his grandparents.
In 2018, business started to accelerate. Chamberlain moved to Fargo and housed WalkWise in the Prairie Den, downtown Fargo’s coworking space. In the fall of 2019, Chamberlain and WalkWise were accepted into the UnitedHealthcare Accelerator Powered by Techstars in Minneapolis, MN.
“The Techstars program is the most exclusive program for healthcare startupsin the world,” Chamberlain says. “we were one of ten companies accepted and it was a fantastic experience. Afterward we returned to Fargo and realized we were going to grow fast. We needed our own space to grow as a team.”
Today Chamberlain’s team is four strong and is moving into the Black Building on Broadway in downtown Fargo.
“I looked at a lot of places, and it was super important to me to stay downtown,” says Chamberlain. “I fell in love with the Black Building and envision us really growing into the space. We’re not in Silicon Valley or Boston, which has advantages and disadvantages for a start-up. The startup culture here is fairly new and growing every year. Groups like Emerging Prairie are making it happen and giving people the confidence to go out there on their own. Downtown Fargo is a becoming a hub of early stage startups.
Chamberlain considered a wide range of options for where to locate WalkWise through this period of growth.
“What it came down to most of all is the ability to recruit talent,” says Chamberlain of his decision to stay in downtown Fargo. “It’s essential to be downtown. Since we are not in a major metropolitan area, we will take every competitive advantage we can get. Downtown is so vibrant and a relatively inexpensive area to live. There’s a great culture around it.”
“We see a lot of walkers downtown,” he adds.
Chamberlain wants people to know there are myriad solutions for families dealing with aging that can provide peace of mind, especially in times of social distancing when in person check ins are more difficult and it’s even more important to stay connected digitally.
“There are a lot of tools, including WalkWise, that can help,” he says. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to help a lot of families through emergencies. We know the industry very well and can help guide people through elder care. We share the tools and resources we find on our blog at WalkWise.com and welcome connecting with anyone who wishes to learn more about technologies to improve the lives of seniors.”
He’s also looking for a few great people who resonate with the WalkWise mission and want to work on this really important problem and invites you to the Black Building to see your potential new office.