Wharton Startup That’s All About Care
- by Matthew Brodsky
Ron Gold C83 W83 credits his family for how he recovered from that near-death accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. His wife Betsy was there with him four years ago after the SUV on the New Jersey road—only a few miles from his home—hit him head on on his bicycle and left him in a coma. She was the one who had six people telling her 10 different things about what to do. She was the one there every day in rehab, there to nurse him back to the living. Gold, now 55, owed it to her to make the most of his life.
Then there are his three daughters—now aged 18, 21 and 24. As a father, he felt the imperative to show them how to deal with adversity.
“I hope with all my heart that they don’t have to deal with it like I’ve had to deal with,” he says. But they will have to deal with a certain level of adversity, and he is showing them the grit they’ll need to power through.
Gold, a 25-year Wall Street veteran who was managing director at Barclays when the accident happened, isn’t recovered solely in the sense that he made it out of the hospital. Now, he is recovered to the sense that he’s launched his own business.
His entrepreneurial spark arrived through his own recovery process. After five months in the hospital, he learned that he would receive two more months of medical assistance at home paid for by insurance. It was less a lightbulb that went off than a flashing red light. That was crazy, he thought then, because he knew he would need assistance the rest of his life. And when he did, it would cost him out of pocket and cost at least $25 per hour—in large part because caregiver agencies played middle men and pocketed a large part of the hourly rate he would be paying.
“With an agency you, have no idea who’s coming to your house,” he adds.
Still, he had to search for help, and when he did privately, without an agency’s help, he was dumbfounded by how consumer unfriendly the process was. There was no way to get recommendations, unless he knew someone in his circle of acquaintances who had been through the same thing. There was no way to judge the health care assistants by their backgrounds or criminal records.
So Gold and his wife set out to create the 21st century solution, called LeanOnWe. It is a fee-based network of caregivers who are legally eligible to work in the United States, have at least three years of experience and come with a minimum of two references from families they’ve worked for in the past. LeanOnWe also conducts a top-level background check and an FBI fingerprint check, and helps the caregivers produce resumes and introductory videos to promote their personalities, skills, background and training. The Golds are not middlemen, simply conduits. The caregivers work directly for the families. Caregivers set their own prices. Care is cheaper, the caregivers keep all the money they earn, and consumers get transparency and control. And consumers also get peace of mind, as they might from a reputable agency, with having LeanOnWe as backup.
Launched in January 2014, LeanOnWe currently has 200 caregivers on its site and over 2,000 caregivers in the pipeline waiting to be selected for the network. Families pay a one-time fee of $395 to access the network, then an optional $195 quarterly fee that provides families unlimited access to replace or back up their caregiver.
“From where I sit, literally, in my wheelchair, I know that a thoroughly vetted network of experienced caregivers is a welcomed option,” Gold says.