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Will writes on subjects from retail to media, politics, entrepreneurialism, science and technology. He previously worked for The Australian Financial Review in Sydney and Canberra.

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Big name backers help Tapestry put the elderly online

Published 15 November 2012 17:11, Updated 21 November 2012 07:10

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Big name backers help Tapestry put the elderly online

Tapestry founder Andrew Dowling with Ruth at the Carlingford Wesley Mission

The internet, with its sprawling applications, can be confusing – whatever your age. For those in their seventies and eighties it can particularly alienating, as their children and grandchildren increasingly communicate on a medium they may struggle to use.

Sydney-based start-up Tapestry hopes to fix this problem with a primarily tablet-based application that simplifies email, photo sharing and internet browsing. It also has a weather feature.

Tapestry has received $600,000 in seed funding from investment group Sydney Angels and some individual investors, including ResMed founding investor David Greatorex, CHAMP Private Equity managing director Su-Ming Wong, and Tower Software founder Brand Hoff. Nextec Strategic Capital director Neil Bourne has joined the board.

“Everyone has a grandmother or parents who struggle with technology,” Tapestry founder Andrew Dowling says. Tapestry’s philosophy is to simplify programs, remove functions that are not in use and make the digital interface more user-friendly, with larger fonts and less cluttered design.

The business began in 2010, based in Dowling’s house, and now has a team of five based in a co-working space in Ultimo. Tapestry’s software opened to the public last week, following trials with senior users.

Seven senior residents of the Carlingford Wesley Mission, aged 74 to 83, were selected to trial the software for six weeks, finishing in August. “Not a single one of them felt that they were comfortable with technology,” Dowling says. After the trial, four of the group went on to buy tablets and subscribe to a monthly Tapestry plan, the costs of which range from $5 to $15 per month.

One of them, Shirley, 83, began the trial saying she had poor internet skills. But she was soon using the program to email her family and receive photos. She even became something of an addict for online games. “She was playing [online] scrabble with her grandkids on a daily basis,” Dowling says.

The company is looking to partner with aged-care homes to encourage the roll-out of Tapestry’s software. “Our challenge is to get a tablet into people’s hands,” he says.

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