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Business Observer Monday, Apr. 16, 2018 1 year ago

Innovative service brings 'grandkids on demand' to area

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A new tech startup sees great potential in bridging generational gaps.

Miami entrepreneur Andrew Parker left a steady gig with MDlive.com, the telehealth company founded by his father, to launch Papa, a tech startup that recently expanded to Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

But it was another family member, his grandfather, who inspired the new venture. (“Papa” is Parker’s nickname for his grandfather.)

About two years ago, Papa needed assistance with a task and called Parker for help. Parker, now 30, was unavailable so he hired a college student friend to help Papa, and an idea was born.

Papa, the business, has adopted the tagline “Grandkids on Demand” and makes money by charging seniors a $15 monthly membership fee that gives them access to college student helpers, known as Papa Pals, who in turn earn $15 per hour for providing assistance and/or companionship. The company also takes a small cut of the Papa Pals’ hourly wages.

“I thought, ‘If I am ever going to do this, I should do it now,’” Parker says. “The demographic data is pointing to it.”

Parker says Papa is about more than just money. He wants to help bridge the ever-widening gap between two extremely diverse generations. “It’s beneficial to both sides,” he says. “Our priority is combating loneliness.”

Parker emphasizes that Papa is not a caregiving service — “we are a social service,” he says — and that potential Papa Pals are thoroughly vetted with background checks and vehicle inspections.

Parker declines to divulge how many end users Papa has, but says the number doubles every month. The company employs seven people, has raised about $600,000 from investors and is on track to bring in $1 million in revenue in 2018, he says. Jacksonville is its next target market in Florida, he adds.

(This story has been updated to note that Andrew Parker did not co-found MDLive.com.) 

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