Kara Kytle worried about her mom in her 70s living so far away in Michigan.
She would call but the voice mail box would be full. Then she would call a neighbor to check on her mom to make sure she was OK. Then she would worry.
So the software engineer who worked with prolific inventor Philippe Kahn for a decade decided to come up with a solution.
She’s the co-founder of Assure Technologies, which released WithMe, an app with a daily check-in designed to bring peace of mind to people with loved ones who are getting on in years.
Kytle pitched it to venture capitalists at SXSW V2V in Las Vegas recently and gave a presentation to 200 people at the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp at Cruzio.
She invited people to use the app, WithMe, which is free, and is seeking angel investors.
She’s bootstrapped the operation for more than a year with co-founder Joe Rigney, an environmental consultant, and has a handful of employees.
The app has been available for two months at the Apple store and recently became available for Android.
So far there are about 100 “active users,” Kytle said.
That list includes her mom, who has moved to Santa Cruz, where she enjoys the mild weather and checks in every day.
“It’s very easy to use – it reminds you every day to check in,” Kytle said. “Over half who start using it are still using it today.”
The app features a check-in button and can be customized with a message, a heart, a smiley face or a face indicating “under the weather.”
Kytle targeted the U.S. market – “With 76 million baby boomers, it’s monetizable,” she said – but discovered inquiries coming from other countries so she set up international phone support.
She’s building a version with more features such as a check-in history that customers would pay for.
One man at the meetup asked her about texting as an alternative but Kytle said she does not see the small screen of a cellphone and its smaller keyboard as practical for those older than age 65.
“Nobody wants to use technology that makes them feel old,” she said.
Pew Research Center found a generation gap, finding only 35 percent of those older than age 65 with a cellphone texting compared with 97 percent of those ages 18-29.
At the White House Conference on Aging, President Obama launched Aging.gov as a resource to help older adults live independently.
Meetup attendee Mike Chrabaszcz, of Aptos, Calif., who has a tech-savvy mom, said the challenge is to find a way to monitor, and assist in case of a fall, without being overly intrusive.
Think of Big Brother from George Orwell’s “1984.”
Kytle’s app is not the only product out there, according to Chrabaszcz, but he said it’s “totally in the right direction.”
What: App to stay in touch with loved ones
Available at: www.withmeweb.com