Breezie: getting digitally excluded communities online
Breezie uses tablet software to help make the internet accessible. Primarily targeting the elderly, it provides a simple and intuitive interface to popular internet applications like Facebook and Skype.
It enables people to enjoy the benefits of these applications for an older person (I want to see my grandson) without the complexity (I don’t understand Skype). It also has an online facility for a family member/care-giver to remotely personalise, support and troubleshoot – adding contacts, suggesting apps, and bookmarking content.
The solution can transform the lives of elderly users through supporting communication with family/friends and reducing isolation that can lead to depression. It also provides easy access to critical content – such as .gov.uk and online health services. Users can keep mentally active through games and entertainment as well as do online shopping, billing and banking like everyone else.
Breezie raised £600k through equity crowdfunding and raising of impact investment by ClearlySo. Five Clearly Social Angels invested in the deal, including Founding Angel Suzanne Biegel. A few months later, in early 2015, they then raised £2m from a Series A round, including from a US institutional investor.
Jeh Kazimi, the entrepreneur behind Breezie, explains: “Breezie was started by a personal need to get my parents online. My mum was over from India to spend time with her grandson; my wife and I were busy trying to teach her how to use Skype, as well as my dad in India. After several weeks of ‘can you hear me, can you see me?’ on Skype, I realised every day technology that we take for granted just isn’t built for people not comfortable with technology. Specialist computers for the elderly are too patronizing and mass market solutions like iPads lacked real support or care. Fast forward two and a half years and we have built a team who are passionate about solving this problem and have received incredible support from organisations like Samsung and Age UK in bringing our solution to market.”
Suzanne Biegel explained that she invested because she could see clear impact and a strong business model: “Any of us that have been in the position of providing tech support for our parents can see the potential in a smart solution that helps us and the people we love. There’s a big imperative around digital inclusion and social isolation as well; it’s a big market opportunity for someone who gets this right. I love this company because ageing is an area I’ve been looking to invest in, and Jeh and his team were the right people at the right time – with the right business approach.”