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Serious Health founder reimagines elder care

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of posts about companies LaunchTN has supported through the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund. 

Serious Health founder Gideon Thomas is building a business based on her own experiences. 

Navigating options for elder medical care left her angry and confused and she knew she wasn’t the only one going through it. 

“I don’t ever want anybody to feel like this, so I’ve got to fix it,” she said. 

Thomas participated in LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund for Small Business Innovation Research. With grant writing and application support from LaunchtN, she landed federal Phase I funding from the Administration for Community Living that LaunchTN later matched.

Serious Health
In 2019, Thomas founded Serious Health — an agency focused on placing elderly and disabled clients into personal homes of nurses to care for their daily needs. The company seeks cultural connection in a family-like environment, which increases satisfaction for both the nurse and the patient. 

The idea is to place people in a nurse’s home for the same care services that a client would get from a family member, such as bathing, food preparation, transportation, medication management, and emotional support.

And Medicare pays for it, she said. 

“This literally impacts everyone and it will forever,” Thomas said of the need for elder care. 

In addition to providing a safe space for the patient to get care, the nurse also benefits, Thomas said. 

Because the population in need is so large, it allows for nurses to choose who they serve, which creates more job satisfaction, she said. 

When she started recruiting nurses, she asked them who they wanted to serve, and they would respond by telling her what they’ve done in the past. 

“I said, ‘What do you want?’ and they couldn’t answer the question because they hadn’t even thought about it because nobody had asked them,” she said. 

Matching nurses with people who they want to serve creates a better situation for everyone involved, Thomas said. 

“They get to have autonomy,” she said. 

SBIR/STTR
Every year, 11 participating federal agencies allocate capital totalling $4 billion to SBIR/STTR programs. 

The SBIR/STTR programs, colloquially known as America’s Seed Fund, are the country’s biggest source of early-stage funding for research and development. 

America’s Seed Fund is composed of two programs: 

  1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 
  2. Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

Through its Microgrant Program, LaunchTN provides technical support to founders applying for federal SBIR/ STTR funds.

LaunchTN supports founders’ applications to the federal programs, and if the founders land that funding, then LaunchTN invites the company to apply for matching funds to further accelerate their business development.

Working with LaunchTN
LaunchTN’s Technology Advancement Manager Charles Layne met Thomas through a LaunchTN SBIR/STTR workshop hosted in collaboration with Meharry Medical College’s ResilienSEED program

LaunchTN encouraged Thomas to apply for the Microgrant Program, paired her with a commercialization advisor and identified Meharry personnel who could support the preparation of her SBIR/STTR proposal to the Administration for Community Living through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

At a $3.2 million annual budget, the Administration for Community Living is one of the smallest SBIR/STTR programs, which means only 10 Phase I awards are made each year, making it a highly competitive program.

Thomas was successful in landing the $99,742 in SBIR funding, which LaunchTN matched through the FY24 SBIR/STTR Matching Fund. 

And, while the SBIR/STTR programs invest in more geographically diverse communities than traditional venture capital, female and minority-owned business owners remain underrepresented throughout SBIR/STTR programs, accounting for 11% and 8% of awards respectively, according to the Brookings Institution

“What Gideon accomplished is really incredible, and the whole of our ecosystem should rally behind what Gideon is building to amplify and ensure her continued success,” Layne said. 

The funding will support Thomas in building her team and executing on her Phase I objectives to ensure she is able to prepare a successful Phase 2 application. 

“Phase 2 is where you actually commercialize the technology,” Layne said. 

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