PreciouStatus was born out of frustration, heart-wrenching fear, and the stress of simultaneously being a new mom and caregiver for a seriously ill husband. In 2011, Julie Gilbert Newrai’s son, Arman, was an infant starting day care while her husband, Sohrab, was at a rehabilitation center recovering from a debilitating aneurysm and brain surgery. Newrai simply wanted to be able to check on them, but when she called, she was put on hold or disconnected, and she couldn’t get any answers.
“It was my breaking point. I pulled my car over and cried and got mad, and I thought, ‘Why does this have to be so hard? I can’t be the only person who has someone you love so much be in the care of a professional,’” recalls Newrai. “It shouldn’t be this hard to create a solution.’”
In short order, Newrai decided that she could and should be the one to create such a solution. She cancelled her meetings and went to a coffee shop to sketch out her ideas for a new business. Her company, PreciouStatus, would offer a mobile service to provide personalized status updates about loved ones being cared for by others—for example, elderly nursing home residents, children in day care, and hospital patients.
Newrai aimed to give family members peace of mind while making it easier for caregivers to do their jobs. “Providers want to do relationship-based care and bring the family into the circle, but there’s no easy way to do that other than the old-fashioned telephone,” she says.
A former Best Buy executive, Newrai is well known for creating the electronics giant’s Women Leadership Forum (WOLF) to cultivate more female leaders and shoppers at the company. She left Best Buy in 2009 to bring her approach to new clients including Nintendo, Target, and Motorola.
When Newrai started PreciouStatus in 2011, she created focus groups with nurses, teachers, and occupational and physical therapists. She used their input to build a product that served family members while also making caregivers’ lives easier. After hiring local software developer Drivetrain Agency to create the underlying technology, Minneapolis-based PreciouStatus completed a successful pilot in October 2011 at a local day care facility.
With PreciouStatus, caregivers can send quick updates to family members via their mobile phones or computers, keeping them apprised of things like what a child ate for lunch or how she slept. To keep caregivers engaged, they can earn points and incentives for sending updates and exchange them for merchandise or gift cards. For family members, a key selling point is customization. Each person can select the type and frequency of the status updates he or she receives. And those being cared for can receive photos or videos from loved ones and send messages and pictures to friends and family. PreciouStatus’ revenue comes from selling software licenses to day care centers and other care facilities based on the number of children, residents, or patients whose loved ones sign up to use the service. PreciouStatus sets a minimum per-person fee, and each care facility can set rates above that amount so as to receive its own slice of revenue from the service. The company, which has six employees, already has attracted interest and attention, having raised $1.4 million last summer. Investors saw a big opportunity, Newrai says, and for good reason: 30 million people in the United States alone are in either day care or an elder care facility—and 95 million people are primary caregivers.
PreciouStatus, which is up and running nationally, is initially focusing on day care centers and senior facilities.
“I really want to eliminate the feeling I had of helplessness and create an environment where you can engage with people you love in your life and create transparency in health care,” says Newrai. “We’re all in this together. I hope we can create a window of bright light and transparency in the health care world.”