The story of GetSetUp: A race to empower and connect older adults

Liz Miller

The story of GetSetUp: A race to empower and connect older adults

GetSetUp might never have come to be if it weren’t for long weekend trail runs through the Golden Gate National Recreation Hills and an initial bike ride through the Himalayas where co-founders Neil Dsouza and Lawrence Kosick first met.

Neil and Lawrence on a hike.

During these long trial runs, the friends–both of whom are serial entrepreneurs–regularly shared their ambitious startup ideas. Neil had an ed-tech background as an advisor and innovator. Meanwhile, Lawrence had a consumer internet and enterprise software background. Neil had stepped down from the CEO position at Zaya, a product development organization helping children in remote regions access high-quality learning tools, and was looking for his next mission. Lawrence had reached a stage in his career where he was more passionate about using his startup experience to solve a problem to make the world a better place.

In late 2019 on a long trail run in preparation for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim run, Neil shared his idea to re-skill retired educators and have them teach older adults software and apps. He saw how older adults were being left behind by new technology and wanted to empower them to teach each other how to use these tools to stay active and connected. Technology, he argued, was no longer a nice-to-have. Instead, it was now necessary for everything from receiving health care, banking, communicating, and most importantly, staying connected.

It was one of the most inspiring ideas Lawrence had heard in a long time and also one that was very personal to him. As a child, Lawrence’s father founded a non-profit assisted living facility. Lawrence remembered visiting the facility after school and on weekends, being inspired by the people he met, and thinking how the older adults had so much wisdom to offer yet so many times they felt forgotten.

Lawrence took the risk and quit his job to join Neil at GetSetUp as his co-founder. It seemed like the crazy, high-risk, entrepreneurial right thing to do!

Together they set out to build a new kind of offering for older adults. One that respected what this community had to offer and empowered them to keep striving for more. They knew this older demographic was projected to be 25% of the overall US population in the next 20+ years and 20% of the global population. Yet, almost every business they studied was failing to recognize the unique needs of this large and important demographic. These older users were not DIY (do it yourself) and often didn’t enjoy or couldn’t self-onboard themselves by simply watching videos on YouTube to download an app or learn the software. Yet many companies simply expected them to do so.

Instead, they would create a company where every part of the experience would be designed to meet the needs of older adults. They would encourage and empower older adults, and rather than an after-thought, they would solve for them first.

Learning and connection as we age

To meet older adults' needs, Neil and Lawrence first decided to provide economic opportunities for older workers in a cyclic project where these older adults teach their peers. The learner becomes the teacher and vice versa. They knew that people would learn better when they felt comfortable, could go at their own pace, and learn from people like them.

Second, the co-founders discovered that as more and more older adults started joining classes, older adults learn better as a community and that community and connection provided as much benefit as the actual learning. And while all other demographics have numerous (and a growing number of) platforms for finding connections, older adults were not part of this cultural evolution.

Their angel investor, Deval Delivala, was so passionate about the project that she joined as a third co-founder to lead international growth and head development in India, Australia, and other countries. She was one of the initial hires to lead growth for Uber in India, so it only made sense for her to move forward with her passion for helping her aging parents and older adults at large.

With these insights in mind, GetSetUp was born with these founding principles:

  • Provide economic opportunities for older workers who are often overlooked or face ageism in hiring processes. Often this is a chance for retired older adults to find a new life in a second or their career.
  • Offer space for learners to be empowered to share their passions and skills with an engaged and supportive community
  • Provide digital training and adoption for older adults to ensure they can maintain their independence.
  • Create a community for older adults who may face social isolation or mobility issues.
  • Provide a safe, fun, live, and interactive way for older adults to interact with their peers and discover new passions and purposes.
  • Provide learning opportunities for older adults to help prevent cognitive decline and allow them to follow their dreams!

GetSetUp’s community

Neil and Lawrence.

GetSetUp strives to create a virtual global community that supports learning and sharing. We foster four core values.

Four pillars of GetSetUp

  • Be Empowering: Every day we create change to enable active agers to live their best lives.
  • Be Curious: We are lifelong learners with a constant hunger for knowledge, and genuine interest in learning from each other.
  • Be Hospitable: A welcoming community where everyone feels supported to work and grow in a non-judgemental environment.
  • Be Bold: We embrace taking risks and making mistakes, and relish the uncertainty of being an explorer.

How is the GetSetup community different?

GetSetUp is now a thriving community for older adults. It provides a fun, social learning environment that helps learners acquire new skills and connect with others who share their interests. We have classes around the clock and around the world, on everything from technology courses, health and fitness, personal wellness, and interest-based social groups.

Classes are typically an hour long and led by one of our expert GetSetUp Guides, who are themselves older adults. They provide an engaging, welcoming environment where learners actively participate and always walk away with new skills and tangible knowledge, having had some fun and meeting new people along the way!

Why do people come to GetSetUp?

People come to GetSetUp for a variety of reasons. Some want to better understand how to connect using technology such as Zoom, email, or social networks. Others want to learn a new skill such as a language or hobbies like cooking or writing. Some wish to kickstart second (or third) careers, and others just like the idea of using learning as a way to connect with people like them. You can read stories of how others have joined GetSetUp to learn how to host virtual eventsdesign their own gifts, and learn skills for helping enhance their volunteer work.

Whatever their goal, GetSetUp offers safe online classes taught by experienced GetSetUp Guides–people just like learners who are there to help find the right pace for each learner. GetSetUp believes that learning is more effective when it is interactive, and everyone contributes. So GetSetUp encourages participation as much as each learner feels comfortable. The GetSetUp community is only possible thanks to the input of its amazing learners.

GetSetUp is a unique business built on the solid foundation of a highly engaged multigenerational team working to make the world a better place. Our company values each generation’s resources and wealth of knowledge to create a live engaging, and fulfilling space for older adults to feel heard and have space to grow and thrive!

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The story of GetSetUp: A race to empower and connect older adults
The story of GetSetUp: A race to empower and connect older adults
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The story of GetSetUp: A race to empower and connect older adults
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