Welbi eyes U.S. market as software company lands $6M seed round to fuel expansion

Welbi founder
Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau is the co-founder and CEO of Welbi. File photo

Welbi’s bid to conquer the North American market has received a massive boost in the form of a multimillion-dollar funding infusion the Ottawa-based health-tech firm says will help it expand its platform across the U.S.

The six-year-old software company said Wednesday it has finalized a $6-million seed round led by Toronto’s Graphite Ventures with participation from MaRS IAF, SoGal Ventures, Roach Capital and a number of angel investors.

Co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau told Techopia the firm’s fundraising efforts attracted so much interest that the company eventually decided to limit contributors to those investors it felt “could really move the dial to the next level” as Welbi ramps up its expansion drive.

“This round was really about bringing on the right people that could bring us from where we are today to the next stage,” she said. “We know we have a big share of the market in Canada, and we want to have the same thing in the U.S.”

It’s another big step forward for Welbi, which is based out of Invest Ottawa’s accelerator at Bayview Yards. The company helps retirement and long-term care homes design recreation programs and other activities for seniors and monitor residents’ levels of engagement.

Welbi has seen a dramatic uptick in demand for its platform during the COVID-19 crisis, Audette-Bourdeau said. 

As feelings of social isolation among seniors spiked during lockdowns, retirement residences began seeking better ways to ensure residents remained socially and physically active – a need tailor-made for Welbi’s solution, the CEO said. 

New markets

Meanwhile, long-term care homes also began jumping on the platform in a bid to help lift some of the administrative burden off overworked nurses and personal support workers who were stretched to their limits as COVID took a heavy toll on frontline health-care staff.

After landing a contract with major Canadian retirement home provider Revera in 2020, Welbi added a major player in the long-term care space earlier this year when it landed a deal with Responsive Group, which operates 19 long-term care facilities and 15 retirement communities in Ontario.

Audette-Bourdeau said she expects the platform to be found in more than 350 retirement and long-term care homes by the end of the year. A growing number of those are located south of the border, where Welbi’s software is now being used by three operators of senior living communities in California, Indiana and Michigan.

The company’s revenues have soared 1,800 per cent since the start of the pandemic, Audette-Bourdeau noted, with much of that growth being fuelled by the burgeoning long-term care market. While two-thirds of Welbi’s business still comes from its legacy seniors home customers, the long-term care sector is quickly closing the gap, she explained.

“Our growth has been phenomenal since we’ve adapted to the whole senior living market,” Audette-Bourdeau said.

The company has proven to be nimble in other ways, too. 

A few months into the pandemic, Welbi bolstered its platform by adding a contact-tracing tool that allowed users to quickly determine which staff members and residents came into contact with an infected person, when and for how long. The technology has since been adopted by all of the firm’s customers.

In addition, Welbi has joined forces with software powerhouse PointClickCare to integrate its platform into the Mississauga-based company’s internet-based health records software, allowing all nurses and support staff to instantly know what recreation and health programs seniors are participating in.  

“They were the perfect partner to do this (agreement) with because they’re very innovative,” Audette-Bourdeau said of PointClickCare, which provides software to more than 27,000 senior care facilities and 2,700 hospitals in the U.S.

New board members

As part of the funding agreement, Welbi is adding two new members to its board of directors. They include Steven Robertson, a former manager at PointClickCare who co-founded CareWorx, an IT platform that catered to the senior care industry and eventually merged with Ottawa-based cloud services provider Fully Managed. 

“He’s been there, done it, understands the senior living industry,” Audette-Bourdeau said of Robertson. 

As sales continue to rise, Welbi keeps adding to its payroll even as some tech firms are now rethinking their ambitious hiring plans in the face of soaring inflation, rising interest rates and the looming threat of a recession.

The firm is currently looking to fill five open positions and expects to be at about 30 employees by the end of the year as it builds out its U.S. sales and marketing team.

Audette-Bourdeau said the company is experiencing few headwinds as it moves forward on the expansion trail. She’s already laying the groundwork for a series-A funding round that could come as soon as next summer.

“We’ve been closing some communities within a one-week sales cycle, which was something we had never seen before,” she said. “COVID has really shown that there is a need, there is a problem, and Welbi is the solution. Recession or no recession, our seniors need our help.”