With a federal grant, Philly’s looks to stave off social isolation in seniors

The video chat platform from OneClick (formerly Potluck) will be used in a study at the University of Illinois. cofounders Dillon Myers (left) and Alan Gibson. (Courtesy photo)
Philly-based entrepreneur Dillon Myers kept hearing the same line from users: The best thing about his startup’s video platform was being able to log in with one click.

That’s the short story of how Potluck, a Philly-based video-chat startup, took on its new name, The mission, Myers said, remains the same: connecting people through the company’s web-based video chat platform.

Last fall, the company raised a pre-seed round worth $225,000 to work on its platform. Now, backed by a $150,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, the four-person startup will join a study alongside the University of Illinois to evaluate the impact that video chat can have on social isolation among older adults.

Two thirds of the grant (awarded through the National Institute on Aging) will go to the Philly company so it can continue working on its platform. has four full-timers distributed between Philadelphia, West Virginia and Maryland, with cofounder and CEO Myers based out of 1776’s Curtis Center location.

“The original idea was to connect people to have dinner together,” Myers said. “Since then, we’ve seen a bigger opportunity in that most video platforms are hard to use. We wanted to make a platform where communities and groups could meet.”

The company offers another video communications platform aimed at events, where presenters can speak to a distributed audience that can later be split into discussion groups.

In the field of video communications, OneClick faces a myriad of competitors, including Microsoft-owned Skype and the venture-backed Zoom platform. The biggest differentiators, Myers said, is the platform’s ease of use and the fact that no downloads or add-ons are required to log on.

(Related: Myers, a Massachusetts native, is part of a cadre of former Venture for America fellows that stuck around Philly to start a company.)

At the University of Illinois, research will be led by researcher Dr. Wendy Rogers as part of  an initiative called Collaborations in Aging, Health, Research, and Technology (CHART).  The first step will be to interview a group of adults aged 70 and older with mild cognitive impairment to understand their attitude towards technology and video chat. A four-week trial will then be set up with a series of themed events based on feedback from older adults themselves: think book clubs, discussions around knitting or crafts.

According to stats from Connect2Affect, a foundation started by the AARP Foundation, more than 8 million people aged 50 and older are affected by social isolation in the U.S., driven by factors as wide ranging as poor health, transportation challenges and lack of access and racial inequality. There are tangible health implications, like increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Myers said having the chance to tackle this problem through technology stems back to their core mission.

“Even thinking back to our original idea, the reason we thought about connecting people is because we thought it would be impactful,” Myers said. “Having this grant is an opportunity to help with this growing trend, and that’s important to us.”


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