Originally published on June 28, 2022 Tech Crunch
It’s often hard making new friends as an adult, and it’s even more difficult as you get older, say the founders of Hank. The app connects people aged 55 and older with other folks in their community and provides events geared specifically for them. The New York City-based startup announced today it has raised $7 million in seed funding led by General Catalyst and Resolute Ventures.
Other participants in the funding included Canaan Partners, The Fund and Tau Ventures.
Hank says it is one of the first platforms focused on matching adults over the age of 55 with events like art workshops, pickleball, coffee meet-ups and skydiving. The startup sponsors some events, but members can also create their own.
Hank is now available in the New York City area, but will expand during the second half of this year to markets including New Jersey, Florida and Texas. It eventually plans to be available in all 50 states.
Co-founder and CEO Brian Park said he founded Hank because after more than a decade of working in tech, he realized he was primarily creating things only for people like him, or 40 and under.
“That got me thinking about what’s a very clear age bias in tech. There’s a common misconception in the tech industry that older generations don’t understand or want new technology,” he told TechCrunch. “So no one designs solutions with people 55+ in mind. But that’s a real misconception, because in reality, those are the same people who mastered Atari and bought the first iPhone!”
That realization came around the same time Park’s parents became empty nesters, and he and his brother watched them struggle to find new social circles and activities.
“They were frustrated by the sheer amount of time it took to find things to do, disappointed by the media’s outdated representations of older adult life and unsure how to translate digital connections on traditional social media platforms into real-life experiences.” Park’s parents eventually found connections through church and alumni groups, but he says that “the process was piecemeal and even those groups didn’t feel like quite enough for them.”
Park points to studies that show that social circles peak at 25. By the time older adults hit their fifties, they have spent years building careers and families. But after they retire, work is no longer a source of connection. Many don’t known what events might be taking place near them or how to meet new friends.
“There’s no easy place to find that consolidated information since there’s no one solution that’s been built for this demographic based on what they actually want,” said Park.
Park and co-founder Andrew Hong (the two have been best friends since sixth grade) decided a better solution was needed, especially after forced isolation because of the pandemic. In addition to fighting loneliness, Hank is also tapping into a lucrative market: Park says people aged 55+ spend an average of $120 billion per year on leisure activities.
Park puts Hank’s competitors into two groups. The first are social networking sites like Facebook and Meetup that were originally designed for people in their 20s and 30s. The second are niche networks for older adults that haven’t built enough awareness to create an engaged community.
“We believe we can out-design the former because we’re listening to and building for 55+ people, and we can out-market the latter because we’re committed to toppling the marketing stereotype that so grossly misrepresents what midlife actually looks like,” he said.
For example, the company has launched a marketing campaign, “Generation You,” that shows people in their 50s being active.
In terms of its user acquisition strategy, Hank is starting out with traditional paid channels, which Park said has helped them build a strong initial base of users. “But because we want the Hank community to be built on real connections between like-minded people, we’re planning for the next phase of our acquisition to come from organic channels and co-marketing with interest-based organizations,” he added. The company will invest in product features for sharing and partnerships with organizations that already have niche, interest-based groups in its demographic, like Bridge & Games club in New York.
In a prepared statement, General Catalyst managing director Niko Bonatsos said, “They were the first generation to graduate from mixed tapes to digital playlists. They mastered Pong and successfully survived over 30 versions of the iPhone. They are tech savvy and it’s about time for a platform to connect this vibrant community.”