Category Archives: Technology

Dell interview our own Steve McNulty

By on 11 03, 2014 in Technology

Written by Jessica Hashemi Wednesday, 29 October 2014.

Many businesses are born from a personal experience, usually a frustrating one. Steve McNulty was no different, he needed to find a way to communicate better with his mother who had zero-technology ability. He created Visbuzz, a one-touch communication platform that allows the elderly who may be isolated or suffer from restricted mobility to contact their loved ones easily.

visbuzz1Dell has announced that Visbuzz, a burgeoning software-as-a-service start-up, has selected Dell to deliver one-touch communication technology to the elderly, who may be isolated or suffer from restricted mobility. The software, available through the cloud on Dell tablets, will offer a single-function tool to connect people quickly and efficiently with those who matter most, from family and friends to carers.

Tell me a little bit about your background?

I trained as an engineer and spent 15 years in heavy engineering (power stations and oil exploration) until I decided I wanted to be master of my own destiny. I formed my first business in 1985 and my most recent one in 2011.

Over the last 29 years, I’ve established and built businesses for myself as well as for others. I’ve raised millions in venture capital and disposed of growing business for large earnings multiples on earnings and shareholder ROI. I’ve had my set backs and hard learning experiences as have most entrepreneurs and these have always served me well going forward.

I see myself as always being involved in enterprise in some way because I love everything there is about taking ideas and making them a reality. This is especially true when the ideas are geared towards improving people’s lives and are to the benefit of communities both regionally as well as globally.

That said, it’s not all about just running a business. I have my early stage tech business (Visbuzz), but also coach 12 business leaders every month to help them get better results. I run leadership, sales and personal growth workshops for executives and I support a number of charities with their events and fundraising efforts. Luckily my partner, Elaine, supports me fully in my activities as I support her in hers.

It’s a full life and a fun life, and I adhere to Walter Hagen’s advice “…and be sure to smell the flowers along the way”

What was the inspiration for Visbuzz?

My mother is 87, immobile and yet highly independent. None of her kids live near her anymore and once my Dad died a few years ago her purpose for living declined. Adding to this the obvious isolation and exclusion, and we soon observed a downward spiral in attitude, health and mental wellbeing.

I had to find a way of including her in family and community life, raise her self-esteem and help all of us kids and grandkids stay connected. The cost and inconvenience of numerous weekly long drives for only a few minutes of face-to-face Mum time made me consider if I knew of someway I could use technology without her needing to.

Knowing what is possible and building it are two completely different things, especially when the recipient has never seen nor used a computer (as she knows it). The struggle for the absolute simplicity was agonizing. I brought in some old colleagues from the tech world and we tried a number of solutions. Finally, after 3 months, we arrived at a prototype. We then took about 21 months to get it simple enough for my mum to use, taking out the psychological barriers for her as well.

Our vision was to help create a world in which loneliness doesn’t exist, by making video calling really simple for people who can’t, don’t or won’t use computers. We now have a simple system allows users to make a call with a single touch. It actually looks like my Mum’s favourite photo frame and all she does to have a video call with me is touch my photo. It as simple as that.

Currently we run Visbuzz on Dell Venue Pro 8-inch tablets and the system works brilliantly. In a relatively short time, we’ve seen unbelievable results, not only for us but also for my mum’s carers, the GP and the NHS.

We now have customers in a number of areas in the UK successfully using Visbuzz. It’s rewarding to see the impact we are making in this area.

Why did you decide to partner with Dell?

I knew we needed a strong tech partner for this project. We had the idea, we had the developers but nothing was going to get traction like a reliable, robust bit of kit on the ground that reflects our values and our customer’s needs. This might sound a bit fluffy, but it was critical to our success.

I searched the market and was impressed by Michael Dell’s re-entry into the start-up market by essentially buying back the company he started nearly 30 years ago. I talked to a number of people at Dell and was incredibly impressed with how much time they were prepared to invest in my business and me at this very early stage. Like any new partnership, I still have to investigate Dell’s ability to deliver. We set up a few trials, which worked really well, for both of us.

We now have a partnership with Dell where Visbuzz devices are shipped directly to our customers and, more importantly, they work straight out of the box. Dell OEM have helped us develop a standard image and operating structure that simplifies our product so that as soon as you log onto your WiFi, then you’re ready to go with Visbuzz.

What does this collaboration entail?

Dell has really helped us in all areas of our technical development for Visbuzz and they are now starting to help us with its promotion. Specifically Dell has helped us with making the best use of the latest technology, such as Windows 8.

We are fortunate to be a part of the Dell Founders 50 cohort, which is a two-year program focused on key areas of growth for member companies and have access to support including technology, sales enablement, marketing, capital and networking opportunities. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to network with other high-growth tech businesses at all stages in their journey at a global level and have access to

Tell me a bit about Visbuzz’s potential in the health sector?

Where do I start? Visbuzz has the capability to reduce isolation and loneliness. That’s how we started and that is still our vision. However, the consequences of this are so huge that the numbers are meaningless in comparative terms. There are millions of people in the UK who are isolated and lonely and, as a result, a huge burden on themselves, their families, communities and the state. Recent studies show that 25 per cent of elderly patient appointments with a doctor are because they are lonely.

A single hospital admission costs at the very least three times the first year cost of a fully functional Visbuzz and over ten times the cost of an annual Visbuzz subscription. So on hospital admissions alone for the millions of elderly and isolated each year the savings to the state are substantial. Add in the other savings such as time and cost with remote consultations with those who can’t use Skype or FaceTime, and the financial benefits sky rocket.

In addition, we haven’t touched the benefits to the communities such as those that suffer from arthritis, MS, dementia, paraplegic or quadriplegic.

With that, not only can Visbuzz help reduce the cost burden of isolation, exclusion and loneliness it will also improve connection and happiness for the user and those that matter most to them.

Where do you hope to see Visbuzz in five years?

I see Visbuzz being used throughout the NHS and privately as a main stay of communication with those who can’t, don’t and won’t use computers at whatever age or ability.

I would hope that we are still partnering with Dell and also with a partner that has an established longer-term relationship with the NHS. I do foresee our growth being limited somewhat by the inherent barriers we’ll face selling in to the public sector. Having said that I find everyone I talk to in the NHS eager and willing to help. It’s the systems that slow everything up and it’s frustrating for everyone.

And finally, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

Make sure you are always looking to BEFITA for Entrepreneurship.

B = Belief – believe in yourself, your idea and maintain that belief. If you don’t believe in you and your vision you can’t expect others to.

E = Energy – you must maintain high levels of energy. This requires you to be physically fit (ish) and mentally fit. Plus you need to make sure you nourish your mind and body correctly. You are always in life-long-learning mode.

F = Focus – focus, focus and focus. Maintaining focus is absolutely key for you. For all the best reasons in the world others will want to distract you and you must be steadfast. Beware feature creep at all costs. If I’d lost focus then Visbuzz would not be the simple system it is today.

I = Intention – you must have an ultimate leader’s intention. That is – where are we heading. You must also plan in detail to identify possible routes. However, no plan has ever survived an encounter with a customer, a supplier or staff. Agility is key and to be agile you need to know your ultimate intention.

T = Tenacity – tenacity is key to helping with energy and focus and vice versa. Keep going and then keep going some more. People want to know that you’re around for the long haul. They want to know you’re not going away. Be tenacious.

A = Awareness – It’s easy to become internally obsessed and driven. You will need to influence a lot of other people to follow you in your vision. Peter Drucker said “There’s only one definition of a leader – someone who has followers”. Only be maintaining your awareness of others, their needs and their drivers will you do this.

After saying all that – it’s dead easy…Compelling Vision – Great People – Massive Energy.

See the full interview here.

Dell for Entrepreneurs

By on 09 22, 2014 in communicationTechnology

Dell for Entrepreneurs has announced its Founders 50 Fall 2014 cohort – the second class to join its Founders 50 initiative, and we are very happy to report that Visbuzz is included. We have been identified by Dell as a company to watch this autumn. Companies have been chosen based on their record of disrupting their respective industries through innovative products and creative solutions.

Dell believes entrepreneurs are the foundation for innovation, economic growth and job creation and works to empower entrepreneurs around the world to pursue their endeavours by providing them with the tools, technology and resources they need to be successful. Dell has a history of supporting entrepreneurs both within Dell, and externally, with Dell Ventures, Entrepreneur in Residence, and the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network – which have all given Dell the opportunity to further empower high-growth startups while  creating lasting customer connections.

The Founders 50 continues this effort while specifically honing in on companies that have technology as a backbone, are on the verge of becoming household names, have received venture capital or high-level angel funding and are poised for rapid growth and expansion, including sales, revenue or expansion in new markets. Founders 50 companies receive access to consulting and technology resources needed to scale; capital; marketing and branding support; sales enablement and the opportunity to explore new partnerships within Dell; as well as key networking and mentorship opportunities with business and industry leaders.

When Founders 50 companies complete their two-year term, they become Founders Club Alumni, joining more than 115 other companies who have participated including Skyera, CloudFlare, Everloop and Mass Relevance. 

Dell Founders 50 Fall 2014 Class
Dell’s Fall Founders 50 participants, of which Visbuzz is one, exemplify how innovative technology solutions can be used to effect positive change and catalyse business growth.

Find out more, and see a list of all 50 companies here.

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Visbuzz and Dell

By on 09 15, 2014 in communicationTechnology

Visbuzz has selected Dell to deliver our one-touch communication technology to the elderly, who may be isolated or suffer from restricted mobility.  The software, available through the cloud on Dell tablets, offers a single-function tool to connect people quickly and efficiently with those who matter most, from family and friends to carers.

In the UK, the aging population means that there are millions who are desperate to have more contact with those who matter most but lack the ability to physically visit or communicate easily in the increasingly digital world.

Following an introduction via the Dell UK Centre for Entrepreneurs, an initiative that provides access to funding, mentoring and Dell’s technical expertise and world class infrastructure to help developing businesses grow and scale quickly, we chose Dell OEM Solutions to take its system to a wider customer base.  With its belief that technology is underpinning and fuelling growth among entrepreneurs, Dell saw the significant potential of the system and worked with Visbuzz to integrate its offering onto preconfigured Dell Venue 8 Pro tablets on a set-up and fulfilment model. As a result, Visbuzz customers receive delivery direct from Dell and their tablets work with Visbuzz straight out of the box.

Steve McNulty, CEO of Visbuzz, explained why the company chose Dell: “While Visbuzz can run as a stand-alone system for users to install on their own hardware, we realised that many of our target demographic do not already have their own product.  By offering a complete package with a robust Dell tablet, we’re able to ensure that everyone can benefit from our solution.  Dell OEM Solutions is committed to our vision and focused on helping us prepare our service for market as both a supplier and a promoter.”

As well as helping bring people together, Visbuzz also offers a cost-effective solution for health professionals to carry out consultations remotely.  In the first project of its kind in the UK, Dell tablets that support Visbuzz are already being installed by Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and Halton Borough Council in the homes of some of the area’s most isolated and vulnerable residents.  The project also teaches volunteers from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), local authority and local community groups, such as the British Red Cross and Wellbeing Enterprises, how to use Visbuzz effectively in the users’ homes. Visbuzz is committed to leading innovation in its industry and has joined the Dell Founders 50, a highly curated group of CEOs and founders who view technology as a critical backbone to business success, to help achieve this goal.

Dermot O’Connell, executive director and general manager, OEM Solutions at Dell, gave an overview of the importance of Dell’s work with Visbuzz: “Digital exclusion is an increasing problem for those who are not natural adopters of new technology, such as the elderly. Visbuzz is a great way to introduce a new demographic to the benefits of technology without overwhelming them.  The customer doesn’t see a new-fangled device that they don’t understand; they see a familiar photo frame that can connect them to their loved ones by simply touching the image.”

See the Dell Press Release here.

 

 

Tackling Loneliness

In the first project of its kind in the UK, Visbuzz is working with Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and Halton Borough Council to install Visbuzz units in the homes of some of the area’s most isolated and vulnerable residents. The project also involves training volunteers from the CCG, local authority and local community groups such as The British Red Cross and Wellbeing Enterprises in how to use Visbuzz effectively in the users’ homes.

This is an amazing opportunity to influence positively the lives of isolated and lonely individuals. In previous posts I have discussed the importance of social interaction, meaningful contact and face to face communication and this project brings together all of these aspects, with a view to collecting and collating evidence to further support work in this field.

Loneliness is not simply a matter of connecting with people, it is about connecting with the people that matter.

For those of you who are new to Visbuzz, our vision is a world in which loneliness does not exist. Visbuzz connects you face to face easily and simply with those who are important to you; just by touching their picture. We have used the most up to date technology, making Visbuzz as simple to use as possible. Visbuzz allows you to connect to your loved ones through a computer tablet with one touch, reducing loneliness and increasing wellbeing.

Not only can Visbuzz help those who are isolated, vulnerable and lonely, but Visbuzz can also give their carers, family and friends, peace of mind and reduce their worry levels.

Loneliness can affect all of us at one time or another, and is not just someone else’s problem. Together, we can go further towards a world in which loneliness does not exist.

Is loneliness affecting you or someone you love? What ways have you found to combat loneliness? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.   

  http://www.thatmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/elderly-people_0.jpg

 

 

Steve writes for myageingparent.com

Steve has written an article for www.myageingparent.com where he discusses the creation and benefits of Visbuzz. See the article below, and at http://www.myageingparent.com/keep-touch-using-technology/

Keep in touch using technology with Visbuzz.

  • Many of us worry about older relatives and ageing parents, especially if we live far from them and can’t easily pop in for a cup of tea or a quick chat. I felt just this way about my mum. I also felt guilty because I knew my mum’s loneliness was causing health problems, but I couldn’t see how things could change.Visbuzz 4
  • Loneliness has a real impact, not only on those concerned about ageing parents, but also the organisations and people who provide care and services to them. I am learning what many health professionals already accept; loneliness often leads to depression and physical illness, particularly in older people who may be less able to sustain their mental or physical wellbeing. If they are frail or have other conditions, it makes it harder for them to socialise, or be active
  • Some estimates suggest that 30% of GP call-outs are to elderly people, whose real need is for company. They need not live in a remote location; loneliness can be just as acute in our inner cities, where an older person may not know the people across the landing or next door
  • Since my Dad died a few years ago, my mum had become less mobile, less interested in travelling, or doing anything which interrupted her usual routine. Our family is spread around the country and, although we all did our best, no one could be with her all of the time. She is fiercely independent, wanting to stay in her own home, but the combination of isolation from her family and living alone meant she became lonely and her emotional and mental health began to suffer
  • Faced with the prospect of years of trying to balance the needs of my family, my business and my independent mother, I tried many ways to help her and also to reduce my guilt at not being able to be with her all the time. Carers and ccommunity workers cater for her physical needs, but it was her psychological and emotional needs I wanted to provide for. She wanted to be included and connected to those who mattered most to her. But how?
  • I noticed that regular visits from family resulted in great peaks of happiness, but then, once the family departed, deep troughs of unhappiness and depression. In reality, no visits at all may have been an appropriate way to keep her health stable. But we could not contemplate not seeing our mum, so we continued to visit regularly and my mum’s health deteriorated. She fell more often and her general health was wors,e which meant more hospital visits. She was often short tempered, especially with my brother, whom she saw most often, because she felt unwell much of the time. She became increasingly cantankerous . As this was happening, so my sense of guilt and worry deepened.  My two siblings felt the same. How could we make our mum happy AND keep her emotional and mental health stable?
  • It was obvious that finding a way to reduce her isolation would improve her general health, so I looked at several possibilities. These included Skype and Facetime. However, signing on to both of these is complex for people who are not used to working with computers and they were difficult for my mum to use. She found it hard to remember the processes to follow and was easily confused and frustrated
  • There was another problem too. My mum has arthritis in her hands and so using a keyboard, mouse or electronic keypad is difficult for her. That meant that none of the existing phone or PC programmes for video calls really met her needs. I tried setting up Skype on a computer in her home, which I controlled remotely. However, she disliked this arrangement, as she felt it interfered with her independence, as she had no control over accepting the video call or not. That was when I realised that it was up to me to find a solution as part of the package of support that was already available to her
  • The solution had to increase contact with my mum without taking away her independence. Also, it had to make sense for the whole family. I invented a way that my siblings and I could connect to my mum using a tablet computer. For my mum, using it is as simple as touching the screen. It has really enhanced my mum’s life, increasing her happiness and reducing her susceptibility to illness and bouts of depression
  • For my mum, the tablet computer is just like a picture frame, a part of the furniture and not a scary piece of technology
  • Research suggests that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to create a new habit, so I made sure I went to see my mum regularly for the first month, and we used the device together to speak to my sister and brother. This way she became accustomed to using the one touch device (I call it Visbuzz) and I was always there to help if she needed me
  • She soon became confident with Visbuzz. She could see that she controlled the technology, not the other way round, and that there was nothing to be worried about.  During this time my mum commented that she was having a little trouble with the arthritis in her hands and wasn’t always able to touch the screen with accuracy or firmly enough to use it comfortably, so I introduced a stylus to make the touch screen as accessible as possible
  • Now we can see her daily, we can include her in family gatherings, she can join us at mealtimes without travelling and without having any complex technology to worry about
  • Sometimes the things we need to solve problems are not out there. If they exist at all, they might not be available in our area, for example, voluntary organisations offering befriending services are not nationwide and statutory services may recognise the problems associated with loneliness, but simply don’t have the capacity to offer older people the company and support they want
  • So it’s up to us to think of ways around challenges like this. I have looked at how to address the challenges of modern living through the technology we now have. If you think of something that can help your ageing parent, the likelihood is it will help others as well, so don’t be afraid to come up with your own solutions
  • Many people are in the same situation with their parents as my siblings and me. We would love to hear about your experience. so please share them with us on our forum

Steve is the founder of Visbuzz. He has been a company CEO/MD for over 20 years and is an experienced coach and facilitator.  He works with senior team members in growing businesses to help them become better leaders making better decisions and achieving better results. Steve supports a number of charitable organisations and is also actively working towards ending loneliness If you’d like to know more about Visbuzz, either visit www.visbuzz.com, or call us on 03337 729637

Moving Forward with Technology

By on 02 10, 2014 in communicationTechnology

Technology is advancing at a tremendous rate, with new inventors beginning to think outside of the box on what is needed to enhance lives and our world around us. It seems that nothing is impossible – if you can think of it, you can make it. Innovation is all around us and can be seen on a daily basis. With social media (You Tube, Facebook, Twitter) it is cheaper and easier to go to market and raise your profile. No one is exempt.

Homeless man Leo Grand launched his own app to decrease the number of cars on the roads with a view to reducing CO2 emissions; there are heating systems for your home that can sense who you are and change the temperature of the house accordingly. What’s next – Drones to deliver your pizza? They may well be on the way.

We are using technology differently, with the expectation that we can get access to anything we want, instantly and with minimal effort. Not only can we get it now but we can get it personalised. Technology is becoming specific to the individual. Computer games track your preferences, and shape your game accordingly. When you are browsing the internet you see adverts based on your search history, recommendations based on your previous grocery shop. A walk through you local shopping centre leads to texts from the shops you are passing with offers just for you.

The opportunities are endless, and with new investments and advancements in all types of technology, the sky is the limit. Films like Robot and Frank (2012) where Frank gets his assistance robot to help him in several heists, the new Robocop movie (2013) and Her (2013) where Theodore falls in love with his newly purchased operating system, give us a peek at what the future could be like. Are we ready?

advanced technology

Moving Forward with Technology

By Steve McNulty on 02 10, 2014 in communicationTechnology

Technology is advancing at a tremendous rate, with new inventors beginning to think outside of the box on what is needed to enhance lives and our world around us. It seems that nothing is impossible – if you can think of it, you can make it. Innovation is all around us and can be seen [...]


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