Geriatrics professor wins Chamber’s “Shark Tank” competition for innovative telehealth service
Tellegacy seeks to reduce loneliness, isolation among the elderly.
GRAND FORKS – Jeremy Holloway, director of geriatrics education at UND and founder of Tellegacy – a health care service seeking to reduce isolation and loneliness among the elderly – won the East Grand Forks/Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Shark Tank” competition.
The event – now in its eighth year – featured nine contestants providing a one-minute pitch of their business plan, followed by a three- to four-minute question-and-answer session judged by two “sharks” – business leaders in the community who assess contestants based on overall marketability, venture opportunity and the strength of their presentation.
This year’s sharks were Matt Winjum, co-owner of Rhombus Guys Brewing Company, and Phil Gisi, owner of Edgewood Healthcare LLC.
Holloway’s platform, called “Tellegacy,” connects university students in health care fields with elderly adults who are feeling isolated. The pairs meet weekly, both virtually and in person.
“The students go through the questions and curriculum I designed with the older adults, and reinforces the value of their story,” Holloway said. “At the end of those sessions, we give the older adult a book, called a legacy book, summarizing those stories. It also includes the impact the student felt they had on the experience. The most important thing I want to come out of this for both the older adult and the student is that their story has a place in health care.”
Holloway said the idea behind his business was conceived after hearing about the effects of the pandemic on the elderly.
“In March of 2020, I heard from a chaplain in Michigan about older adults who couldn’t leave their rooms, and were socially isolated and dying,” Holloway said. “At the time, I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation and decided to get involved.”
Holloway said Gisi’s work aligns closely with his own, and thus Gisi understands the importance of Tellegacy’s services.
“He knows that the older adults in his community are depressed and down, due to isolation and loneliness,” Holloway said. “It was something he really resonated with.”
Holloway said experiences such as those gained through Tellegacy are important in bridging the knowledge gap among health care professionals in the field of geriatrics.
“I didn’t realize this until I became a geriatric professor, but pick any health care-related field besides geriatrics and gerontology, and the majority of students in the U.S. get a mere one to two weeks of geriatric knowledge before going into the field,” Holloway said. “If they’re not in pediatrics, 80% of these professionals’ patients are older adults.”
Holloway said he received positive feedback from the two sharks.
“They were proposing revenue streams that could be really good for strengthening the platform,” he said. “Phil Gisi asked me about my business plan, and said he’s willing to talk about ways that our program can be strengthened in different ways. Both of them were very open to being sources of wisdom and insight.”
Holloway said the $750 first prize will be put toward training university students in health care fields, and implementing more technology into his platform. He said Tellegacy has aspirations to expand across the nation.
“We have a goal to work with 20 university professors,” he said. “Apart from UND, we currently have 17 professors across the U.S. who want to utilize the Tellegacy program.”
Second prize went to Landon Paurus, founder of Hawk’s Eye Mobile Detailing, an auto and plane detailing service. Third place went to Jessica Woods and Halle Berdahl, who pitched a children’s birthday party painting business called “Poppy Painting Parties.”
Second and third prize won $500 and $250, respectively.