An interview with an AgeTech leader and CEO: Jessica Yang
AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS: Jessica Yang, CEO and founder of Tochtech Technologies, and Karolina Jalowska, Digital Media Coordinator at the APPTA hub and AGE-WELL NCE
AFFILIATED INSTITUTION(S): AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub: APPTA
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I am Jessica Yang, CEO and founder of Tochtech Technologies, a digital health tech company whose mission is to build smart, cost effective senior care solutions that offer caregivers peace-of-mind while enabling seniors to live healthier and safer lives. I received my Master’s degree in Computer Science and international business in Finland, and started my career in Nokia headquarters. After my family immigrated to Canada in 2000, I continued my career in global leading Telecom and Consulting companies such as Nokia, Motorola and Capgemini. I had great opportunities to lead global teams and participated in several multi-billion dollar projects, including building wireless network infrastructure, smart phones, Nokia App store, Smart Grid etc. I enjoy working creatively, making impacts to our lives and am passionate about digital transformation.
Why did you start Tochtech Technologies?
I left my parents and home town more than 20 years ago, and like many other families who live far away from their parents, one day we all face the question: how can we take care of our parents as they are aging? I shared my concerns with my co-founder Wei Fang who is in a similar situation and also passionate in innovation and transformation. This conversation was the catalyst and inspiration for the company. We cannot stay with them all the time, but we want to know they are safe, and that they are fine. We want to create something that helps them retain their independence, and that provides peace of mind for ourselves. How to care for the elderly in the best and most efficient manner is a growing problem waiting to be solved by technology.
At Tochtech, our solutions have been designed and built with the focus of better connecting caregivers with seniors, and keeping caregivers informed of the safety and wellness of their loved ones. We started with Smarturns, which addresses the common cooking safety issue. Smarturns was awarded “People’s choice” in the 2019 AGE-WELL competition (west Canada region). Our latest product Toch Sleepsense is another innovation that supports family and care organizations to care for elderly in one very important area of their daily life – safety and wellness at night. Sleepsense won the 2020 AGE-WELL competition, startup edition.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own company and being a CEO?
When you receive a letter or email from your customer telling you that your product could be life-saver for their family, this is the most rewarding part of my entrepreneurial journey! I recently got an email from a doctor in UK who bought Smarturns, and he told me that he is over 70 and his partner is 87, and Smarturns gives them peace of mind when they cook! Our US customer uses our Tochie to record 20+ personal messages and set it to play daily to her grandma who has dementia and is living in a UK care home! There are a lot of such stories that make my team and I so proud of what we are doing. Making a positive impact in people’s lives is the biggest motivation for us. Being a CEO, I am so lucky to have a team of very talented people who have the same passion and goal.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a company in the AgeTech sector?
Starting a company in any sector is not easy. AgeTech has its own challenge. Product design needs to consider the particular user groups. There are always multiple parties involved: the elderly who may or may not embrace technology and their caregivers who could have different levels of experience with technology. For care organizations and health care systems, realizing the need for the change is one thing, the ability, budget and time to adopt the change is another. Never underestimate the time and effort on that! Comparing to other sectors, AgeTech has been slow in growth. However this is also a sector with huge unmet demands and opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals more issues in caring for the elderly, and the urgent need for products to support remote monitoring and connecting with elderly. I believe that it will accelerate the adoption of technology in the overall sector.