We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Michael Walsh. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Michael below.
Michael, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to hear from you about what you think Corporate America gets wrong in your industry and why it matters.
Picture this common scenario: You’re working a full-time job while also raising a family. Between taking care of your family and spending time with them, it’s time-consuming and can be a lot of coordination. After work, you have to pick up your children from their after-school program, then make dinner and find time to relax. Now let’s add in an extra layer: you’re also caring for a loved one that requires more attention and support. Your daughter may need extra tutoring in school, or your mom is sick and you need to travel to another state to spend a week with her. All of this time while caregiving is unpaid, and while you may show up at the office, your focus is split between work priorities and your caregiving responsibilities. In fact, you find yourself Googling your way through finding a rehab facility, looking for the best local tutors or coordinating transportation for your other children. You have benefits at work, but none of them provide support for navigating the care of your loved ones.
Benefits are so much more than traditional health insurance, vision/dental and a 401k. While Corporate America often offers benefits to employees, it doesn’t account for care that workers are often providing behind the scenes or after work. There are upwards of 50 million Americans providing more than 20 hours a week of unpaid care to the loved ones in their lives. Most of them get thrown into these stressful care situations with little experience and spend hours googling their way through how to best navigate their loved one’s care. Standard benefits only go so far, and there is a missing gap that does not account for people who are employee caregivers.
Up until Cariloop, there has not been a space in the benefits industry dedicated to supporting caregivers. Caring for loved ones doesn’t come in a mold, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for how to best support employees who have a variety of circumstances that arise when caring for loved ones. Without a caregiver support benefit, caregivers are left balancing a job, caring for a loved one, spending quality time with family and more. Cariloop’s Care Coaches take on the tasks of researching, vetting and navigating care options for working caregivers, which gives them more quality time with their loved ones.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Cariloop, a digital care company and public benefit corporation based in Richardson, Texas. I’m also the oldest of five siblings. After I graduated from college, my grandfather’s health began declining and my mother had to spend long periods of time away. I began to take on extra responsibilities at home and acted as an in-direct caregiver for my siblings. Seeing everything my family went through in navigating care for my grandfather, I felt there had to be a better way to support families through this extremely difficult and isolating process.
Since founding the company in 2012 with my co-founder Steven Theesfeld, we have successfully raised over $24 million in venture financing for Cariloop, empowering our company to recruit an incredibly talented and compassionate team and support hundreds of thousands of caregivers, parents, and families all over the world. This foundational work has led Cariloop’s team to be able to provide the world’s first tech-enabled Caregiver Support Platform, which guides working caregivers, parents, and families as they plan for and manage the care of their loved ones. Cariloop pairs caregivers with their very own dedicated, experienced Care Coach who supports them with the research, care coordination, navigation, and guidance it takes to confidently care for their loved ones.
Over the last 12 months alone, our Care Coaches have saved our members an average of 70 hours per loved one that they would have otherwise spent researching, coordinating care options and navigating insurance issues. Those 70 hours can and should instead represent the precious time they’re spending with their loved one. Without the support of a Care Coach, caregivers would have spent another two work weeks navigating their loved one’s care with little guidance and no assurance they would find their way. We are here to provide much-needed support so they do not have to go through caregiving alone.
Have you ever had to pivot?
The Cariloop story has been one that certainly has required a strong degree of patience and persistence. It actually took us about 5 years to really figure out how we could create a sustainable, scalable model whereby we could generate the growth and impact that we always had believed were possible. In the early days of Cariloop, our initial focus was on partnering with long-term care providers, such as Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities, to profile their services, pricing and room availability so that local hospitals and family caregivers had better visibility into the landscape.
In late 2014, we identified a really compelling trend in some of our early data that pointed at the opportunity to potentially partner with our nation’s employers to better reach families needing help. As we surveyed the employee benefits market and some of the key players back then, it was really challenging to communicate the business case and potential opportunity without getting plenty of pushback. At this point in time, supporting caregivers and parents wasn’t being discussed much as part of a well-balanced corporate health and wellbeing strategy.
Thankfully, there were some incredibly progressive and forward-thinking companies who saw the need that their employees had as they struggled to care for family members, and they gave us the chance to showcase what we could do and the impact that it had. Little by little between 2015 and 2017, employers began to open up more and more to the idea that their health and wellbeing strategy needed to extend beyond just thinking about just their own employee, their spouse and their dependents. What about their parents? What about their grandparents? What about their siblings? These are all people in our lives that if one were to fall ill, it would certainly affect their focus and performance at work.
In 2022, the desire within Corporate America to support caregivers and parents has never been stronger. I’m just so proud that we made the pivot within Cariloop when we did and that we’ve been able to play a small role in helping to educate our country’s business leaders on why our society’s future may very well depend on our caregivers and parents being successful.
How’d you meet your business partner?
My co-founder, Steven Theesfeld, and I actually met when we were kids and have pretty much been life-long friends, teammates, partners-in-crime and brothers ever since.
We grew up about 5 minutes down the road from one another, played a number of sports together, and were often in a lot of the same classes in grade school and high school. I’ve got some amazing early memories of us playing little league baseball and competing against each other when we were 11-12 years old. He still to this day gives me a hard time about one instance where he struck me out on a ridiculously slow “change up” that he threw. We’ve even been side-by-side in some of life’s biggest family moments as well. I actually had the chance to be Steve’s best man when he and his wife Kelly got married in 2006, and Steve was actually the officiant when I married my wife Melanie in 2015.
We had always daydreamed when we were younger about starting a company and doing something together that had the potential to change the world. After both of our families experienced the intense amount of stress and anxiety that comes when a loved one is not well, we saw our opening and Cariloop was founded in July 2012. It’s hard to believe we’ve been working for 10+ years now to help Cariloop reach the level that it has, and we couldn’t be more excited and motivated for what the next 10 years will bring. Knowing just how many caregivers, parents and families are out there who need help, now more than ever, we’re certainly focused on doing everything we possibly can to reach as many of them as possible and to impact our communities and society in a number of positive ways.