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Ewan Marshall

Ogden alumni Ewan Marshall graduated from Bristol University in 2011 with a 1st Class Honours degree in physics. Now he is one of the founders of SpeakSet - named as one of the top 20 start ups of 2013.

We went from forming the team to having an idea validated and prototypes in trials within eight weeks. We pride ourselves on our ability to move really fast!

I worked in an IT consultancy for eight months, building large scale systems for some of the biggest telecoms companies in the world but I knew that I wanted to go it alone. In 2012, I was accepted onto the highly selective Entrepreneur First initiative, an accelerator programme for exceptional graduates.

Within just a few months I was part of a new business team with a new venture, SpeakSet. Speakset aims to combat isolation for older people by connecting them through simple video calling on their TV. The NHS spend £4 million pounds a week keeping older people in hospital beds when they could be happily receiving the same care at home. This is because until now there has been no way of having a consultation with a doctor in a patients' home. SpeakSet is now being used to deliver care services to older people with long term conditions in their own home, potentially changing care delivery forever.

In the past year, the company has secured £50,000 in funding from Nominet Trust, which supports tech business that have the potential to create huge societal change. SpeakSet has won the Tech City News award for social good and was also named a top 20 startup of 2013. We have built a fantastic team around our vision of connecting older people, which world experts such as Baroness Sally Greengross, who ran age concern for 13 years, Max Alexander, head of innovation at Talk Talk Group and Charles Lowe, President of telehealth and e-medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Since releasing the product to the market, we have closed deals with a new NHS trust every single month. Our relentless focus on simplicity and quality is what has allowed us to grow so quickly. We went from forming the team to having an idea validated and prototypes in trials within eight weeks. We pride ourselves on our ability to move really fast!

Loneliness in old age is one of the biggest problems facing society. Age UK say that there are currently 1 million older people who have not seen friends or relatives in over a month. Being lonely has a similar impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Communication can and will be better for older people.

I lived with my grandparents for two years while they were in their 90's and saw them struggle with tasks every day. I knew we could build technology that could help them but the question was what to build? From the outset we made no assumptions. Every design choice, every piece of development and every business decision has been made by finding out what older people want, need and think. After talking to hundreds of older people, as well as their support networks, it became really clear that most problems they have stem from being socially isolated. Whether that is not being able to open a jam jar to not being able to see their grandchildren in Australia. Improving communication through video calling on the TV is the best way to try to solve this, it is just such a comfortable and familiar interface. My grandparents can now video call their great-grandson in the south of France whenever they want.

Speakset makes communication more meaningful and more comfortable. We have designed and built our own hardware and software and our users love it! We are now working with care providers as well as care homes to make Speakset available to as many older people as possible.

SpeakSet has been received incredibly well by older people. One of the first people to ever get a device talks to her family in Brussels every week on the system and said that “[she] can't believe she couldn't do this before”. Another user, Terry, asked when he could throw his phone away! In fact 100 per cent of calls over the system have been rated as better than a phone by SpeakSet's older users.

SpeakSet is rapidly growing towards their vision of revolutionising care delivery. We want to use SpeakSet as a vehicle for a significant societal change so that older adults can live safely and happily in their own homes for as long as they wish, living healthier happier lives. They want this. The government wants this. Society needs this.