Katikati-based technology entrepreneur Simon McDonald has set up a new venture fund, ZapCap Investments.
Dr McDonald has made a $250,000 investment in an innovative combined medical alarm and tracking device to aid carers of elderly persons or those with disabilities.
Worn as a watch or a cell phone, the Clevercare medical alarm incorporates GPS tracking, which provides the user's location and can send an alert if a person enters or leaves a pre-determined boundary.
It can also schedule reminders to take medication or attend appointments and raises an alert if a person triggers the emergency alarm. Younger disabled users prefer the phone version, while the wearable option is focused on the elderly.
"It's a brilliant idea," said Dr McDonald, who sold his successful dental technology company Triodent in 2013 and won a Westpac Tauranga Business Award this year for new venture Rhondium, which develops dental products.
"I think it has a lot of potential worldwide. I'm looking forward to seeing Clevercare make a positive difference in people's lives."
The driving force behind the device is Maria Johnston, who started health-technology business Clevercare as a solution for New Zealand's ageing population. The idea came after watching her mother struggle to care for her ailing father, who suffered from dementia and Parkinson's.
Ms Johnston and her husband, Dylan, a software developer, with Thailand-based software developer Paul Dunkin, are former Katikati College students.
The Johnstons recently moved to Hamilton, but the team's social-media marketer, Ben Smith, is based in Tauranga and the idea first got traction at last year's Tauranga Startup Weekend, where it placed third. Launched in January and originally branded Smartcare, the company had to rebrand as Clevercare when a name conflict emerged.
"My idea was to use existing technologies to give my father, who also suffers from Alzheimer's, the ability to regain his independence," said Ms Johnston.
"Seeing the stress it put on my mother caring for my father, motivated me to try to find solutions to help in these situations which are all too common today."
The alarm works anywhere there is cell-phone reception. The goal of the medical alert was to improve a person's independence by allowing family members or caregivers to provide support and care from a distance.
Hollie Mawson, an occupational therapist with Focus on Potential, a private company that provides assessment and rehabilitation services, trialled the device with a younger male with a traumatic brain injury, and Smartcare had worked to tailor the product to his needs, which were different from those of elderly users.
"I thought it was a really good concept and very helpful," Ms Johnston said .
In the next two months, Clevercare would release new features that would include movement and fall detection as well as direct calling using the wearable device.