MBA Stories: Meet The Columbia Grad Who Is Keeping Seniors Connected
During Ryan Greene’s winter break at Columbia University, he visited his grandfather in Florida. There, he was presented with a list of iPhone, iPad, and Android issues that needed fixing. “About 85 percent of the time, my grandfather uses his technology seamlessly. But every so often, something goes awry. I hadn’t seen him for a while, so there was a buildup of issues that he needed help with,” he says.
On his last day of vacation, Greene helped his grandfather solve his technology problems. Once returning to Columbia for his final semester of his MBA, his grandfather called him with another issue. During their conversation, Greene recounts having what he calls a ‘lightbulb moment.’ “After our call, I did some research and realized that there are few providers out there that help with tech support across a range of devices. Apple helps with Apple products. Windows helps with Windows products. Many people love Geek Squad, but this service isn’t tailored to seniors,” he says.
Realizing he was sitting on a viable startup idea, he presented a business plan for a company that helped seniors solve technology problems to the professor of his Launch Your Startup class. Flash forward to graduation in May 2021, and Greene has built a team and launched a business called Quincy that does just that. Now, the organization helps people all over the U.S., including those in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.
By Christmas 2021, Quincy’s preparing to solve up to 5,000 technical issues per day. Even better, the team has made the service free due to the uptake in Delta variant cases. “Seniors are the most vulnerable community for the Delta variant. Offering this service for free helps as many people as possible know that they have the option to get their technology fixed from the comfort of their own homes,” Greene says.
As a former tech executive and museum board member, Greene has been flexing his business and social impact skills for a while. Last year, he and classmate Sara Smoler started a student-led movement called the Rapid Fire Raffle to raise money for New York’s homelessness. Now, he continues to help others — this time, targeting a new demographic. “Our world doesn’t make things for people who are 55 and older, and frankly, they’re the ones with the money,” he says. “Industries tend to neglect a group of people who are more challenging to help. And that’s because they actually need help.”
According to Greene, his family played a huge role in his desire to help others. “I was raised in a household where giving back was absolutely necessary. My family taught me that you have to care, and you have to give back to what you care about. I never forgot those roots,” he says.
While his grandfather was the inspiration behind Quincy, he was also the one who taught Greene the importance of innovation; As the second generation owner of a 93 year old plumbing and heating company that’s owned by Greene’s family today, his grandfather would bring him to jobs in New York boiler rooms to see how things were made. Greene says that these experiences helped him to recognize that for things to work well, they don’t have to be perfect. “I’m not afraid to constantly adjust, tweak, and figure out how we can be more helpful at Quincy. So much of my comfort and drive to try new things is because of my grandfather,” he explains.
THE BUSINESS MODEL
The Quincy business model is simple: People call and explain the technology problem that they’re having. Then, the team establishes a secure connection to the customer’s device using their QuincyView technology to view the issue in real-time. Next, the team fixes the customer’s issues on their behalf and provides a video recording of the entire session for their records.
Seeing as 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S every day, and 77% of older adults indicate needing help learning new technology, Greene and his team are entering a growing market; Their business targets those aged 55 and over in independent and assisted living spaces, family members who can purchase the subscription for their loved ones as a gift, and even seniors working in museums who are learning to do exhibitions and operate business online.
With the goal of helping people to get the support they need without having to visit a store in-person, Quincy also mitigates the pressure on nurses, assisted community care workers, and family members from helping them with their technology needs. “I’ve witnessed family members speaking through a plastic barrier, trying to help the resident operate their mobile phones,” says Greene. “I’ve also witnessed residents asking nurses and staff for help, who are often completely overwhelmed with the demands of the pandemic. Quincy helps to give seniors another way to receive help.”
GAINING MOMENTUM WITH QUINCY
Tyler Wood, Quincy co-founder
During Launch Your Startup, Greene worked with a team of five to bring Quincy to fruition. He says that his team helped to infuse the innovation and creativity behind the business today.
He also leveraged Columbia’s network of talented students to find the right freelance graphic designer. “We made the Quincy brand whimsical because we wanted to keep tech fun. We also wanted to humanize the company and give it a name that people could remember,” he says.
As a final project, Greene and his team pitched the business to a panel of venture capitalists. “The voices on the VC panels were just as excited as us about Quincy. That’s when it really sunk in that this could be a real business,” he says.
Next, Greene’s then-roommate, Tyler Wood, joined the startup as a co-founder and operations manager. Soon after, they employed computer science students from community colleges across New York to work as the technicians.
After Greene graduated in May 2021, a few VCs got in touch with him. They helped to develop Quincy following the Launch Your Startup class by providing feedback on the company’s pitches and marketing strategy..“When you’re in social impact work, it’s often a thankless job, and that’s okay; You follow our passion. But when you’re on this path and you gain confidence that what you’re doing actually has the potential to affect a large number of people, it’s incredibly validating,” he says. “At this stage of the game, I know that there’s merit to what we’re creating. It’s bigger than a school project now.”
According to Greene, Intro to Entrepreneurship, Marketplace, and Launch your Startup were the most impactful classes in helping to develop Quincy during his MBA. “I’d dabbled in entrepreneurship before, but I’d never successfully started something on my own; Either my ventures hadn’t caught on fast enough or I ran out of money and energy,” he explains.
Greene credits some of his entrepreneurial confidence to what he learned during his MBA.
“Columbia has done a phenomenal job at investing in a series of entrepreneurial classes,” he says. “Many people take Quincy seriously when they know that I’m a Columbia MBA grad. The school’s reputation speaks for itself and has helped to give me credibility.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF ASKING FOR HELP
Greene says every generation has their own comfort level in regards to asking for help.
“Often, asking for help is perceived as vulnerable or weak,” he says. “I noticed this first with my own family members; They were afraid to show others their lack of energy as they aged.”
When Greene’s grandfather could no longer screw in a lightbulb or stand up in a chair, he was devastated. Greene remembers having a conversation with him about how it’s okay to ask (and need) help. “I told him that it’s not about remaining independent, but rather learning to accept help and depend on different services that are available. Community is essential,” he says. “With Quincy, the hardest thing is for people to ask for help. But once they get to know us, and the company becomes humanized, it shows them that asking for help is okay and that help comes in many different forms.”
Greene believes asking for help is directly related to mental health. He thinks that the world is now evolving to a place where mental health is not only taken seriously, but is also recognized as just as important as physical health. “Growing up in New York City, therapy was something that many of us were introduced to at a young age. I was 11 years old when 9/11 happened, and I remember therapists being introduced across the school board for mental health support,” he says. “My only hope with Quincy is to make it okay for people to ask for help. I want technology to be accessible to everyone.”
Greene also hopes to grow Quincy to become a place of assistance for anyone over the age of 55.
“I don’t think Quincy has to be limited to tech support. There’s a lot more we can do,” he says. “Quincy’s just getting started. I want to help people age more gracefully and give them the tools they need so that they’re not afraid to age.”
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