17 July, 2015 IVUK and Bridges’ Social Sector Funds, along with the company’s management, have committed a total of £1.5m to Unforgettable.org (‘Unforgettable’), a pioneering website and e- commerce platform to support those living with dementia and their carers which will launch officially in September.
Dementia already affects over 44m people around the world – including more than 850,000 people in the UK – and according to some predictions, could affect 135m people globally by 2050. Yet despite the scale of the problem, there is still very little awareness of how products and services can help improve quality of life of those affected by dementia and memory loss.
Unforgettable aims to become the ‘go-to’ resource for anyone affected by dementia. It will offer in-depth information about the likely changes in behaviour, cognitive function and physical abilities that sufferers can undergo at different stages of the disease. It will offer community support for those struggling to manage their care burden. And it will offer practical, product-based solutions to the daily challenges of the illness – including activities and games, mealtimes, sleeping, personal hygiene and dressing.
The company is the brainchild of founder James Ashwell, who spent seven years at home caring for his mother after she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 57. He found the experience so challenging – dominated by confusion, stress and loneliness – that he set himself the challenge of launching the world’s best platform for dementia-related products and support.
At the end of 2013, James approached Bridges’ Social Sector Funds team, and over the following months they worked together to develop a plan, incubate the business, and raise the capital required. The venture was originally seeded by the Bridges Charitable Trust, before receiving this funding from Bridges’ Social Sector Funds and IVUK. Both the Bridges Social Sector Funds and IVUK have been supported with investment from Big Society Capital.
James will lead the company alongside CEO David Lethbridge, who has deep expertise in scaling innovative e-commerce models.
Unforgettable’s development has benefitted from working with the Alzheimer’s Society, the largest dementia charity in the UK, as its founding charitable partner. The Alzheimer’s Society has been instrumental in supporting the company as it has geared up to launch, recognising that Unforgettable’s strategy addresses a pressing social need and is strongly aligned with the Society’s own mission.
To reflect and to safeguard the company’s explicit social purpose, Unforgettable is also setting up a charitable foundation in parallel. The Unforgettable foundation will have ‘golden share’ rights to protect Unforgettable’s social mission and ensure the business remains focused on its beneficiaries.
James Ashwell, Founder of Unforgettable, said: “Until now, the market for dementia-related products and support has been highly fragmented. It is confusing for anyone seeking help and difficult for suppliers to reach carers. Unforgettable aims to create the world’s best marketplace for dementia, by bringing together thousands of innovative and specialised products along with practical advice and services to help make every day a little bit easier. We are delighted to have received support and financial backing from Bridges and IVUK, who will help us to scale up the business in a sustainable way, without losing sight of its social mission.”
Caroline Tulloch, Investment Director, Bridges’ Social Sector Funds, said: “James came to us with an idea that could transform the day-to-day experience of those living with dementia or the consequences of dementia – and we embraced this vision right from the start, providing the strategic support and funding the business needed to take off. The scale of the problem means Unforgettable has great potential to grow and improve many thousands or even millions of lives, both in the UK and beyond. It is a great example of how entrepreneurial talent and innovation can – with support from mission-aligned investors – create businesses with the potential to be both commercially sustainable and also highly impactful.”
Raf Goovaerts, Partner, LGT Impact Ventures / IVUK, said: “We have known James Ashwell for a number of years and have been impressed by his entrepreneurial drive and strong motivation to create social impact and change the lives of dementia patients and their carers. Over the past 18 months, a compelling proposition has been thoroughly researched and prepared, a highly talented management team has been brought together, and excellent traction has been created with suppliers and partners to now launch the platform in September. We very much look forward to working with James, David, and Bridges to make Unforgettable a great success.”
Unforgettable will launch in September. To sign up for updates visit www.unforgettable.org
Caroline Tulloch/Marina Aung
+44 (0) 20 3780 8000
Sara Murshed, MHP Communications
+44 (0) 20 3128 8818