GreatCall acquired by private equity firm GTCR

Plans include call center improvements, more acquisitions, and enterprise focus
By Jonah Comstock
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GreatCall, the San Diego company that started out making smartphones for seniors in 2006 but now offers a suite of connected safety products for aging in place individuals, has been acquired by Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR. The amount of the deal was not disclosed.

"The business services team has been focused on this PERS world for the better part of a decade, looking for the option with a reasonable price point and a reasonable valuation from the seller’s perspective," GTCR Managing Director Lawrence Fey told MobiHealthNews. "After a decade of swings and misses we’ve finally found one. It happens to be one of the largest in the space and, we think, the best run."

Fey says that acquiring GreatCall allowed GTCR to capitalize on trends that were being tracked by both its healthcare and telecom business units.

"There’s a bunch of interesting macro tailwinds we’ve seen across our healthcare portfolio around aging populations. There’s just a growing addressable base," he explained. "From the telecom side, there’s really been a communications revolution across consumers of telecom and bandwidth-driven assets and there’s no reason that seniors should be any different. So being able to sell new services, better services, life-enhancing capabilities into this market fits well with our broad review on the telecom opportunity."

GreatCall's acquisition follows on the heels of several deals that put GreatCall on the other side of the desk. The company acquired Healthsense, a Minnesota-based remote monitoring company, in December and acquired the assets of aging in place company Lively the previous December. Fey said that GTCR won't necessarily put a stop to the company's acquisitive streak.

"We love M&A," he said. "We’d love to find smaller assets that we can plug in or complimentary technology capabilities that can expand the offering."

Generally though, the plan is to keep the GreatCall team on board and let them run the company in much the same way they have.

"We are excited to partner with GTCR as we continue to provide seniors with exceptional services that provide peace of mind and extend independent living," GreatCall CEO David Inns said in a statement. "GTCR brings significant resources and experience in building industry-leading companies, and we believe they will be a valuable resource in the long-term expansion of our business."

The biggest change the firm has in mind is that GTCR, which has some security alarm companies in its portfolio, believes it can improve the performance of GreatCall's 5Star call center.

"A lot of our alarm monitoring pedigree is miminimizing call times," Fey said. "When people pick up the phone and call your call center for help they get a real person answering the phone right away, then [they] get great service and become an advocate or promoter for your service."

GTCR VP John Kos added that GreatCall has just recently been expanding from direct-to-consumer offerings to address enterprise markets as well, and GTCR is bullish on that move.

"They’ve already won some interesting contracts to provide their services to assisted living facilities and retirement communities," Kos said. "They’ve done some pilot studies with Medicare Advantage plans to outfit seniors who are at risk of losing their independence with some of their technologies. They’ve shown an ability to lower readmissions, hospital admissions, things like that, using their technology. It’s definitely newer and it’s kind of an upside opportunity going forward, but we do think there’s real value in the commercial market for what they’re doing."