The Joy Club, a startup co-designed by retirees on a mission to end loneliness secures £1.1m

Hannah Thomson, The Joy Club Founder & CEO

A start-up inspired by an adventurous granny and co-designed by a team of retirees has raised £1.1m in funding to tackle the loneliness epidemic amongst older people.

The Joy Club is a community-based platform designed to help retirees discover events, passions, and friendships that will enrich their lives. Google Maps Co-founder Lars Rasmussen has invested in the round, alongside Calm/Storm Ventures, Alma Angels, and other notable angel investors. Elvie Founder and CEO Tania Boler and Elvie Co-founder Alexander Asseily (also Founder of Jawbone and Vice Chairman at Lilium), have also backed the start-up.

The Joy Club was inspired by Founder Hannah Thomson’s granny, Jean. During her retirement, Jean went solo-backpacking around New Zealand, learnt to paint, volunteered in Bulgaria, and even married her high school sweetheart. But this experience is far from universal. Loneliness is experienced by 1.4m of older adults in the UK – a figure set to reach 2m by 2025 – and 40% of retirees consider the television to be their main companion.

Hannah, who was part of the pre-launch team at femtech Elvie and headed up strategic partnerships up to Series B stage, decided to design a platform that would create a community for retirees based around shared experiences.

The UK has around nine million retirees who use the internet, representing a huge and growing market opportunity for tech-enabled solutions catering to this demographic; 90% of people aged 65-74 are now regular internet users.

The Joy Club offers this community access to over 50 events per month for a £5 monthly subscription fee. These include art classes, dance lessons, live music events, talks and lectures, fitness sessions, creative writing workshops, and many more. Members can also access a private community area, where they can foster friendships and receive daily content and articles.

This £1.1m pre-seed investment will allow The Joy Club to build out its community features to better support member engagement and make it easier for users to make online and offline connections. The funding will also be used to scale the community, helping tackle loneliness and ensuring more people can enjoy a joyful retirement.

Over 100 retirees played a role in designing the platform and their thousands of members take an active role in guiding its evolution – making sure the product fulfils the needs of target users and caters to a broad spectrum of digital literacy.

Elvie’s Tania Boler is the startup’s Chair and Wise CMO Cian Weeresinghe sits on the Board as a NED. The startup is also backed by and advised by Jane Reddin, Talent Director at AlbionVC.

Founder CEO of The Joy Club, Hannah Thomson, comments: “My Granny, Jean found retirement to be the most joyful and socially connected time of her life, but few are as lucky. Stopping work can be a cliff edge for many people; your routines are stripped away and lots struggle with recalibrating their identity, despite having lots of living left to do. That’s what The Joy Club is here to solve. We want to create the community, inspiration and opportunity people need to thrive in later life.

“The average person will spend one-fifth of their life in retirement and yet 65% of retirees feel ignored by consumer brands. To date, the tech and startup sector, in particular, has chronically overlooked this big, growing and important section of the market. It’s time to do better and create products specifically designed for this amazing demographic. We’re thrilled that this esteemed group of investors shares our excitement for the space and is backing The Joy Club as we work to grow our community and help even more retirees live joyfully.”

Lucanus Polagnoli, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Calm/Storm Ventures, comments: “We strongly believe that fostering social connections and being part of a community is a critical factor in living healthier lives. And as our society ages, being able to stay mentally and physically well is becoming more important than ever. That’s why we’re backing Hannah on her journey to make retirement better for a growing but underserved customer base.

“We believe there’s a huge market potential for an agetech brand that doesn’t speak down to or infantilize its audience but is making the most of their digital skills and spending power.”