Hello RVC members, my name is Justin and I am a summer intern for RVC. One of our primary objectives for this summer is to provide an update on RVC portfolio companies for members. This week, I’m bringing you an update on Silvernest. Finding a roommate is important, but it is never an easy task, even for open-minded college students with low standards. As a typical cash-strapped CU Boulder student, I can rant about how expensive rent is and how difficult it is to find a good roommate all day long. The roommate situation and process are more challenging for the community age 50 or above. As people get older, they seek out supplemental income and companionship, and the housing situation for empty-nesters and baby boomers is currently a national concern. Nearly half of adults in U.S age 65 and older live in poverty and cannot afford to live in the nursing home. Public housing is not a viable solution either, as the average wait time exceeds a year. For example, the average wait time is more than four years for public housing in New York. Wendi Burkhardt understood that this is a critical issue that the government won’t be able to solve, which inspired her to co-found Silvernest to tackle this problem. Before starting Silvernest, Wendi held multiple executive positions in the tech industry and has years of experience in marketing and sales. Silvernest is the only roommate matching and home-sharing service designed specifically for the community over 50. It is a brilliant service to lighten the financial burden and to find trustworthy companions for the aging community. For a small fee, homeowners have access to 60 days of unlimited communication, matching and background screening for their potential roommate.
Silvernest hasn’t always sailed on smooth waters. Wendi and her team have faced numerous challenges and hurdles since the formation of the company. According to Wendi, it is very difficult to be a female founder in the startup world, since it is tough to raise capital as a female founder in a industry that is primarily dominated by men. This is a truth we see resoundingly supported by data, with female founders receiving just 2% of venture dollars in in 2017. Wendi was able to secure funding through grit, perseverance, and tenacity, along with the help of her wonderful team. Another challenging process for Silvernest was building partnerships with non-profit organizations (NPO). Silvernest currently partners with multiple organization including Village to Village Network, an NGO that helps communities establish and manage their own aging in place initiatives called Villages. This is a great achievement for Silvernest, given that most NPOs tend to be hesitant to partner with for-profit organizations status.
Silvernest received national recognition after their RVC Angel round in 2017. It now operates in all 50 states but markets actively in Colorado and California. Silvernest has been expanding rapidly and successfully raised more funding after the RVC angel round. It raised $1.3M back in 2017 and is currently close to finalizing an additional round of funding. Despite recent success, Wendi was very humble throughout the interview. She stated that the primary objective remains helping the boomer generation and that Silvernest will not deviate from its mission. Although Silvernest became very popular in the general roommate matching market, 90% of Silvernest’s subscribers are over the age of 50 with the average age of the renter being 40. Wendi also mentioned to me that the proudest moment for her was when Silvernest was one of 46 companies selected out of 1,000 by 500 Startups.
Silvernest is an amazing company with enormous potential. It is certainly a great way to find affordable housing and has an enormous social impact. Some of the houses listed on there make my Boulder apartment looks like a flaming trash heap, and yet they are in a similar price range. I am already better situated than most other Boulder students, as I am not paying $800 to live in a closet without AC along with five other roommates, and maybe three raccoons. However, we should never let good get in the way of being great, and based on what I saw at Silvernest, we can all live a great life. That is all for today, have an amazing day and enjoy the air conditioning in this hot weather! Most Boulder kids don’t have AC at their home, including myself, so crank up the AC for me!