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CareCoPilot founder Alyse Dunn wins big after AWS Impact Accelerator
To celebrate Black History Month, AWS Startups is featuring posts throughout February highlighting the contributions of Black builders and leaders in tech. Above all, these individuals inspire, empower, and encourage others—especially those historically underrepresented in tech—to prove what’s possible.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2014, CareCoPilot founder Alyse Dunn knew she had to make a change. She and her sister had spent the past two years managing their father’s care as he dealt with multiple sclerosis. Then, shortly before his death, their mother received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“I knew I needed a job that could provide me with more money and more flexibility to take care of her,” Alyse recently told AWS Startups. “I didn’t have the resources that I needed to take care of my dad in the way that I wanted, so I made this drastic career change to avoid that mistake with my mom.”
Coding for caregiving
Without any prior technical experience, Alyse taught herself to code and pivoted to a career in software engineering. While it did provide her with the financial resources and flexibility that caregiving necessitates, she still describes the process of caring for her mother as “crushing.”
“In the course of those eight years,” she says, “We never found anything that made our experience caregiving even 10% better.”
Alyse vowed to change that. Like many founders, her investment in her idea was both professional and personal. She recognized a critical hole in the market and knew that the growing elder care crisis would make her product all the more essential. But she was also determined to follow in the footsteps of her parents—both were physicians—and dedicate herself to designing a product that could help and heal others.
Thanks to both her software engineering experience and the skill set she had developed while caregiving, she created CareCoPilot. The web and mobile app makes it easier for caregivers to discover and access the resources that can save them time and money.
Additionally, the app allows caregivers to join a rewards program that they can eventually use to find, book, and finance many of the resources needed to manage care, like medical help, legal expertise, and home healthcare items.
The right call at the right time
Alyse funded her early days by quitting her job at Venmo and cashing out her stock options. Just two hours after quitting, she got a call that she’d been accepted to her first accelerator. It came with a $25,000 check, but in the weeks that followed the program, she still wasn’t raising as much as she’d hoped.
She was staring down a precarious financial situation when lightning struck the second time—a call from Denise Quashie at AWS Startups, inviting her to join the inaugural AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders.
“It was really and truly an answer to my prayers,” says Alyse. “I would literally not be here today, helping families go through this, if AWS had not stepped in.”
Taking advantage of the AWS Impact Accelerator Program
Alyse went into the program with a few different goals. She had been an early adopter of AWS, so she was skeptical about how much she’d be able to accelerate her product on the technical side. But she was pleasantly surprised to learn about tooling services she didn’t know existed that are now boosting her productivity and protecting her infrastructure.
The program also exceeded her expectations when it came to the camaraderie and support she experienced. All 25 participants were Black American founders, and that kinship allowed Alyse to open up, accept and give support, and be more authentic than she felt able to be in other accelerator programs.
Additionally, she was able to work with AWS mentors to hone her pitch. The hard work paid off weeks after the AWS program, when Alyse took a leap of faith by flying to Atlanta for a pitch competition hosted by the Fearless Fund.
Guided by the advice of AWS mentors who encouraged her to drive engagement with funders by putting them in her shoes, she gave the real, raw version of her startup journey. Her emotional pitch included difficult admissions that would resonate with anyone who has managed care, as well as a plea for those who haven’t experienced it to determine where they would find the time and money to take on the role.
Landing a winning pitch
The pitch landed—Alyse went home with the second place prize and a $325,000 investment in CareCoPilot. With the cash boost, she is focusing on increasing signups, looking ahead to new pitch competitions, and gathering feedback to improve CareCoPilot.
“I think that one of the mistakes that a lot of founders make is that they think that the winner of the startup game is the founder with the best idea out of the box,” says Dunn. “That’s not really the case. The winner of the startup game really is, honestly, whoever can get close, be really open to feedback, be able to iterate cheaply and quickly and not run out of money before you get it right.”
She understands her startup path may not be seamless. But on her desk, she has a picture of her parents she can turn to when she needs motivation to keep going. “They are my inspiration because they were extraordinary parents,” says AlyseBA. “Their experience, me and my sister’s experience, it wasn’t for nothing. It was for something, and it was for this.”
Web and Social Content Manager, Global SUP, AWS
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