Millions of people experience loneliness every day: a Norwegian startup is tackling this through innovative communication tools
Picture Copyright: No Isolation
Loneliness is one of the most prominent issues facing people today, increasing early mortality rates by 26%, and increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes by 29% and 32% respectively. Norwegian startup co-founder Karen Dolva established No Isolation, a tech company working to provide communication solutions to the issue. She is also one of the 4 winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators, 2018.
After studying Computer Science and Interaction Design at university, she worked in a tech incubator for startups in Oslo which inspired her, as working “next to all those brilliant people [who were] working on projects they love” made her realise that she wanted to do that, too.
When they founded the company in 2015, Karen and her two co-founders did not have a specific product idea, they just knew that people should not feel lonely or excluded from everyday life. She said, “We very quickly saw – we understand just by looking at it – that kids are not the only ones who are suffering from loneliness… loneliness is huge.”
Recognising the importance of technology such as tablets, computers and phones in our daily lives but also in the treatment of sick people (especially children), No Isolation set up AV1, a telepresence robot that works as an avatar for children who must stay in bed. It is motorised and runs on 4G, so that it can be brought anywhere.
“The robot is at school, in the schoolyard, or on a field trip and from home the child can control it. So they can talk through it, see through it, and hear through it. It’s as close as we can get to being there. The child controls completely when they’re logged on and where they want to look,” said Karen.
As well as AV1, No Isolation also has a product to tackle loneliness felt by elderly people, called KOMP, which allows family and friends to share photos, messages and make video calls. As a one-buttoned screen, it’s simpler than other communication technologies available, meaning it’s more manageable for people who are older.
According to Karen, reducing loneliness saves money at a social level, but it should also be tackled on a personal level because “we should aim to help people feel better and happier” and that’s what No Isolation is predominantly about. People can be prepared and “have products that might bridge [the gap] and make [loneliness] less likely.”
Currently, No Isolation boasts 61 employees, with more than 40 % of the workforce being female, which is exciting for Karen. She would advise other potential entrepreneurs not to start a business just to make money, as there are far easier means of doing so. “I would suggest getting strong advisors around you, people that you really trust. Having support from seniors that have been there before has been super valuable to me”, said Karen.
Finally, her most important piece of advice is to stay happy, “because it’s the greatest journey you’re ever going to take, so enjoy it!”