A Toniebox for grams and gramps? That's precisely what this trio has in mind

Munich-based Enna Systems wants to make it easier for seniors to stay connected

Die drei Enna Gründer: Tim Haug, Moritz Kutschera und Jakob Bergmeier (Foto: Enna Systems)
Die drei Enna Gründer: Tim Haug, Moritz Kutschera und Jakob Bergmeier (Foto: Enna Systems)

Many have tried before and failed: successfully introducing an end device specifically for seniors. From the US to the UK and Germany, companies keep trying—and failing—to serve what they see as significant demand. Next up, Enna Systems, a startup from Munich. OMR spoke to the founders about how they plan to succeed where others have not, and why the niche is ostensibly so lucrative.

If Jakob Bergmeier's grandmother wants to chat with her relatives or see the latest family pictures posted online, all she needs to do is place a card on her "Enna dock." Without doing anything further, she sees the family picture gallery or a video call with her grandson opens automatically. Easy peasy. Simplicity and accessibility are the core ethos behind Munich-based Enna Systems. For Bergmeier personally, he got the inspiration for Enna Systems after listening to grandmother complain about not being involved in planning family celebrations. All the planning was done in advance in the family Whatsapp group, all unbeknownst to Bergmeier's grandmother who doesn’t own a smartphone.

For the enna, you need the docking station, the Enna app and a tablet of your choice. You then place NFC command cards to operate the enna—no touch display or complicated menus. For every action there is an enna card, e.g. for albums uploaded by relatives via the Enna app, YouTube videos, audio books or podcasts. Some families use two cards, some 40.

enna cards can be ordered, individually created or edited by relatives via the app. The device itself is available on a monthly subscription basis and costs between €28 and €35. Cards range from €1.99 to €34.99—the latter, it should be pointed out, is the price for audio books, where the founders have to comply with standard book rates in Germany. Co-founder Moritz Kutschera got the idea for using NFC technology from an episode of the OMR podcast with the Toniebox founders. “I found the concept very fascinating. And it makes a lot of sense that if children can operate a Toniebox, the same principle should work for seniors as well," says Kutschera.

Enna is by no means the first company to bring a senior-friendly end device to market. There are and have been numerous competitors both in their home market of Germany (Lylu, Asina, Emporia, Doro and Nepos), the US (GrandPad) and the UK (Breezie). Each serves a market, where it would seem to massive demand. In Germany alone, the proportion of senior households has risen from 29% to 33% between 2002 and 2022. That is almost 13 million households. Millions of seniors also live in other countries. Nevertheless, none of the aforementioned companies has managed to breakthrough.

Turning isolation into inspiration

The story of Enna Systems begins in the winter of 2017, when Jakob Bergmeier tells his long-time friend Moritz Kutschera about his idea, who then becomes his first customer. Fast forward to 2020 and the onset of pandemic. Many senior citizens around the world were completely isolated from friends and loved ones. Just how great the digital divide between young and old is becomes apparent. Bergmeier decides to quit his full-time job as an engineer and concentrate 100% on Enna. A novice when it comes to founding a company, Bergmeier turns to his friends Kutschera and Tim Haug, who have the requisite business acumen as founders. Together they developed the prototype further. The company proper, Enna Systems GmbH, was officially founded in August 2020. The market launch comes just over two years later in November 2022.

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The enna: consisting of the enna dock, a customer’s personal tablet, cards and the app for relatives to control the system. (Photo: Enna Systems)

After its first year on the market, nearly 15,000 people use an enna and, since the company tracks exactly how often cards are placed on the dock by users, they’ve calculated that over one million cards have been used. For 2024, the founders have set their sights on reaching 50,000 to 60,000 users by the end of the year. Founder enthusiasm notwithstanding, enna also recently raised seven figures in seed funding, which included the TQ Group, Wayra Deutschland (investment arm of Telefónica), among others. Series A is set to follow later this year.

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Grandma on her first enna call (Photo: Enna Systems)

Start-up Nepos couldn't cut it

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Paul Lunow, founder of Nepos

The entire situation is one that Paul Lunow is all too familiar with. In his case, it was his great-aunt Luise and her struggles with technology that inspired him to conceive, develop and launch a simple solution for seniors. He even got investors on board. "So many people have tried to get older people online (...) Far too often they were unsuccessful," said co-founder and financier Florian Schindler in an interview at the time. Nepos was supposed to be different. The start-up developed a tablet and software for seniors, everything easy to use, everything tailored to the needs of older people.

Nepos failed to gain traction and fell by the wayside. "I would do a lot of things differently if I had to market a product like this again today," says Paul Lunow, founder of Neops. "For example, I would get to market much faster. We had very high-quality standards and would have had to take smaller steps much faster." In the interview, Lunow said that they wanted to offer both hardware and software completely in-house, but in the end they were unable to finance the hardware. The new approach of only focusing on software also failed and thus they never even made it to market.

How will enna succeed where others have failed? 

enna co-founder Kutschera says: "Basically, we have our own hardware with the Enna dock, which is much cheaper than producing an entire tablet, as was the case with other providers of senior PCs. And then we also see ourselves as a software company, not a hardware provider. We are convinced of the market potential," he says and adds: "I think the biggest hurdle is always market entry. That's where most people have failed so far."

At the time, Nepos turned to newspaper publishers to get the word out—a seemingly logical decision on the surface as newspaper readers tend to skew old. Enna Systems took a different approach. "It often happens that a grandchild sees our product on Tiktok or Instagram and then brings it into the family," says enna Kutschera. Individual videos from enna now have a reach of millions on Tiktok. The solution is often purchased by relatives, but then used by grandparents or parents. In the future, the start-up wants to serve both target groups by advertising not only on social media, but also on TV and in print.

Bridging the generational gap

Despite his own idea’s failure, Nepos founder Lunow believes that the topic of digital participation will always be important. "In contrast to younger people, who change their apps and digital devices as often as their clothes, seniors tend to remain loyal to a product once they have a functioning system." Lunow sees the potential in that regard in setups like those from Enna Systems. However, he does not believe that the solution of working via cards will work as they are “too limited.”

Unsurprisingly, Kutschera is of a different opinion: "We see ourselves as a platform that bridges the gap between generations. With emotional storytelling on Tiktok and Instagram, the majority of paid ads reach more than 650,000 users on Tiktok. Although Enna Systems only has around 20,000 followers on its own Tiktok channel, they did have a viral hit, by a TikToker named Dave, which achieved over two and a half million views.  

Enna: moving forward

The space has attracted other competitors. Berlin-based Generation Reach, led by founder Teo Ortega, launched a similar system, the Family Cards. Since April 2022, they have developed the product solution, which involves a card reader and cards that can be used to call up content or execute commands such as starting a video call. The device is still only available as a prototype. According to German news outlet MDR, the system should be on the market by the end of 2023. So far, however, the product can only be pre-ordered on the website. Meanwhile, Enna is already hatching expansion plans and will be available in Austria beginning this year. Further partners are to be brought on board and the company is currently in talks with major media companies, music and video streaming services, as well as with electronics and book retailers about plans to to enter the retail sector.

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Scott Peterson
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