Need a pandemic pal? This Miami company just got a lot more money to provide you one

Rob Wile
·2 min read

The momentum of Miami tech shows no sign of slowing down.

The latest milestone comes from Papa, the Miami-based “family on demand” company, which announced Tuesday it had raised $60 million in an investment round led by investment group Tiger Global Management. That is on top of the $18 million it raised in September in an investment round led by Comcast. The company is not disclosing how much it is now worth.

Founded in 2017, Papa, provided some 50,000 visits, including virtual ones, in December and saw 600% growth in 2020. CEO Andrew Parker says the pandemic has fueled demand for companionship, even if it must be through a screen. And in addition to its primary companionship service, Papa now offers two additional ones: health plan benefits navigation, and virtual primary-care services. It’s two more reasons why investors see growth for the company accelerating. Papa currently has a 3.8 rating on review site

“We are excited to back the clear category leader and believe they’re just scratching the surface of the opportunity that lies ahead,” said Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global.

Papa just closed on more than 11,000 square feet of office space in Brickell.

Parker said that unlike many home health aide service providers, Papa’s “Pals” are expected to handle difficult or complex situations an older Papa member may be facing — everything short of bathing and toileting.

“Some [interactions] are completely fun and amazing, and some are pretty tough — many [members] are leading really lonely and isolated lives,” Parker said.

The biggest need among members, Parker has found, is having someone to listen and satisfying the need to feel like they are imparting wisdom

“Our members are former surfers, cyclists, musicians, one was an early paparazzi, one owned a college, one worked for Reagan,” Parker said. “To pass that knowledge on ... you don’t want to feel like you’re old and don’t matter.”

Papa’s Pals can earn up to $15 an hour. Parker said unlike many other service industry providers, Papa is not facing a labor shortage, with 20,000 individuals applying nationwide. Papa has now set up a “Papa Pal University” to provide advanced training to its workers, most of whom can earn up to $15 an hour.

“We’ve never had an issue getting supply,” Parker said. “Now we spend more time thinking about how to get a 10 out of 10 experience every time, and that means curating the right Pal.”

Some two-dozen Miami-area startups have announced investments in just the first quarter of 2021 alone, making it among the most productive periods in the city’s history.