By Chris Hayes
The story of how Touchtown began is a story about a father and son.
Jeff Pepper, the founder of ServiceWare and a serial entrepreneur, knew one day that it was time for his father to move to an assisted living
facility. After seeing his dad struggle to adapt in the retirement home, a light bulb went off in Pepper’s head: What if he could use technology to invent ways for senior citizens in these facilities to enjoy a better quality of life?
This led to Touchtown, an Oakmont-based company that uses its cutting-edge technology to improve the quality of life of seniors who live in senior communities. Today, Touchtown integrates several different products into its business model, including interactive apps and digital calendars, but it wasn’t that way nearly 20 years ago, when the company was first getting on its feet.
“Touchtown, like many startups, took some time to find a product that works in the marketplace,” said Ted Teele, Touchtown’s current Chief Executive Officer. “Eventually, Jeff came up with the idea for an In-Room TV channel, which would share menus, activities and other community information with seniors in their rooms. That worked. Senior communities started buying them all over the country.”
From there, Pepper was on to something. Over the next few years, he went on to create other products to help seniors engage with their communities, such as digital signs, printed calendars and interactive apps. All of these products are powered by Touchtown’s Content Manager, a patented system that customers use to create and enter content that can be displayed on one or more systems. To make things easier for busy community staff members, Touchtown provides more than 3,000 pre-designed slides and high-definition digital signs to keep residents informed on a daily basis.
Teele said that even though more and more senior citizens are adapting to the era of smartphones and tablets, some still prefer the more basic, non-interactive technology. This forces Touchtown to be versatile and accommodating toward all of its customers.
“We want to give a wide range of options on how to get this information,” he said. “There are a lot of seniors today who have tablets. But in any senior living community, you’re not going to get more than 50 percent that want to use them. So you have to have these other things at the same time. Seniors don’t want to do something that they’re told they have to do, so we have to support a wide range of capabilities.”
After running the company for 17 years, Pepper decided to use his passion to help people in other ways. When it came to finding a new person to run Touchtown, he had the perfect guy in mind: Teele, a longtime friend of Pepper. Teele has used his outgoing personality and personable leadership style to create an even greater sense of community among Touchtown employees and customers.
“We have a passionate group of people who love working together and are committed to build a great company while improving the quality of life for seniors,” Teele said. “Everyone here is always looking for a smarter way to do things.”
Both Teele and Nicole Page, Touchtown’s Vice President of Sales, said one of Touchtown’s current goals is to operate like a startup, even though they’ve been around for quite some time.
“We have a lot of great ideas floating around,” Page said. “The culture is extremely collaborative. We love working together. It is truly a positive environment through and through.”
Moving forward, Touchtown plans to grow its business while not forgetting its initial goal. The company wants to help people above all, just as Pepper wanted to help his father.
“We try to keep a very good pulse on what senior living is demanding,” Page said. “We never forget the fact that our goal is to enhance the lives of seniors.”