Innovation & Enterprise


Kalgera: UCL startup safeguards the finances of vulnerable adults

Kalgera is an award-winning mobile and web application that helps protect the finances of vulnerable people. The tech-for-good company is now welcoming its first users.

Two people sitting on a sofa together looking at a laptop computer with the Kalgera app dashboard on the screen

18 May 2020

The need to protect the elderly and vulnerable from online fraud is even more pressing amid the coronavirus crisis. There's been a spike in reported scams globally as fraudsters try to cash in on the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s an opportune time for the Kalgera app to go live for its first users. The company is also providing free initial access under its C-19 Business Pledge to help those most affected by the pandemic.

Kalgera won £100,000 in the Open Up 2020 Challenge run by Nesta Challenges and Open Banking Limited. This investment has helped to ready the app for launch.

A population at risk of fraud

Each year, around five million older people in the UK fall victim to scams, collectively losing an estimated £1.2 billion. Health factors and life events can contribute to financial vulnerability and increase the likelihood that a scamming attempt will be successful.

Dr Dexter Penn, Clinical Research Fellow at the UCL Dementia Research Centre, observed this problem daily through his clinical work in elderly care. It came into sharp focus when a patient fell victim to scams and lost the money to pay for his place in a care home. After an emotional visit from the patient’s only surviving relative, Dexter was compelled to take action.

Innovative financial safeguarding 

Dexter devised a solution which applies neuroscience research and machine learning to detect subtle changes in financial behaviour associated with susceptibility to fraud. 

Kalgera (meaning ‘good old-age’ in Ancient Greek) is a mobile and web app that analyses past and present financial behaviour to identify risks and trigger personalised alerts. Users can also nominate trusted family and friends to manage shared financial decision-making without compromising their account details or their ability to move money.

Research shows that around half of the six million caregivers in the UK assist loved ones with money management, but find it difficult due to a lack of time and access to information. The Kalgera app means conversations can be had quickly if something does not seem right, while allowing vulnerable people to stay in control.

From business concept to delivery 

After shaping his idea at a UCL enterprise boot camp, Dexter won the UCL Bright Ideas Award (now ‘Build your own business 3: Launch your business’). He was given free office space at The Hatchery, UCL’s business incubator for startups. Dexter also obtained financial support, mentorship and guidance from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, enabling him to complete market research and find suitable co-founders to develop Kalgera.

Dr Dexter Penn, Clinical Research Fellow at the UCL Dementia Research Centre, and co-founder of Kalgera
Recently, Kalgera has been collaborating with major banks and building societies to develop its technology capability. The company has also established a stakeholder working group. This group consists of carers and experts in accessibility, fraud, cyber-security and financial regulation to ensure the use of best practice to safeguard those most vulnerable. Dexter has also contributed to discussions around public policy at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

As well as gaining investment from the Open Up Challenge, Kalgera has been named by Tech Nation as one of three ‘Top New Financial Inclusion Startups’ and listed by Centrica as one of the ‘Top 20 Global Ageing startups’. Which? also recognised Kalgera as one of the best apps to manage money and mental health during coronavirus lockdown.

Dr Dexter Penn said: “From ward rounds to funding rounds, Kalgera represents a personal transformation for me. I wouldn’t have known how to make my idea a reality without the guidance I’ve received from UCL. I’ve been able to find my voice and develop my skills to tackle a problem I feel passionately about.”


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Images courtesy of Kalgera Ltd, 2019.

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