Barrier-free access to the Internet

The start-up Lylu opens up the digital world to older people

2021/03/30 by

Maintaining contact with family, shopping, taking an adult education course, watching films or arranging a vaccination appointment: Everyday life for older people has also been increasing shifting over into the digital world, especially since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The start-up company Lylu – which is coached by the HIGHEST Startup and Innovation Center – has launched a new app on the market to help these people gain more digital confidence. It standardizes the use of common websites and services – an innovation that will enable greater digital participation.

Lylu founding team Felix Beinenz, Vitalij Hilsendeger and Sebastian Felger and Lea Fonteyne, who is responsible for marketing.

The three inventors of the Lylu app are “feeling really good about things”. This is because they have just launched their new service on the market – a flexible product that really resonates with the mood of the times. “The fact that every website and every app looks different makes access to the Internet incredibly difficult for senior citizens”, explains co-founder Felix Beinenz.

“But once they have conquered their fear of the new technology and successfully overcome the obstacles to accessing the Internet, there is hardly any difference between how the older and younger generations use it”, observes Beinenz and his two co-founders Vitalij Hilsendeger and Sebastian Felger. For example, their elderly test subjects quickly learned to appreciate the benefits offered by YouTube – not only as an alternative to the media libraries offered by public broadcasters but also as a source of explanatory videos on how to use things like a new induction oven.

Well-known services, resolutely standardized

User interface of the Lylu app.
User interface of the Lylu app.

“Our app opens the barriers that were previously blocking access to the digital world for many older people”, says the industrial engineer Beinenz. The recipe for success for this spin-off from TU Darmstadt and the thing that makes them stand out from other providers of digital technology designed for senior citizens is that their app focuses on already well-known services instead of offering its own island solution and it thus resolutely combines a bewildering range of services into one manageable and easily recognisable user interface. Once users have become familiar with the app, they can transfer what they have learned to every other app and website.

The new service – which has been available for a few weeks on subscription for Android tablets and iPads – required a huge amount of development work. “We had to enable the use of all possible functions so that we could integrate a wide variety of different services into the app”, reports Vitalij Hilsendeger. The Lylu team thus worked tirelessly from one mock up to the next, one test to the next and through numerous rounds of feedback until they had developed the first clickable prototype and ultimately the user interface that is currently in use.

Support that was worth its weight in gold

The team has taken a close look at aging.
The team has taken a close look at aging.

Yet from the moment that mechanical engineer Hilsendeger first started thinking about how to help a generation of grandparents better participate in digital progress back in 2017, the three founders have not only faced huge technical challenges. “You have a fantastic idea in the beginning but then the reality of the situation can hit you hard”, remembers Beinenz. New questions arose every day. What is legally possible? How can we find the right business strategy? How should we finance ourselves?

“We had to learn everything from scratch”, says Hilsendeger today. On their journey from scientific research to self-employment, the three entrepreneurs received support from HIGHEST that was, in their words, “worth its weight in gold”. The consultancy team accompanied the young entrepreneurs through all of the ups and downs of the application process for an EXIST Business Start-up Grant. And they also put them in touch with a series of experts whose know-how helped the entrepreneurs resolve their legal issues and also questions related to the business strategy.

Stay persistent

After the EXIST grant ran out, Lylu GmbH was initially left fending for itself from the summer of 2020 onwards. Although the business developed slowly, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, the start-up has now put this lean period well behind them. They have now secured private investors with a wide range of expertise who believe in the entrepreneurs and their business idea and who are supporting Lylu with seed financing totalling six figures. The company is also set to generate its own income for the first time, on the one hand, from the sale of subscriptions and, on the other hand, from commission paid by the Internet companies who dock with Lylu.

“Stay persistent and hang in there. Sometimes a lot of things don’t work the first time”, recommends Felix Beinenz looking back on his experience of the last few years. The company’s plans for the future now include adding new services, further exploiting the B2B business and getting the app ready for use on other mobile end devices. An analysis of the figures from the first subscription sales will ultimately show how quickly Lylu is able to scale up its business.


  • May 2019 to July 2020
    Funding via an EXIST Business Start-up Grant
  • January 2020
    Foundation of Lylu GmbH
  • September 2020
    Participation in the online matching event from the business angels FrankfurtRheinMain (BA FRM)
  • October 2020
    Successful conclusion of the seed financing
  • November 2020
    Finalist in the Hesse Start-Up Prize 2020 in the “Social impact” category
  • February 2021
    Market launch

Services provided to Lylu by HIGHEST

- Initial consultation from early summer 2018

- Receipt of the EXIST Business Start-up Grant from May 2019 to April 2020 plus a top up (due to the coronavirus pandemic) until July 2020 totalling 153,000 Euro. Advice and support from HIGHEST through the whole period

- EXIST intermediate presentations with experts from the network, sales and software solutions

- Workshops and individual coaching

- Introduction to the network (potential investors/business angels) and feedback on the investment pitch deck

- End of the consultation in October 2020, Lylu has since become a HIGHEST alumni in the network

HIGHEST Innovation and Start-up Center of TU Darmstadt