Young companies enter senior care market


Americans are living longer and spending more. That’s why some people think the “gray market” is a golden opportunity.

By 2030, one in five Americans, or 72 million people, will have reached retirement age, according to population projections by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than twice as many seniors as there were in 2000. But, so far, venture funding for technologies targeted at the senior population remains anemic.

In a recent study, retirement lobby group AARP found that from 2001 to 2010, VC investment in startups that target the 50-plus market, which covers 104 million Americans, was only $2 billion, a sliver of the total venture investments of $250 billion in the period.

Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of thought leadership at AARP, is on a mission to change that. For the past several years, he’s been knocking on VC doors, explaining why this opportunity is too big to ignore. His group has also helped promote entrepreneurship in the 50-plus care space by organizing startup contests around senior care innovation and partnering with health-related accelerator programs like Startup Health and Rock Health.

“This is an emerging market in plain sight that nobody sees,” Holtzman said. “It’s kind of bizarre. If we were a limited partner in your fund, we would want to know why you would leave money on the table by ignoring a market of over 100 million people who spend over $3 trillion per year, and is the only humongous growth market that exists.”

People familiar with the gray market (some call it the longevity market or, more broadly, the 50-plus market) point to a number of interesting young companies in the space, some of which have raised modest sums of capital:

Lively, an in-home sensor system that gives older adults a way to measure their healthy living patterns. The company raised $4.8 million from Cambia Health Solutions and Maveron.

SilverRide, a transportation service for older adults. Basically, it’s the equivalent of Uber or Lyft for the senior set. The company has not raised venture capital, but insiders say it may do so soon.

CareLinx, an online professional caregiver network that helps consumers find and pay caregivers who match their specific needs and budget. The company has raised $1.5 million in private funding.

QMedic, a home health monitoring system that sends automated behavioral alerts to caregivers to protect seniors in the event they’re unable to press the emergency button. The company recently received $2.2 million from the National Cancer Institute.

GeriJoy, a virtual pet therapy app designed to help seniors battle loneliness and improve their mental health. The company has no institutional funding.

OpenPlacement, provides seniors, families and care coordinators real-time information and tools so they can find the right senior housing and home care provider. Raised $100,000 from San Francisco-based digital health incubator Rock Health.

VCs have their reasons for avoiding the senior care market, which basically boils down to “show us the money.” To date, there hasn’t been much of it. The only noticeable exit in the space happened in 2006 when Lifeline Systems, makers of the emergency alert necklace for seniors, sold to Philips Electronics for $750 million.

This story first appeared in Reuters Venture Capital Journal. Subscribers can read the entire original story here. To subscribe to VCJ, please email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Reuters News