Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Look back at innovation competitions to help older adults

Competitions abound – all need groundwork.  Just a few years ago you might have noticed that there were few business plan competitions for products and services targeting the older adult market (the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit begun by Mary Furlong in 2004 was a rare exception.)  When its Letter of Intent page appeared at the end of 2011, CMS innovation grant applications included technology submissions behind the scenes, in partnership with non-profits and healthcare delivery organizations. Then came the $1 billion round two announced in December 2014 – and with that, multiple other tech solutions were included to help deliver significant changes, including health information exchanges, patient engagement, the emerging field of population health, and today’s CMS reimbursement for telehealth.  With these approvals, CMS effectively laid the groundwork for many of the firms that compete today in health segments.

AARP begins Live Pitch – looking for startups. In 2012, AARP’s Thought Leadership team began organizing Live Pitch events at the AARP National events for "exciting companies in the health technology and innovation sector that serve the needs and wants of Americans 50 and older." Note the 2013 Live Pitch finalists in Las Vegas and the 2014 finalists in Boston. Upcoming in Miami on May 14, the 2015 Live Pitch finalists will have their say at what is rumored to be AARP’s last large national event. The Miami event also includes the Florida Live Pitch five finalists (and showcase), culled from 228 Florida-based submissions.  

Startups emerge from university programs, incubators, and new funds. Today there are innovation summits, design challenges, and contests not to mention university laboratories, incubators and accelerators that attract entrepreneurs in caregiving and care coordination, remote monitoring technology, aging services, senior housing, venture capital interest in boomer startups, health care, health tech innovation, and hackathons for health smartphone apps. So with all of this innovation competition, it must be true: In the boomer/senior markets, business is good, the health tech innovation arena is thriving, health costs are down, and society in general is the beneficiary, right?

Who will look back at each of these to see what actually happened? What were the criteria for selecting finalists and the winner(s)? How does anyone know that these initiatives were worth the effort, not to mention the media attention that all of these links generated? CMS examined some changes in health metrics as the result of previous awards.  What happened to the AARP Health50 previous finalists and winners? AbilTo and CareLinx definitely survived. How about the survival rate and growth of the Aging 2.0 incubated and accelerated? What was the commercialization success of university initiatives to improve aging and age-related technologies – have things improved since this 2008 blog post? If you are a prospective investor, large-scale product purchaser, or innovator-to-be, you want to know – but how can you find out?

Comments

Laurie,
You make such great points. I too would be interested to see what has happened to all these winners of these contests. It would be a great history lesson but also a better understanding of the aging industry's startups and the aging segment's appetite for them.
Ginna

Laurie, as always, you've picked one of my favorite topics.... At SXSW this year, I happened to be working on my laptop in the startup area shortly before they announced the winners of all the pitch contests. Some young startup founders wandered over and were consoling themselves with research that said that the companies that went on to financial success were those in 3rd & 4th place in pitch contests - not those in first place, and to a lesser extent, not those in second place either. I wish I had the data reference for this factoid, but I don't - so it could be false, but it sure resonates with me. Generally, pitch judges award what's cool - not what's useful. The senior market rewards what's useful, not what's cool.

These are great points. I would like to emphasize that while competitions/hackathons provide a great deal of excitement over the course of the weekend, the real work is in the weeks and months after the competition. It is in this phase where these great ideas require the most support. I've been to many hackathons, some focused on aging in place, where there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and the organizers of the event bring in some phenomenal speakers. However once the prizes have been awarded there is little guidance about next steps and how to truly turned these ideas into enterprises that help patients. For me, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done around supporting these great ideas.

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