Welcome to the fourth edition of the AgeTech (formerly Silvertech) News Roundup, a monthly recap of the latest happenings in the world of technology for older adults. Below you'll find summaries of the latest AgeTech financings, product announcements, and events. My name is Max Zamkow and I'm a coordinator for Aging2.0 New York and a partner at Third Act Ventures, a venture firm that invests specifically in startups working to make life better for older adults and their caregivers.
First things first, we've rebranded from Silvertech to AgeTech. Unfortunately there's no single agreed upon term for this field (Silvertech, Gerontech, Ageing Tech...) but I've been seeing AgeTech being used more and more and it doesn't have any negative connotations, so we're going with it.
Now to the news. This month had a lot of big time events with an insurance giant making a tech play, Alexa going medical, and a scandal at Care.com. Read on for more and as always if you have a product announcement, funding update, or comment please reach out.
Alexa, are you my new doctor?
Ever since Alexa was introduced to the world back in 2014 there’s been much fanfare around the potential benefits in care settings. However, a critical piece of the puzzle has been missing, HIPAA-compliance. This month Amazon announced that Alexa can now safely ask about our personal health information, but right now is only allowing six companies to do so. Among those invited are insurance giants, hospitals, and Caremerge - an AgeTech company that makes resident engagement software for senior living communities.
"We are excited to work with Amazon to bring hands-free, voice-activated Alexa devices to senior living apartments. By creating a new touch point with residents, hundreds of communities will now have endless possibilities to improve their service," said Fahad Aziz, Caremerge’s CTO. Other AgeTech companies Viibrant and Soundmind have already been building non-medical solutions for older adults on top of Alexa, expect to see many more from both incumbents and startups as Amazon opens the floodgate.
Sentrics - the makings of an AgeTech conglomerate
Private Equity firm Periscope Equity has spotted an opportunity in senior living and is going after it full tilt. Back in August 2018 it launched Seniormetrics (now Sentrics) with the idea of creating a one-stop technology shop for senior living, promising solutions that ensure resident safety, entertainment, and engagement. To fulfill that promise the company acquired two companies within a week: first Silversphere, an advanced emergency call system, then SeniorTV, a provider of senior-friendly entertainment.
Periscope is attempting to capitalize on two emerging trends in senior living. First and foremost, communities are recognizing that their lack of technology is hurting both their occupancy and operational efficiency and they’re desperate to catch up. Second, the fragmentation of offerings makes this incredibly challenging for senior living which doesn’t have much IT expertise. In creating a conglomerate Sentrics is positioning themselves as a single simple answer for all of your technology needs. Don’t be surprised as we see more private equity firms jumping into AgeTech, the opportunities are becoming too big to ignore.
MemoryWell raises $1mm to tell better stories
Stories improve care. That’s the premise upon which MemoryWell, the startup that hires journalists to write older adults’ life stories, raised a $1mm seed round from Dagmar Dolby and HealthTech Capital.
MemoryWell has a network of over 700 professional writers and a client portfolio that includes senior living giant Brookdale as well as Clover Health and Alphabet Inc’s Medicare Advantage Plan. Founder Jay Newton-Small says this investment will help the company improve its artificial intelligence and machine-learning tech, expand its team with customer success specialists and improve its core product and services.
Europ Assistance makes another play towards global caregiver marketplace domination
Seeing the potential for technology to decrease their payouts, insurance companies are starting to look at AgeTech, but no one is moving as aggressively as Europ Assistance. Back in 2017 they acquired CareLinx, a U.S. based digital caregiver marketplace with over 300,000 professional caregivers. Now they’ve made a significant strategic investment in Pflegix, another digital caregiver marketplace, but this time over in Germany.
This makes sense for the third largest insurer in the world. Given the exorbitant costs of senior care facilities around the world, it’s in their interest to help older adults remain in their homes for as long as possible. Since older adults similarly wish to put off moving to a facility for as long as possible, Europ Assistance stands to doubly benefit. First by keeping their own members healthier longer, and again from non-members paying to use these services to stay out of care facilities. The natural alignment of AgeTech and insurance companies makes me hopeful that we'll see more strategic investments and acquisitions in the near future.
Tellus raises $9mm Series B
The state of Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) shows how much room there still is for technology in home care. Designed to cut down on fraud in the industry, EVV helps ensure that visits billed for actually occur by requiring the caregiver to “check in” from the recipient’s residence, generally by calling a number from their landline telephone. But while making sure someone showed up is a step in the right direction, it’s a far cry from ensuring that quality care was delivered.
Tellus, one of the companies working to finally modernize this technology, has raised a $9mm series B led by Carroll Capital to fuel their national expansion. They face competition from all-in-one home care solutions such as AlayaCare as well as other startups like Orah. This will be an interesting space to watch.
Asbury is doubling down on tech to attract boomers
Asbury Communities, one of the largest senior living nonprofits in the U.S., has doubled its technology expenditures in an effort to attract the incoming wave of baby boomers. CEO Doug Leidig has “really put an emphasis on the resident that will be coming to us over the next 7 to 10 year period … and what role technology is going to play in meeting the needs of those residents,” said Chief Strategic Alliances Officer, Sandy Lawson.
While the long-term goal is to prepare Asbury to better meet future residents’ desires, it’s also seeking to help residents now. “We’re trying to look at what will improve the quality of life for our [current] residents,” Lawson said. “If you can prevent a fall for even one resident, that’s huge, that’s game-changing.”
Care.com's new slogan: "We don't background check caregivers. So what?"
“Care.com is a marketplace platform, like Indeed or LinkedIn. Like those services, we do not generally verify the information posted by users, interview users or conduct employment-level background checks.”
With that one quote from Founder & CEO Sheila Marcelo you can probably guess what issues they’re having. The Wall Street Journal investigated the site, finding thousands of listings from caregivers that had lied about their credentials, had criminal records, or worse. In response, Care.com removed tens of thousands of listings containing unverified information, accounting for 72% of the site.
The issues here highlight the challenges of working in this market. The individuals we’re trying to help are vulnerable and not particularly tech savvy. That means that compared to other sectors more time and effort (and therefore money) must be spent to ensure a product’s utility and safety. Any system that makes older adults and/or their families fend for themselves is destined for disaster.