Welcome to the fifth edition of the AgeTech News Roundup, a (mostly) 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.
I took a short break from the roundup last month while I explored what getting older looks like in France, Israel, and Kenya. I expected because of the summer slowdown there wouldn't be much AgeTech news, boy was I wrong. I tried to pare it down to just the highlights but there's just so much to talk about including a new unicorn in the works, a tool company betting big on AgeTech, and a once high flying startup that's no more.
Also, I was recently interviewed by Keren Etkin - The Gerontechnologist - who's quickly become a major AgeTech thought leader. In it we talk about my journey into AgeTech, what I look for in startups, and where the industry is headed. Keren also has some exciting news herself but shhhh, it's a secret, so you'll have to wait until September to find out.
Now on to the news. Enjoy!
Home Care Turnover reaches all time high
Staff turnover is without question the biggest issue affecting home care and it’s only getting worse. In the last year the median turnover rate for home care agencies jumped 15% to an all time high of 82%. For many agencies the problem is even worse, I’ve spoken with many that have a rate over 100%, meaning that an entirely new staff must be recruited, hired, and trained every year. Since it costs an average of $2500 to hire a new home care aid this is no small expense. To add insult to injury over half of the agencies surveyed reported having to turn away new clients as a result of staff shortages due to turnover.
Unsurprisingly, home care agencies are desperately trying new approaches to curb turnover. So far the most successful partial-solutions have been improved onboarding & training, increased flexibility, and same-day pay. However, as the number above shows there’s still a ton of room for improvement. Some new companies like OnShift and CareSwitch are trying to make some headway, any company that’s able to make a dent in home care turnover stands to win big.
Trusted Health raises $20mm Series A to help nurses find jobs
One company that’s trying to alleviate the caregiver shortage is Trusted Health, a Bay Area startup that’s helped over 20,000 nurses already and just raised a $20mm Series A. Craft Ventures led the round with existing investors Felicis Ventures and Founder Collective contributing as well as strategic investors Healthbox and Texas Medical Center.
“We’re able to compensate nurses in the way that they deserve and save health systems money as well as filling these roles,” says Sarah Gray, Trusted Health’s founding clinician. “When you are short nurses and have vacancies, there’s burnout in your staff, you’re paying overtime for the current nurses that you have, and you’re potentially having to close beds and turn patients away because you don’t have nurses to take care of them. So when you can connect highly qualified professionals as quickly as possible to the open positions, it’s a win-win.”
AgeTech’s next unicorn might be emerging - Omada Health raises Series D
Omada Health, which offers digital coaching programs to help manage chronic conditions, just raised $73mm at a reported $600mm valuation. Wellington Management Company led the round with participation from big names like Cigna Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kaiser Permanente.
Omada’s digital platform which combines personal coaching, peer support, and personal accountability has proven incredibly effective and scalable for chronic condition management and prevention. But CEO Sean Duffy sees an even bigger opportunity, believing that much in-person care can be more effectively and efficiently delivered via technology. He envisions that in 20 years the biggest healthcare provider in the country will be digital and is positioning Omada to take the lead role.
Black & Decker moves into AgeTech, invests in Pillo’s Series A Move over Alexa, there’s a new voice assistant in town and he’s here to make taking medication...fun? That’s what Pillo’s friendly looking device is promising, and armed with $11mm from Stanley Black & Decker it has some firepower to make that happen.
Yes, you read that right, Stanley Black & Decker, the brand behind most of the tools in your garage, is moving into AgeTech. With other large corporations like Best Buy also making moves into this space, it’s yet another sign that the AgeTech opportunity is getting too big to ignore. Larry Harper, Vice President of Stanley’s venture group, said that the investment "represents an important and growing strategic focus for our organization as we continue to find ways to help seniors age in place at home and enjoy their later years in familiar surroundings.” Don’t be surprised as we see more established companies attempt to enter this space.
Backed by AgeTech heavyweights, Vynca raises $10.3mm Series B The challenge of talking about end-of-life scenarios and keeping all doctors informed results in unnecessary suffering and expense. To tackle this challenge, Vynca has raised $10.3mm in Series B funding from First Trust Capital Partners, OCA Ventures, Spectrum Health Ventures as well as two of the main AgeTech focused firms, Generator Ventures and Ziegler LinkAge. This round of funding will be used for fueling the company’s expansion into new geographies and driving new product development.
Vynca’s platform helps health care organizations implement and scale advance care planning so that every individuals’ care preferences are honored at the end-of-life. So far Vynca has partnered with over 80 hospitals, health plans, ACOs, and five state registries.
Call9 has become a cautionary tale about investor alignment
Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news. Call9, the company that provided round-the-clock telehealth doctors to reduce unnecessary hospital trips, has shut down. From the outside everything looked rosy. The company was growing, had acquired a gorgeous new office space in Brooklyn’s Industry City, was able to close multiple financing rounds from top tier firms, and had a business model perfectly timed to take advantage of healthcare’s value-based payment shift. Internally, however, a battle raged. Investors wanted to focus on short-term service fees to get to profitability, while the founders wanted instead to raise additional capital and drive towards value-based contracts.
Ultimately this killed the company. “You can’t lean into fee-for-service [...] and keep the good graces of the payers and the world out there, who’re trying to work with you toward being a value-based company,” says co-founder Timothy Peck. This highlights just how incredibly important it is to ensure that you and your investors are all on the same page. If you’re not all striving for the same goal the conflict will destroy you.
Hooray for M&A - Best Buy acquires Critical Signal Technologies
Now back to the good stuff. Critial Signal Technologies, a PERS and remote monitoring provider, was acquired by Best Buy for an undisclosed amount. This is Best Buy’s second AgeTech acquisition, following its $800mm purchase of GreatCall last year. “We are excited about the prospects of combining CST’s services and relationships with the existing GreatCall business,” said Best Buy CEO Hubery Joly. “More broadly, this tuck-in acquisition, together with GreatCall, complements our existing capabilities like Geek Squad and In-Home Advisors to better serve both the seniors in their home and those who support them like payers and providers.”
Best Buy’s AgeTech strategy shift appears to be paying off already. In Q4 its domestic store revenue declined but the company was still able to exceed analysts expectations in part because of GreatCall’s sales gains. So heads-up aging-in-place startups, Best Buy may come knocking sooner than you thought.
Podimetrics raises $13.4mm Series B to prevent foot amputations
Diabetic foot ulcers cost our healthcare system upwards of $9bn every year. Sometimes they’re detected early and managed, other times they’re not, resulting in amputation and a $100k hospital bill. To prevent loss of limb Podimetrics has raised $13.4mm from Rock Health, Norwich Ventures, and Scientific Health Development.
The startup has developed a smart sensor mat that is placed in a diabetic patient's home. By analyzing foot temperature variations it’s able to predict and prevent the occurrence of ulcers. A study published in Diabetes Care found the mat able to detect 97% of developing ulcers. Not only that, but it was able to detect the ulcers an average of 5 weeks before a clinician would be able to. Podimetrics is currently in use at 14 VA Medical Centers and plans to use the capital to continue its VA rollout.
Lumen, the dating app for older adults, created this ad with Atlanta's Silver Classix Crew to showcase a more modern, realistic view of what it means to be over 50.