NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

By: NIC  |  January 20, 2016

Seniors’ Care the Next Unicorn for Start-Up Investors?

Economic Trends  |  Ideas and Discussion


We’ve seen it all over the media: “The first of the Boomers turn 70.” So what does this mean for the seniors housing and care industry?

Some might argue that it presents a “unicorn” opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to develop products or services that will serve one of the largest generations to hit retirement age in our history—and it presents opportunities for venture capitalists to get an early slice of the pie investing in these new solutions.

A “Tabula Rasa” for Innovation

When you think about it, the dot-com boom isn’t that much different than the boomer boom, except we know roughly how many boomers there are and the longevity of the market, making it a bit less risky for investors. 

Everything from transportation to security, health and wellness to entertainment, and even financial management has the potential for innovative alternatives to make independent living possible for longer. It’s a giant tabula rasa (a “blank slate” for our non-Latin readers) with endless possibilities for innovators, techies, and even the venture capitalist.

Boomers want to remain independent, and many are flocking to more urban environments with walkable amenities. This national trend to trade car keys for urban living has made startups like Uber extremely successful.

Transportation is just one component. New technologies are needed to create smarter, more livable home environments. A number of companies are exploring these options already, including Nest, a start-up that manufactures thermostats, smoke detectors, and security cameras that connect to the web.

When our elders need more care than family can provide, start-ups such as HomeHero and CareLinx can find quality home care for our loved one. They provide professionally screened, background-checked care providers at affordable rates.

We’re seeing innovation on the finance side, too. Abaris, a finance-tech-start-up, is creating transparency in the annuities market by giving 50- to 75-year-olds unbiased educational tools and personalized support that can help them decide whether or not to include annuities in their retirement plan.

And so the list goes on, but you get the point: There is a strong market and great opportunities being presented here.

Seniors and Silicon Valley

NIC recently had the opportunity to interview Chis Edell, CEO and Co-Founder of Elevar, for the . Elevar connects large enterprises with talented start-up companies, creating a shared interest in providing game-changing innovations to improve the lives of healthcare consumers.

During the interview, Chris offered invaluable insight for start-ups seeking to work with large enterprises within the senior care market. The first bit of advice was to relentlessly identify someone within the enterprise who is willing to bat for you. This “internal champion” can guide you through the organizational maze and get you to the opportunity you’re looking for.

But, Chris warned, “It’s your responsibility to deliver, because if you get that person excited, and you get them to believe in you, and you fail, you place that person at risk in addition to a lost opportunity.”

The second piece of advice is understanding that enterprise deals are not transactions, but really the opportunity to build long-term relationships.

“I think for a lot of people, especially in new business sales from a start-up perspective, it’s all about scale. It’s all about acquiring users,” Chris said. “What you have to realize with large enterprises is that you don’t sell a deal, collect a check, plug in a technology, and walk away. You have to go into this with a whole new mentality that this is a trusted partnership.”

Steps for Start-Ups’ Success

We’re entering a period of time in which the health care industry will need solutions that emerging technology start-ups can provide. These are the solutions that can fundamentally transform large enterprises’ business and their entire consumer experience.

But to take advantage of these coming opportunities, there are steps start-ups need to keep in mind:

  1. Establish credibility that you are a legitimate company sustainable for the long term.
  2. Take the time to customize the pitch. Using boilerplate language is easily spotted and can damage your chances.
  3. Avoid ambiguity. Be transparent about pieces of the business that are still being worked on.
  4. Do everything with intention and confidence. Never show doubt.
  5. Stay true to what you stand for.

Three Opportunity Areas

Chris identified three areas where he sees an innovation disruption occurring—and where technology can positively affect the baby boomer community:

  • Providing care givers with digital support tools that improve the care they give.
  • Translating medical advice that will help boomers understand the increasingly complex advice they’re given as they age. This can add value, increase quality outcomes, and reduce cost.
  • Leveraging digital tools and technology to discuss emotionally sensitive end-of-life care plans in a more effective, more communicative way for the patient and family members.

This is just the start. What’s clear is that innovation will play an important role in the lives of boomers. The future of aging is now and could very well be the next unicorn for start-up ventures.


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About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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