The missed potential of the longevity economy

photo by Cathy SunuChris Valentine

CEO of Adeo InterActive; key member of the SXSW Interactive Team

You´ve been in the startup field for 25 years, a long time. What are the latest remarkable changes in that field?

Every year we observe transformation of technology. This should be reflected in the categories that we case in our pitch events. But I think within those categories what you start to see are a kind of subtrends and these can be a result of either a single  acceleratosr or of the bigger accelerator pitch events like south by southwest.

Remarkable this year was the “social good” topic at sxsw. It was wonderful to see companies whose mission is to make the world a better place.

The world is aging. Do startups seem to realize the trend and the impact of the economy and the potential clients?

I think people still focus more on the younger generation even so this group has limited spending power. In this context it is especially important what AARP and other organizations do: Highlight the potential of the longevity economy and the changing needs on the consumer side.

One key question is “What makes somebody look or even feel old when it comes to the use of technology?” People aged 50-60 are still working. Simply put: if they don’t embrace technology they won’t survive on the labor market. But this doesn’t apply to the generation 65-85, which not necessarily had to use ICT during work - they now have to find and understand their personal benefits of using new technologies.

What is needed to enhance the awareness for aging in the startup-scene?

The older generation is not sexy, millennials are a sexy topic. So you need to the force the discussion about the longevity economy in the startup scene, like AARP does here in the US. Somebody has to start and maintain the discussion, and if you are not in the discussion, you are invisible. You need to be there, in the start-up world and talk about aging, aging in context to tech to fintech, health and other relevant topics.

We have to highlight and showcase later life in modern context and visualize the simple size of this age group and their relevance for almost all kinds of goods and services industries. And as ageing becomes more and more of a global issue other markets will add even more market potential.

You did a lot of pitches and startup events, ranging from NASA to senior-focused event for the AARP. What was special about the AARP?

Most of my time I was focused rather on technologies than on user groups. The AARP event opened my eyes for seniors and since that time I like to point out seniors as potential clients for startups. Some already have a senior strategy, some don´t. Startups just have to think differently and consider to service the older folks instead of denying there potential. 

What are your personal learning’s from the to senior-focused event?

When it comes to age-related product and services the baby-boomers - age 40 to 65 - don`t think about themselves. They rather think about their parents or aged friends, as they might be or already are family care givers and worry about their loved ones. They want to give them a good life, as good as possible. And that raises questions like: What happens when my mum falls and is there a technology?

As more and more of the baby-boomers are used to technology they will look out for new options in the market and ensure that their family members will have dignity and quality of life till the end.

What´s your personal view on aging & longevity?

I do exercise. I continually stimulate my mind, am engaged, trying out and learning new things to challenge myself. That keeps me fresh. I never smoke and drink. I protect and take care of myself.