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Event Review: 2009 Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit

Posted Jun 19 2009 4:16pm

I attended the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit & Business Plan Competition this week .  We ( helped sponsor the event.

How was it?

In a word, remarkable. In two words, highly worthwhile.

This year's event had record attendance (how many events can say this these days?) and Mary Furlong and Associates puts on the event and does an extraordinary job. Their next event is in March  after the Aging in Americ a conference. Block off the date and attend both.

So who attended this Boomer summit?

Prominent Silicon Valley VC firms like Piper Jaffray and corporate VC's including Johnson & Johnson's Business Development Group which is responsible for identifying businesses for J&J to invest in and/or acquire. 

Bloggers, analysts and Authors including Ken Dychtwald from Age Wave.

Innovators (companies)  that develop and market products and services relating to Boomers and the aging population. A very diverse group. Some of these include:

First Street: An online and print catalog of innovative products for Boomers.
GilberGuide:  Senior housing guide and resource database.
Read How You Want: On-demand, optimized alternative format editions of books, etc. Content and resources for people caring for aging loved ones. 
HeartMath: Products and services that enable caregivers manage stress (some very cool technologies).
CareSquare: Online community/social network for families and caregivers.
Halo Monitoring: Technologies that help seniors live more independently (fall detection etc.).
Silver Ride: Transportation options for the aging population.
Boomers and Beyond: Wellness services for Boomers and aging population.
Immersion Active: Interactive agency for the mature market.
Posit Science: Brain fitness programs (very cool stuff).
The Senior List: Online directory of senior care providers. Marketing and PR software for companies marketing to Boomers and the aging population.
ETR: Help children, young people and adults develop attitudes and behaviors that contribute to optimal health and well-being.
Famililink: Web site that helps families stay in touch.
Magnolia Prime: Telephone reassurance and support system for the aging marketplace.
PharmaSurveyor: Online software to check drug interactions and side effects (very useful). 
Traveling4Health: Medical tourism.

There were a bunch of great sessions . Too many to write about. But four I really enjoyed included:

Jody Holtzmann, SVP of Research at AARP gave an absolutely wonderful keynote presentation on market research relating to Boomers and the aging population. Mr. Holtzmann's information will benefit any company marketing to this sector and AARP has some of the best data available anywhere on this space. Visit AARP's research page regularly if you compete in this space.  I do. RSS feeds here.

Steve Jurvetson from DFJ Global Network ( his blog is here - it's a good one) spoke about four market forces that present excellent opportunities for breakthrough innovation and entrepreneurship (IOW, product ideas). These include:

1. Disruption: Without disruption entrepreneurship and start-ups don't exist. Three types;

A.  New distribution channels (Internet)
B.  Technologies 
C.  Structural Changes in Markets

2. Deregulation
3. Financial Turmoil
4. Demographic Shifts (e.g., aging population )

Laurie Orlov, senior care and boomer industry analyst spoke about technologies for aging in place. I was intrigued about her definition of a good analyst - " someone who describes market shapes, identifies and describes participants in the space (vendors), and predicts trends".  Laurie does a good job at this and compares the current Boomer marketplace to eCommerce in 1999.  She presented what she believes are the four categories to aging in place technologies, a sector that will be huge in the coming years:

  1. Home and Personal Safety (e.g., alarms, motion sensors, med reminders, etc.)
  2. Communication/Engagement  (e.g., email, video, cell phone, etc.)
  3. Personal Health - med reminders,  wellness, etc,)
  4. Learning (cognitive improvement, social networking, education, distance learning, etc.)

Ken Dychtwald from Age Wave gave a stellar presentation on marketing to Boomers. Ken is amazing and should be on any event organizer's short list of keynote presenters. He presented agents of change that any company marketing to Boomers and the aging population (pretty much every company) must know. Here are four:

  1. Maturity not what it used to be. Today's "seniors" are active, have money (control more wealth than any other demographic group), are healthier and live longer. The average life expectancy was 25 in year 1000 and is near 80 today - BTW, Ken says the human body has a biological potential of  140 :-). Lessons for marketer's: Be Aspirational, not desperational in your marketing.
  2. Demography is Destiny. There were no pediatricians in the 1940s - wasn't considered a necessary sub specialty - until the Boomers arrived.  The point? All modernized countries are about to get hit with this age wave explosion and things will change. Ken's advice - get out in front and dig a big hole. IOW, as marketer's you need to act now.
  3. The New Power is Consumer. It is hard to identify a product category where people 55+ don't spend the most. Furniture, health, travel, entertainment, etc. I found this very interesting. 
  4. New beginnings. Cycle Lifespan. There used to be distinguished segments. We're born, go to school, work, retire, die. And products were marketed accordingly. No more. Education, work and leisure are no longer separate. IOW, target "mindset" and "lifestage", not age.  Think about this - Ken is saying that age is NOT best way to break up the population. This is very interesting. Careers, marriage, singlehood, caregivng, empty nest, retirement, grandparents - they happen at different times for people. 

OK....who didn't attend this event?

Traditional HR technology, work-life, EAP or wellness companies. Why more human resource professionals and vendors are not focusing on this space is beyond me.   Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) are planning to work longer and many until they are physically no longer able to do so according to AARP research.  No matter how you look at it, the workforce is going to age considerably the next 10-20 years and this will have profound implications for organizations - on recruitment, talent management, employee wellness, management, leadership development, etc. Within the last ten years we've already seen employers shift benefit spending - they now spend more on elder care benefits than child care benefits but this is only the beginning. But simply offeering employees LTC insurance as a voluntary benefit or access to an R&R for elder care support won't cut it.

Brain fitness is a booming market at the moment (50% of boomers state losing mental capacity as biggest fear). With an aging workforce you can bet that employers have a vested interest in maintaining employee cognitive function - which by the way begins to decrease in your forties. Over thirty published clinical studies show brain fitness software works. What a huge opportunity for talent management software companies, training & development, wellness and other HR vendors.

BTW, another interesting shift may be in outsourcing. With such a vast and educated population (Boomers) we will likely see more "outsourcing" inside America. The Boomers can serve this market. More on that in a future post.

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