Wellness Exec Abby Miller Levy Partners With Venture Capitalist Alan Patricof To Change The Aging Narrative
“We’re not a social impact firm,” said Abby Levy, managing partner and co-founder for the early venture investment firm Primetime Partners. “However, if we don’t have social impact, we’re not doing our job right. I like to call it profit with a purpose.”
Levy and veteran investor Alan Patricof are defining a new investment niche. Their company Primetime Partners provides seed and early-stage venture capital to founders focused on an underserved, trillion-dollar global market — aging.
“We’re interested in some pretty big themes, such as the financial security of older adults,” said Levy, adding that half of Americans are projected to run out of money before they die. “We’re focused on care coordination because there are 50 million unpaid family caregivers who don’t have the education, resources or tools to be as effective as they need to be.”
It’s no surprise that Levy would tackle this challenge. As the former President of Thrive Global, with CEO Arianna Huffington, she built a behavior change technology platform focused on employee health, wellness and productivity. Levy already knew Patricof, whose company Greycroft was invested in Thrive Global. When they discovered their mutual interest in the neglected aging market, they decided to team up.
Their goal? Building the most prominent investment platform focused on the older adult market.
“There aren’t enough entrepreneurs and innovative approaches when it comes to serving older adults in this country,” said Levy. “Because the profile of a venture-backed founder is typically younger despite data showing a 60-year-old founder is three times as successful as a younger founder in terms of building a successful business, we are actively seeking out older adult founders who fit within our investment themes.”
For Levy and Patricof, that means proactively and visibly extending the invitation. “Older founders may not have had as much exposure to the world of venture capital, as someone in their 20s or 30,” said Levy. “We’re actively engaging in conversations and nurturing them.”
One recipient of this nurturing is Lauren Driscoll, Founder and CEO of Project Well. Driscoll is an expert on healthcare policy, plans and Medicare. She is also keenly aware of the many older Americans at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. Partnering with health care plans and food providers, Project Well provides customized, healthy and delicious meals for Medicare Advantage Members facing diet-sensitive chronic illness and food needs.
Driscoll says of Levy, “She’s very warm, but also direct, matter-of-fact and clear. She helped me start thinking about Project Well as a market platform. She understood the value proposition right away and gave me actionable suggestions.”
Another company in Primetime’s portfolio is Retirable, focused on providing financial consulting to an over-50 market. While working as a wealth manager at a large financial services company, Tyler End observed the average American 55 and older felt left out because they didn’t think they could afford financial planning. To meet the need, he co-founded Retirable to help people develop a financial roadmap.
During the initial beta phase of Retirable, End said they helped tens of thousands of people with financial planning. A reality, according to End, that should be accessible to everyone.
"Retirable tackles the 50 million Americans with no retirement plan," explained Levy. "In terms of financial security, there's a lot of big questions older adults face. When should I take social security? How much should I take? Do I need Medigap coverage? Should I get a reverse mortgage on my home, or should I try to unlock some of my home's equity value? Retirable provides affordable and effective advice and support, so these critical decisions are made with confidence.”
Carewell is an e-commerce business for home health supplies and support. CEO and Founder Bianca Padilla watched her mother struggle to care for her grandmother while simultaneously working and raising her little sister.
“Her difficulties finding the products, educational resources and the support she needed with limited time and budget inspired me to create a resource for the inexperienced caregiver.”
Levy gave the example of being released from the hospital and needing a catheter while at home. “Yes, you could buy one online, but you don’t know which catheter, what material, what size, how to use it or what to do if something happens. Carewell provides this consulting service, plus e-commerce. With 90 percent of Americans wanting to age in place, this level of support is critical.”
Since becoming a part of Primetime Partner’s investment portfolio, Carewell has benefitted from Patricof’s extensive track record of helping start-ups accelerate, and Levy’s operations and entrepreneurial experience.
"They don't just write a check," said Padilla. "They offer continuous, actionable advice. Alan has a unique perspective for a Carewell investor because he's a caregiver himself. He's a Carewell user."
Rounding out the current portfolio, there’s no surprise that during the year of COVID-19, Primetime Partners would invest in telemedicine.
"Telemedicine is one of those positive stories of COVID," said Levy. "This is one industry that will never go back. How many people want to drive an hour, sit in the doctor's office for two hours and then drive an hour home?”
Tembo Health was founded by Dr. Anurag Gupta after seeing his grandfather’s condition decline while in a nursing facility for a minor injury. Not surprising, given lack of access to the specialists previously treating him and only seeing a generalist for all of his care needs. Gupta vowed to change that.
Tembo Health partners with senior care communities and world-class clinicians to provide residents with high quality 24/7 care through telemedicine. “Tembo focuses on senior living and provides access to specialty care doctors such as psychiatry, cardiology and pulmonology,” said Levy.
Why the Investment Gap?
Older consumers represent a dynamic, underserved market – yet marketers and investors continue to ignore them. It begs the question: Why?
Levy says it starts by understanding the myths she believes drives marketing age bias. Marketers mistakenly believe older consumers are not online and can’t be acquired through digital acquisition. They wrongly believe that older consumers aren’t spending money on new things because they’re on fixed or declining incomes. And they are falsely guided in the belief that only reimbursable items for healthcare are of interest to investors.
Levy and Patricof not only disagree with these myths, but they are also out to dispel them.
“For me, that’s where this tremendous opportunity comes from,” said Levy. “We’re going to show that older consumers are engaging in technology in new and different ways.”
"Part of the problem is that marketers look at the 50-plus group monolithically. They see age instead of considering life stages, the psychographics, the motivations. There are differences between a working older adult and a retired older adult and between someone who is physically active versus less physically active."
Levy also thinks that marketers mistakenly believe they have to choose between age groups. "I'm starting to see the concern about how to target a 20- and a 60-year-old at the same time. If they have to choose, marketers would rather speak to the 20-year-old because they have a longer lifespan than the older consumer. But that's changing on two dimensions.
“Firstly, the 60-year-old has a longer runway than historically. Secondly, the 20-year-olds are not as alienated by the 60-year-olds as one might think. You're seeing a lot more in businesses around intergenerational connectivity and shared living spaces.”
“Through COVID, grandchildren are much more connected to grandparents because of the increasing use of FaceTime and Zoom. I think we're going to see marketers embracing an intergenerational mindset more than ever before.”
With six investments confirmed, four that are public, Primetime Partners continues to consider products, services, technologies and experiences that support unmet needs for older Americans.
“Venture fund success means a high-growth business with the opportunity for high margins and exits at ten times our investment,” said Levy. “We're about changing the narratives around age and aging while normalizing engagement across the generations so that it’s no longer an us versus them.”
A Brilliant Partnership
Levy and Patricof are leading by example in their partnership as well as their mission. When people think about influencers, the partners want to expand thinking beyond the 30 under 30.
“The fact that Alan, at age 85, is working with me to start a venture firm? I’m a mid-career mom, and yes, I’ve also been an executive, but this is my prime time too,” said Levy.
The Primetime Partners believe the best way to serve the older consumer is through building an ecosystem of new companies and innovations that address their challenges. “Our optimism isn't that we need to create brand new technologies. We simply need to engage older adults in relevant solutions.”