Evin Ollinger went home for Christmas two years ago to visit his aging 84-year-old father. While there, he learned his dad hadn’t paid the mortgage for three months. His father told his son he didn’t keep up with financial details anymore. “I realized I needed to take charge of his financial life,” says Ollinger.
Kimmey Hardesty is an experienced health care industry consultant but when her grandparents left a hospital after an incident, she struggled navigating the system of follow-up appointments, home health visits and other services for them. “Nothing seemed to really guide caregivers,” Hardesty says.
Stories like these are common among adult children dealing with aging parents and grandparents. What’s different is that Ollinger and Hardesty turned their travails into startup businesses targeted at the 65+ market, part of a booming, and very timely, subculture.
Their firms were among the six impressive finalists that just competed in the first-ever Aging Startup Challenge in Minneapolis, part of an ecology of healthcare startup competitions mushrooming around the country, according to Forbes. This competition was sponsored by Stella (the healthcare brand for investments in innovative health ventures by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota) and the local chapter of Aging 2.0 (a San Francisco-based organization that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in the longevity market).
Says Tom Vanderheyden, president of diversified business at Stella: “A key area in our industry that is most underserved and most in need — nothing rises faster than the aging of the population.”
The Aging Startup Challenge finals, which I attended, were held at TreeHouse Health, an innovation center on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. There was a genuine buzz in the crowded room, as entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare pros and others exchanged business cards and swapped stories. The rules were simple: Each founder or entrepreneur had six minutes to pitch his or her business, followed by four minutes of questions from judges in the enterprise and design side of the healthcare industry. The winner-take-all grand prize? A $25,000 check.
Read about all the finalists and their goals to improve seniors' lives at Forbes.