Technology & Aging: ‘tis the Season of the Pitch.

Back to the future at MaRS one more time. On the agenda for the April 1st HealthKick Focus – The Intersection of Innovation & Aging, part of Health Innovation Week 2019,was a snappy technology innovation Pitch Competition sponsored by Toronto based Centre for Aging & Brain Health (CABHI), the highlights of which can be read here – Companies put best foot forward at CABHI/MaRS Pitch Competition.

As you look at the list of eleven participants, you will see a range of innovative products using all the latest technologies. We have become increasingly familiar with AI, robotics, sensors, mobile apps, virtual reality and so on, though their prolific usage may not be witnessed completely by many in an older demographic in their home, health care or mobility experience. At least not yet.

If the amount of pitch competition activity so far in 2019 is anything to go by, and in many cases where award money is attached to it, then ideally the next few 2-3 years will see a breakthrough from the past 6-9 years of research and development. I’m eager for the day when some of these start-ups mature from pitch mode and their products become better known brand names outside the circle of innovator insiders in the aging and longevity space – and start more hiring.

Beyond the pitch, say what – more hiring maybe?

Not an actual CABHI/MaRS pitch-deck participant, one company that gave a 15-min. after lunch “lightning talk”, (which was really sort of a pitch), did get a mention in other news from MaRS – 11 notable start-ups with job openings this April.

Toronto based MyAnt is a smart clothing manufacturer that knits sensors into fabrics, allowing users to monitor their heartrate and track health symptoms simply. As they say -“textile computing benefits every stage of life, any time of day”. This is smart for MyAnt, as I see it, a business that understands those nuances of aging trends and is ensuring its future through the language of inter-generational marketing.

Next week the season of the pitch continues at the intersection of innovation and aging, as CABHI takes to the road in New Orleans at the Boomer Business Summit on April 18th. Here Ryan Webster, CABHI Director of Finance & Operations will be part of a panel in a pitch presentation with the lengthy title: What’s Next Pitch for Distribution to Corporations and Organizations Investing in the Longevity Economy. Prospective companies with revenue greater than $1M will pitch investors and distribution partners for feedback and potential deals.

This follows the What’s Next Canada Inaugural Innovation Day, produced by CABHI and Mary Furlong & Associates held March 20 in Toronto, where there was – of course – a rapid-fire CABHI Pitch Competition, with nine international companies contending for the 2019 CABHI Innovation Award. Mary Furlong is the force behind the Boomer Business Summit.

Meanwhile in California, on April 16th the 6thAnnual Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge Finals 2018/19 takes place. I have been following this event since the start in 2013, but it is not rapid-fire. Their pitch or challenge competition takes place over several months and really looks for student entrepreneurs to pitch as opposed to full on start-ups. This year’s challenge focused on building longevity solutions with cross-generational teams.

Don’t overextend your reach when you make your pitch.

April has barely begun and I can’t resist a baseball metaphor about throwing the first pitch after spring training camp, but I know there’s more going on out there and there’s more to it than making the pitch.

As Ran Manor, Director of Innovation at Baycrest Health Centre said on the MaRS panel on how innovation is or is not addressing the trends in aging, “at least half or more innovations fail”. This I quote not to throw cold water on all this, but we still need to create the right conditions for the other half to make it. So keep watch for the home runs at this intersection of innovation and aging where by the way, a huge number of exciting projects are in play right now around the world.

Smaller start-ups are looking to go beyond the first pitch and they ask how to get their technology based product through to a paying customer, ahead of the big corporates. Perhaps they could take heed at this from Patrick Clifford – Director of Research & Innovation, Southlake Regional Health Centre, who sat on a panel at last week’s MaRS event. Clifford suggested that, “smaller innovator companies (SME”s) could help big health care organizations for example, with their niche problems… and could we not incentivize these SME’s to help solve these niche problems?”

Is maybe the message that you don’t have to overextend your reach when you make your pitch?


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