Primetime Partners - A loud voice for longevity

Abby Miller LevyAbby Miller Levy
Managing Partner & Co-Founder Primetime Partners
Abby you are the co-founder of Primetime Partners, what is the business of your company?

We are an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in founders building for the longevity economy.

What that means is that we support and help grow innovations, new products, services and technologies that improve the experience of aging and ready the global infrastructure and ecosystem to support the growing population of older adults. We are investing in seed to series A businesses. We had a $50 million Fund I that was launched in the summer of 2020 and invested in 36 businesses, over half were healthtech and the rest were fintech and consumer.

What was the reason to start Primetime Partners?

I started Primetime with my partner Alan Patricof, who has been an investor for over 50 years and previously started two investment firms. We saw that there just were not as many entrepreneurs thinking about and designing for the unknown of how we are going to age. I'm a former founder myself - I co-founded a business with Arianna Huffington in the employee wellness space called Thrive Global, and have been in and around the investor community.

When we explored the idea in 2019, Alan and I talked to founders about what new businesses they were building – we talked to those building some point solutions or smaller side projects or senior housing developments, but very few were interested in talking about this demographic shift. And so that's the reason we started Primetime Partners, to make sure that there was a megaphone - a very loud voice speaking to the entrepreneurial community, to the funding community, and ultimately to enterprises. Large enterprises are the customers of most of our companies, whether they are health plans or governments or life insurance companies – they are very concerned about an aging population and how entrepreneurs can play a positive role in this ecosystem.

Your co-founder Alan was quoted by techstars saying Primetime Partners is betting of “an ageless population”. What does that mean?

My co-founder Alan has really borrowed a phrase from the beauty company Estée Lauder. The term – an ageless population or an ageless global economy – is really around the fact that we should not be defining anybody by age. If you ask the average person, do you want to live to be 100? Most of them say no- and they say no, because living in older ages is not viewed as positively as living in younger years. People think about age as decline.

And so as long as aging is being viewed as a disease or decline, there’s a negative perception – whereas there’s an opportunity to view the same period as being in your ‘primetime’ (as we believe). It's really about being ageless, that we are not counting the numbers, we are having a very vital and prosperous experience. I would say Alan uses the term, we learned it from Estée Lauder, which is very funny, because Estée Lauder and the whole beauty industry invented the term anti-aging.

And they have built an almost a trillion-dollar global industry around anti-aging. And now that their population is older, they are absolutely trying to reverse that language, because they are trying to retain a demographic that is getting older.

Do you see the xplus e.g 50plus or 65plus approach as a valid option to create products and services or an aging population?

When we started the fund, we said this is for older adults, which typically has been defined by the age 65, because 65, actually thanks to I think a German innovation, is when the retirement age was set. And it is when in the US, your social security kicks in and when Medicare kicks in. And so we've been very oriented around this term of 65. 

What we discovered in starting to look at businesses in the space, is that longevity and thinking about longevity must happen much younger. And that is, I mean, technically speaking, at the minute we're born. Many things are set in motion when we're much younger than 65.

Take retirement savings. The opportunity to save for your retirement is in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, when you are at the max of your earning, and you can put money away into 401(k)s.

The same thing with health span. Look at all the decisions we make around diet, stress, sleep and fitness, all of those things are cumulative. One of the things that we've been very aware of is making sure that our investments are not just about supporting an existing older population, but that they also help redefine and improve how everybody will age. There are so many different opportunities for founders to be designing in this global longevity economy.

And the reason there are so many opportunities is because so much is broken. And I don't like to be a pessimist, I am an optimist. But I think that there are many key areas that we think about when we consider where opportunity lies.

One area is the rising cost of healthcare globally. Here in the U.S., Medicare spend, which is about a trillion dollars, is growing at 8.4% a year. And healthcare spend is 20% of the U.S. GDP and set to increase to 50%, as some forecast, in the next 35 years.

The spend is so big and going in the wrong direction that founders can absolutely find opportunities to improve individuals' health and reduce the cost of care by applying technology to the industry. I think that's one area where that's very obvious, but we're very much focused on the reduction in the cost of care. A driver is life science, the biotech around what I call the pills and potions, but the biotech of longevity is going to continue to put pressure on every country's healthcare infrastructure.

As it becomes easier with medicine to live longer, we will increasingly lack the healthcare capacity, the retirement savings and financial institutions, the housing and the workforce policies. All of these areas of the economy are going to need to adapt and change to an aging population. And founders can use technology, AI, robotics and other types of innovations, to help all of those vertical sectors of the economy adjust and accommodate an aging population.

What are the sweet spots for founders where you see a gap of demand and innovative solutions in an aging society?

The sweet spots are areas around care management, care navigation, preventing hospital visits, preventing chronic disease, all of the basics in healthtech, and as well as on the care capacity piece – as we have more people over the age of 65 and under the age of 18, we're going to need to come up with additional solutions for older adults who do need help, who do need care. On the retirement savings and the gaps there, the number one thing we can do to help people with financial longevity is have them work longer. It's a mathematical equation, you have to increase income to improve financial longevity.

I know that there's only a couple of companies, we've met globally, that are working on workforce longevity. And on the housing, we get really excited about these intergenerational housing opportunities. I think we are getting closer to that becoming a reality, because just the economics will make it so.

And then on consumer, I think Bank of America estimated that globally older adults control $600 billion of spend power. So what are we doing to delight, entertain, and engage this older audience? The answer is very heterogeneous. Even though older adults control all this net worth, in the US, I think it's something like under 10% of marketing dollars are targeted that way.

The fastest growing audience on Facebook is older adults. There are opportunities to build marketing services companies, advertising companies, specific social media platforms - not because we want to segregate or say that someone at 65 is different from someone at 20, but they are. Brands need to build different consumer experiences for different chapters, and financially it is worth it.

We at Primetime are very excited about all of these opportunities. The one caveat is that the startups need to have a very good muscle of working with large enterprises. Because there's not a huge opportunity for direct to consumer yet. Most of our startups have to go through an enterprise contract. Whether that is with the health plan payer, the employer sector, government, hospital system, life insurance, those are the people who have the brands to get to the desired audience. I think the sweet spot for founders is where they have understood the enterprise customers’ needs in addition to the user consumer needs, because it's a double sale. It's B to B to C.

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