The Gerontechnologist, global overview on agetech

Keren EtkinKeren Etkin

Creator of, Israel




Keren you run the website The Gerontechnologist what is it about and what was the background to do it?

The gerontechnologist is a website with a focus on the agetech ecosystem and the motivationthat made me start it two years ago was because I was working at Intuition Robotics at the time and we were really focused on social robotics and I knew everything I needed to know about social robotics and I know all the other startups and I read all the academic papers but what I was personally curious about was what other startups were out there and developing technological products and services for the aging population.

So, I knew that there were other startups out there I knew some of them personally, they were in Israel at the time. But I couldn’t find a snapshot of the industry online that would give me a bird’s view of the entire ecosystem. I decided to do my research by myself and created the market map which is now becoming an annual thing. After I published it I got feedback from people because it was online and other people could find it and people started writing me telling me how valuable they found it. That’s the reason I kept on publishing it the second year. And I also started writing about the ecosystem, doing local maps for San Francisco, for the UK and Israel. First of all because I enjoy writing, meeting the entrepreneurs and talking to them and hearing about their business.

What’s your definition of agetech?

My definition of agetech is any tech based product or service that is developed to meet the needs for older adults by involving them in the designing process. Older adults don’t necessarily have to be the end users but they should be beneficiaries. If I develop an agetech product or service that is going to be used by the family caregiver or the homecare agency or the senior living community. The end beneficiary of this is the older adult.

You have kind of a global overview on agetech. From your point of view, which country is leading the game?

I want to say Israel, but obviously the United States, especially San Francisco and the Bay Area is leading the charge in all areas of tech innovation and also obviously in agetech. There are lots of smart people and experienced entrepreneurs in that area and a lot of capital is available for entrepreneurs. But I must say that the ecosystems of Israel and the UK are not far behind. There is a lot of great stuff going on in Israel and the UK. Those three are definitely on top.

Can you see any misconception or any other reason why startups shy away to face agetech?

Well naturally I think when entrepreneurs are exploring problems that they can solve with tech, they start by looking at themselves. If some having a problem finding a life partner, they will use a dating app, when someone is having a problem finding a parking lot, they will start a parking app. That’s the base cause of it. And we can’t also ignore the fact that ageism is an issue in our society in general and in the tech industry especially. When entrepreneurs are developing new products, they often don’t consider older adults as potential users. So often the products are not usable for everyone. Not just because of usability issues but also because they don’t meet the needs of older people.

What is the reason for that?

Ageism is playing a role in it. You see time and money spent on gaming apps like Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. I don’t see many older adults using it, probably because they prefer spending their time in more constructive ways. Sometimes It pains me to think about the number of talented people who are focused on developing addictive gaming apps versus the amount of people who are focused on developing tech products and services that can benefit the aging population. But that is changing; we are on the right direction.

What has to be done?

Its sort of the chicken and egg problem. I mean, even entrepreneurs who decide creating a startup for the aging population, they still find it difficult to raise capital. On the other hand, investors often don’t consider this market, which is a mistake because it’s a huge market. Its very much a blue ocean. The companies that will create good products and valuable products for this market are going to make a lot of money. There are several venture capital funds that are focused on this market segment. And generalist funds are also starting to look in that direction. I think entrepreneurs and VCs who are looking ahead and into the future and want to stay ahead of the tide should look into this market.

What is your favorite innovation in agetech?

Obviously, my favorite is elliq It’s a social robot, developed by an Israeli company called Intuition Robotics, I was part of that team.
I personally have a tendency to prefer startups who are addressing the social and emotional needs of older adults, because I think there are many needs. I really like True Link I really like Stitch, which is an online platform. Those are on the top of my head, but it’s really hard to pick a favorite. There are many good companies and great entrepreneurs out there doing amazing work and really pushing aging innovation forward.

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