Miami-Dade County

Health startups compete for attention to huge tap senior market

Hugh Geiger, CEO of Ollo, a wearable device that allows users to interface with digital social media platform, competes against other health tech startups during the AARP Health Innovation50+ LivePitch, part of a three-day expo in Miami Beach, on Thursday, May 14, 2015.
Hugh Geiger, CEO of Ollo, a wearable device that allows users to interface with digital social media platform, competes against other health tech startups during the AARP Health Innovation50+ LivePitch, part of a three-day expo in Miami Beach, on Thursday, May 14, 2015.

One company offers a mobile medication management platform that reminds patients to take their meds and alerts caregivers if they miss a dose. Another company helps people improve their brain function with personalized exercises and data. And a third combines neuroscience research with the latest in virtual reality technology to evaluate key brain functions, such as balance and reaction time.

These were some of the 15 health startups that duked it out before a panel of venture capitalists in Thursday’s AARP Health Innovation50+ LivePitch, one of the events at the advocacy group’s annual conference in the Miami Beach Convention Center. The four-hour program gave companies access to thousands of potential consumers as well as a handful of potential angel investors who might, at a later date, open their wallets.

In the end, Splitsecnd a Nashville-based maker of a portable device that plugs into a cigarette lighter to provide automatic car crash notifications, got the nod from the judges. The $99 device’s ability to provide real-time GPS tracking and connection to a 24/7 emergency response center appeared to be the most scalable of the companies and the one with big numbers behind it: Of the 230 million drivers in the U.S., 33 million are 65 and older. What’s more, 500 people are injured in crashes every day.

While the winner of the LivePitch competition won’t get money a la Shark Tank, the company staff member will receive hours of free mentoring and lots of exposure.

“We’re incredibly passionate about what we do, so to have judges believe in it too is a great affirmation and vote of confidence,” said Splitsecnd CEO Mel Taylor after the win. “Just being able to be here has given us a great platform.”

Thursday was the first day of the AARP Life@50+ National Event & Expo, a three-day extravaganza of speakers, celebrity guest appearances, and a 150-exhibitor fair. It is AARP’s first time in Miami and five of the 15 companies that pitched their health tech products were from Florida.

In addition to the judges’ choice, AARP conference-goers voted two companies, Audicus and Constant Therapy, as AARP Consumer Winners. Audicus seeks to reach the 40 million people suffering from hearing loss by offering less expensive hearing aids online. Constant Therapy helps people improve their brain function after a stroke or brain injury, by providing personalized exercises.

This is AARP’s fourth LivePitch, an event aimed to attract more startups to the 50-and over market. The first LivePitch, in New Orleans, attracted 80 applicants. This year, 228 companies worldwide applied for a spot onstage.

The previous LivePitch events helped 15 of the past 30 finalists raise $50 million in investments.

“It’s become a real destination for startups, entrepreneurs and investors,” said Jody Holtzman, AARP’s senior vice president of Thought Leadership.

The market for health technology is certainly there. Almost 45 percent of Americans are over 50 and this group spends between 9 to 18 percent of their money on healthcare-related products, said Lisa Suennen, managing partner at Venture Valkyrie Consulting.

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