Longevity is ‘Pivotal’ to accelerating social progress

Melinda French Gates’ $1 billion commitment to advancing women’s power and influence includes longevity among its targets.

Next week, Techstars’ Future of Longevity Class of 2023 will participate in a demo day marking the culmination of the 13-week accelerator program that began in January. Categories in the program include preventive health, aging-in-place and financial wellness and resilience, among others. The longevity accelerator, now in its third year, is supported by Pivotal Ventures – a Melinda French Gates company.

Longevity.Technology: French Gates founded Pivotal in 2015, and in 2019 made a $1 billion commitment to “expanding women’s power and influence in the United States.” One of the pillars of the organization’s focus is longevity, primarily driven by the disproportionate impact of caregiving on women in the US. To learn more about Pivotal and its interest in longevity, we caught up with Jennifer Stybel, who leads the caregiving component of the company’s philanthropic arm.

Explaining the link between Pivotal’s mission to improve the situation for women in the US and the aging population, Stybel says that it all stems from trying to remove barriers to opportunity and equality.

Longevity is ‘Pivotal’ to accelerating social progress
Jennifer Stybel, Pivotal Ventures

“One of those significant barriers, particularly for women, is the disproportionate load of unpaid caregiving responsibilities,” she says. “We have Americans who are struggling with an outdated care system, and we have technology advancing virtually every other area of our lives, yet this has really lagged when it comes to innovation around aging. So, what we’re trying to do is to spark and nurture a vibrant ecosystem to produce more and better solutions.”

Longer and healthier lives

This led to Pivotal initiating its “future of longevity” partnership with Techstars, the global accelerator for technology startups. And, while the organization is focused on the $648 billion opportunity that care economy represents, it is also looking at wider aspects of longevity that link into that.

“Over 70% of Americans are going to need care at some point in their lives, even though they want to age in place and want to age in their own homes, and that support is not covered by Medicare,” says Stybel. “When we think about what that future should look like, we need to have more solutions so that people can safely and effectively age in place, that they can live longer and healthier lives, that they can feel more connected and supported, and lift some of that burden on society. Identifying this under-tapped market was really the impetus for creating this accelerator.”

Longevity is ‘Pivotal’ to accelerating social progress
Former cohort company makes passive light therapy products.

This broad approach to aging and longevity is exemplified by the range of companies represented in the Techstars accelerator. One startup in this year’s cohort is Cancer Mutual, which claims to have created the world’s most accurate cancer risk assessment and personalised preventative action plan engine. Another is FinTech company Savvly, a financial solution designed to help people maintain their quality of life – no matter how long they live. Previous cohorts include companies like New York startup Bright, which has developed passive light therapy technology to combat age-related memory loss.

Bringing new investors into longevity

In addition to its funding through organizations like Techstars, Pivotal also invests directly in companies focused on longevity and healthspan, including its recent investment in women’s health clinic Tia

Stybel says that Pivotal is not only helping to support early-stage companies but is also working to bring more investors into the fold.

“We are absolutely looking to bring more investors into this space and create that longevity ecosystem,” she says. “We’ve seen investor interest in this space really grow over the past few years. We have vertically focused VCs like Magnify Ventures, Springbank Collective, Primetime Partners and Cake Ventures, to name a few, who are creating and raising funds with a focus on this market. And we’re also seeing more large generalist funds investing in the longevity space.”

Photo credits: Pivotal Ventures and Bright