New VC firm seeks start-ups who are working to solve the “urgent problems” facing today’s aging society.
This summer, a new venture capital firm was launched with an exclusive focus on longevity. Primetime Partners is co-founded by Abby Miller Levy, a wellness executive and founder, and Alan Patricof, one of America’s most well-known investors. The firm is focused on “seed and early-stage investments in products, services, technologies and experiences for the aging.”
Longevity.Technology: While the longevity sector is undoubtedly a huge and growing market, there are relatively few investment firms who even recognise it as a distinct investment category, let alone dedicate their entire business to it. So what drove Primetime’s founders to focus on aging specifically? We caught up with Levy recently to find out.
As a founder and entrepreneur herself, Levy took a keen interest in the start-up scene, and started to notice that none of the companies she came across were targeting older adults.
“As our longevity is pushing from what used to be 65 to what will soon be 85, there’s a solid 20-25 years of your life where it feels like there’s not a real private sector innovation economy addressing all the opportunities to build new products, services and experiences for older adults,” she says. “So that’s how I got into the space.”
Four years ago, she connected with Patricof when he invested in wellness firm Thrive Global, where Levy served as founding president alongside Arianna Huffington. Veteran investor Patricof is the founder of investment firms Greycroft and Apax Partners, with billions of dollars in assets under management.
Levy explains that much of Patricof’s interest in getting involved with Primetime was driven by personal experience.
“Alan is very open about the fact that he has been a caregiver himself – his wife has struggled with Alzheimer’s for over a decade now – and so he has seen the challenges of aging in a really up close, personal way,” she says.
According to Levy, another factor leading to Patricof’s involvement was when he realised that, aged 85, so few of his peers, and even those in their 60s and 70s, actually worked.
“They felt either pushed out of their jobs or marginalised, with very few opportunities,” she says. “With longevity comes great wisdom, judgement, experience and network, so why don’t we tap into that? And so Alan has brought a lens onto how do we elevate older adults as founders, how do we get them involved in this start-up and innovation ecosystem?”
“We started fundraising in May and we close in October – the fund size right now is a little over $40 million.”
Things moved quickly. The pair’s first breakfast together was in November last year, and the fund had already made several initial investments by May – even before fundraising had begun.
“We had so much momentum in terms of the pipeline of companies that we had been speaking with that we made four investments between March and May,” says Levy. “We started fundraising in May and we close in October – the fund size right now is a little over $40 million. We have a mix of individual investors, family offices and a few strategic investors that are in the senior living and healthcare world.”
Primetime’s first fund will make initial seed and early-stage investments from $250,000 to $1 million, focusing on areas such as aging in place, financial security for retirees, care management, longevity health services, and enriching consumer experiences for people aged 60 and above.
Like any VC, Primetime is focused on identifying high quality founders with great ideas, and helping to scale them, but Levy is also keen to point out that she sees the firm as having a role to play in “thought leadership” when it comes to aging.
“There are very few voices for the older adult in the US other than AARP,” she says. “So we see it as part of our opportunity, and also responsibility, as an investment platform to showcase role models, and to build the profile of older adults, who are often largely marginalised in our society.”
Primetime brings its portfolio companies the benefit of the combined knowledge, experience and network strength of its founders.
“ … there’s data to show that older adults are actually better entrepreneurs than younger founders, in terms of their exits and returns.”
“Our approach is to really help the businesses focus on their sales, marketing and distribution,” says Levy. “We have a relationship with Welltower, the largest senior living real estate investment trust in the country. Several of our LPs are potential customers for our portfolio companies. We very much focus on helping our portfolio companies with acquisition and distribution, and so our orientation is very hands-on in terms of making the sale and going to market.”
The new venture firm also sets itself apart by its commitment to seeking older adults as founders.
“It’s challenging because just there are not as many older adults who are entrepreneurs,” says Levy. “But that is going to change over time, especially because there’s data to show that older adults are actually better entrepreneurs than younger founders, in terms of their exits and returns.”
Beyond the usual “strength of team and ability to execute” factor, Levy is also looking for companies that are “solving an urgent problem.”
“There are a lot of urgent problems that affect older adults: aging in place, care coordination, longevity health, social isolation, financial insecurity – half of older Americans are going to run out of money…”
“There’s two parts to that – there’s solving it, and then there’s the urgency of the problem,” she explains. “There are a lot of urgent problems that affect older adults: aging in place, care coordination, longevity health, social isolation, financial insecurity – half of older Americans are going to run out of money – and so on. These are big problems to solve, so we’re looking for founders who are tackling these big, urgent problems with immediate solutions.”
“Our profile is to stay away from medical devices, biotech and pharma, because of the long lead times and the risk involved,” adds Levy. “We are not as interested in businesses that prolong life, we are interested in businesses that optimise the quality of life. Getting older isn’t a bad thing – let’s make the best of the experience. It’s not about staying younger – it’s about how you live your best life at whatever age you are.”
Image credit: Primtime Partners