If I told a business owner that there's a generation that controls more than half of all disposable income, is spending more every year, and is targeted by less than ten percent of all marketing, they'd probably start salivating. After all, how could they resist tapping such an underserved audience? But despite these numbers, many brands -- and especially tech startups -- lose interest when I tell them who those facts apply to: baby boomers.
Baby boomers, the generation that's currently retiring, controls 70 percent of disposable income in the US, according to Nielsen. They're expected to increase their spending by 58 percent over the next fifteen years. And they're being ignored by most industries.
This group is becoming increasingly more interested in services -- especially those related to the needs of aging and retirement -- than they are in products. Because of this, it's important to keep in mind that they're most likely to spend significantly on improving their healthcare and quality of life. They're also able to sniff out a company that's solely interested in profits from a mile away, and won't waste their hard earned savings on it. The winning angle will be to appeal to their desire to have great experiences, maintain their autonomy, and stay healthy.
Be mission driven to make a profit.
UK-based Cera is one of the few technology companies to focus entirely on the baby boomer generation, and they're hoping that they can encourage more startups to serve those over the age of 50. This is especially critical, as, according to a recent report by LGiU, the senior population of the world is expanding, and only half of them rate their health care as "good" or better. Add to this that, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, almost 80 percent of those aged over 65 use a cell phone, but less than 20 percent use digital health tools.
"Our mission is to really empower older people to live as well and as independently as possible in the comfort of their own home. We're trying to transform the elderly care market," explains Mahiben "Ben" Maruthappu, Co-Founder and CEO of Cera. "It's disorganized, very fragmented, and there's very few technologies that serve it. Most companies still use paper, whiteboards, and manually updated spreadsheets to function."
While Cera isn't alone in targeting senior care (they contend with US based PointClickCare and HomeTeam, the market is far from crowded, especially on their side of the pond.
Look for disruption opportunities.
If you want to target baby boomers, the first thing to know is that you don't need to invent something entirely new -- there are plenty of industries they know and love that are in desperate need of a technology update.
When I last sat down with Maruthappu, he explained to me that "there are thousands of disconnected home care companies all over the country of various sizes and capabilities. With relative ease, we've created a tech solution that unites them to form a network that creates a win-win-win situation for everyone involved. They're more profitable and run more smoothly, Cera continues to grow and thrive, and patients receive a superior and ever-improving level of care from their caregivers." The company, which raised £3.2 million in 2016, has taken an approach to scaling that is unusual to a company so young: market consolidation.
Once a caregiving facility is added to the platform, Cera performs a total upgrade of the technology in place, from internal operations to the devices that caregivers use with patients. This creates a situation where workers able to streamline their work days, while simultaneously increasing the value of their services. In fact, by rolling out wearables and in-home sensors, caregivers that work in Cera's network are able to give their patients a greater sense of autonomy without any lapse in supervision or care. By combining this sensor information with daily log activity, Cera's automation and analytics engine is able to flag patients at risk for becoming ill, so that care and intervention can be done immediately.
Prioritize your goals and team, and the money will follow.
If you want to succeed as a startup, you can't solely be in the business for the money. You must be in it because you want to improve some aspect of your customer's life. If you're just doing it for the paycheck, get a job, don't found a company.
"Startups are, by definition, quite challenging. They're a blank canvas that exposes your shortcomings just as much as it give you an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths," explains Maruthappu. "As you grow, prioritize hiring people who excel at your weaknesses."
"Put those two key principles together, and you'll naturally come to a third: the biggest problems come from misplacing priorities and getting distracted. Whenever we've felt that Cera's growth was stalling, it's been because we allowed ourselves to get distracted with too many priorities. My rule: pick three things you want to accomplish as a company, and work on those. Any more and you'll be setting yourself up for trouble."