Some of the most famous and successful companies to emerge from Silicon Valley, from Facebook to Uber to Airbnb, have grown and benefited from investments and funding by venture capital firms.
Startups aimed at consumers over the age of 50 account for just 0.7% of VC funding. But a number of companies have begun to tap into those same investors to reach an underserved market with more than 70 million Americans.
1. Papa: Grandkids-on-Demand
The premise of Papa sounds like it might be a joke at first, but this company’s “grandkids on-demand” concept is anything but. Founded in 2016, Papa connects seniors with college students who are ready to help with transportation needs, cooking, filling prescriptions, or simply hanging out and chatting.
In October 2018, the company raised $2.4 million from Initialized Capital and Sound Ventures to help expand its reach from Florida into five additional states, and just announced an additional $10 million round.
2. Silvernest: Airbnb alternative
The number of home-sharing sites, popularized by Airbnb, has swelled in recent years, and Silvernest has joined the fray by focusing on older homeowners and potential renters who are interested in letting or sharing a room.
Based out of Denver and launched in 2015, Silvernest’s platform includes background checks, lease agreements, and automatic payments, and the company has utilized a recent $3 million investment from Incenter to add new functionality and features and increase its user base.
3. Siren: Smart socks
The idea of smart socks would have seemed inconceivable not even a decade ago. But Siren CEO Ran Ma’s utilization of NeuroFabric, which has sensors woven into the sock’s fabric and can sense temperature changes, allows the socks to monitor feet at multiple points and contact a physician and the patient if inflammation is detected.
4. Eargo: Stylish hearing aids
Hearing aids, initially called ear trumpets, have been around since the 17th century, but digital technology has advanced the device significantly in the past few decades. Eargo was founded in 2010 and unveiled its first device in 2015; it now boasts three different styles that can be purchased directly from the company.
In March 2019, they received a $52-million round of financing from Future Fund, NEA, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Nan Fung Life Sciences, and Maveron, bringing their total funding to $152 million.
5. Willow: Disposable underwear
Adult diapers might not be the kind of product that comes to mind when thinking of Silicon Valley startups, but Willow jumped into the multi-billion industry last year with a more modern approach, eschewing the bulky padding for natural fibers and a sleeker design.
They garnered $2.5 million in a pair of fundraising rounds from FirstMark Capital, Two River, and Wildcat Venture Partners.
6. Honor: Home-health tech
After pivoting to a national home-health network that connects and partners with local agencies and home care operators, Honor raised $50 million in 2018 to bring its total funding to $115 million. The San Francisco-based company is backed by 25 investors but received its latest round from Prosus and Alumni Ventures Group.
7. WHILL: Personal electric vehicles
A $45 million round of funding was completed in 2018, bringing the total amount of funding to $90 million from around 21 investors.
8. Rowheels: A better wheelchair
Manual wheelchair users have their own innovator to thank, as Wisconsin-based Rowheels introduced a propulsion system that allows the driver to pull back on the handrims to move forward. In addition to its wheelsets, which attach to an existing chair, they’ve also unveiled their own wheelchair model.
Across eight rounds of funding the company has raised $4.5 million from WISC Partners.
9. Cake: Digital planning
Created by engineer Suelin Chen and palliative specialist Dr. Mark Zhang, Cake is a digital service where consumers can create and store end-of-life decisions like wills, advance directives and medical interventions, estate planning, and memorial services. The online platform lets users answer simple questions to create a detailed checklist, upload documents, and access them at any time.
Multiple backers, including Pillar VC and Arkitect, have granted $1.6 million to the Boston-based company.
10. Rendever: Virtual reality
The aging-in-place population is quickly growing, & technology needs to support this large group. We were delighted to give some early insights into how #vr is connecting both families & entire communities, no matter where they age, at the #CoxSmartHome #ConnectedIndependence pic.twitter.com/F1FxfinfMj— Rendever (@RendeverHealth) April 4, 2019
A virtual reality company working with retirement communities, Rendever offers a way for people to overcome feelings of isolation. By using VR headsets and software like Google Maps, clients can navigate real-world locations and even experience visits to their former homes.
Rendever hasn’t raised an eye-popping amount like the other companies on this list, but is a good example of using technology in new ways to benefit people as they age.