EXPERT OPINION: A Conversation with Katy Fike and Stephen Johnston

May 23, 2014

In this "Expert Opinion" interview, Katy Fike and Stephen Johnston, Co-Founders, Aging2.0, discuss technology, aging in place, the future of senior care, forming Aging2.0, and more.....

Katy Fike Read the transcript

 

Katy Fike Ph.D. is the co-founder of Aging2.0, a global innovation network, and a Founding Partner of Generator Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on aging and long-term care. Katy is a PhD gerontologist, strategy consultant, former investment banker, systems engineer, blogger and investor. She is a sought after speaker on topics related to innovation and aging and has been featured in national media including BusinessWeek, Forbes, Tech Crunch, Bloomberg TV and PBS NewsHour. Katy is on the Board of Directors of the American Society on Aging and the Family Caregiver Alliance and earned her PhD in gerontology from the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

 

Contact Information:

Katy Fike
Co-Founder
Aging2.0
562-440-3095
Katy@Aging2.com
 

Stephen JohnstonStephen Johnston MBA is the co-founder of Aging2.0, a global innovation network, and a Founding Partner of Generator Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on aging and long-term care. Stephen is a globally minded social entrepreneur and innovation strategist who has spent his career at the intersection of technology and collaboration. He has worked for multiple Fortune F500 companies and is co-author of Growth Champions (Wiley, 2012), a book about sustainable corporate growth. Stephen serves on the board of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), a New York-based nonprofit. He has an MA in Economics from Cambridge University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.

 

Contact Information:

Stephen Johnston
Co-Founder
Aging2.0
347-843-9367
Stephen@Aging2.com
 

Read the interview transcript:

 

Steve Monroe

I’m at the Aging2.0 Global Innovation Summit in San Francisco and I’m sitting here with the two founders, Katy Fike and Stephen Johnston. So, what made you guys come up with the idea for Aging2.0?

Stephen Johnston
Well, this was a couple of years ago that both independently we thought that there wasn’t nearly enough innovation in the 50-plus market. We came at it from a different journey. My background, I was in the mobile business. I was really involved in mobile healthcare and was involved with an individual and they had dementia. It was really interesting to learn about the needs and challenges of people with dementia, in particular the lack of products and services for the family.

I was looking around, how can innovation, how can the technology, the startups, the mobile industry that’s doing so much in so many other areas not focus on this really important topic of older people and dementia?

So I started blogging and then I met Katy. And Katy, as an innovation consultant, had her own journey and she arrived at the same point herself.

Katy Fike
Yeah, I started in investment banking and then went back to school and got my Ph.D. in gerontology. When I went back to school, I was struck by this world I’d come from, kind of business and technology, wasn’t part of the dialogue in gerontology at the time. And I think we both felt like there’s so much potential to rethink business models, to rethink connection and independence. And so we wanted to spark innovation and get more of these groups talking so they would come in the world faster. Because we have a lot of urgency, we think about what needs to happen and we want to start catalyzing that.

Steve Monroe
Getting more and more urgent by the year.  So, tell me a little bit about the GENerator and what’s involved with that and how that works.

Katy Fike
Sure. So, over the past two years we’ve hosted 50 events in 10 cities and three countries, meeting entrepreneurs from all over the world. And what we found is that they all had very common challenges. They had some challenges around understanding what their needs really were. They had challenges around designing and user interface and marketing. And their biggest challenge was around distribution and how do you go to market. They also needed capital.

We heard this over and over again and finally we said, you know what? Let’s pick the ones we’re most excited about and design a program that can help them overcome those barriers. So we picked 11 startups that we really liked and we brought in a mentor network that could kind of help them overcome those barriers. We worked with them for six months to try to accelerate the progress they could make during that time.

Steve Monroe
And you found them or they found you?

Katy Fike
We found most of them through these events that we would hold. But there was a tipping point. We used to kind of have to go looking and now they started to come to us to say, Hey, we understand you might be able to help us connect in to capital or connect in to the long-term care channels. And so we now get a lot of inbound startups that are interested in plugging into the network.

Steve Monroe
And you’re having this first group graduate this week.

Katy Fike
We are, the final…

Steve Monroe
What happens now?

Stephen Johnston
Tomorrow’s going to be the summit and it’s actually not only—it’s the demo day, but it’s also just Aging2.0 Innovation Summit, so it’s combining the opportunity for them to go out into the world and to talk about what they’ve done the last six months and then also to bring other people together who are investors and the industry experts and other startups to really make a big platform for innovation to talk about what happens. And this is really what we’re trying to do, is spark this conversation of how to increase innovation and how to get the right people who haven’t necessarily been talking together—the startups with the investors, with the industry. And all in the room at the same time. And that’s what tomorrow is going to be all about.

Steve Monroe
Okay. Now, are you looking for any particular kind of technology? I mean, when you look at these companies that went into this first GENerator, were you specifically targeting things? Because it looks like there’s a huge variety.

Katy Fike
There is. And so we try to make it not about the technology, but about the need. And then you kind of apply the technology that can best address that need.

So we have one who’s doing transportation. He’s using a mobile app to make it easier to request the transportation. And so sometimes it’s kind of behind-the-scenes technology that’s making things run more efficiently. Other times, it’s things like sensors and wearables which we’re seeing in other spaces, but now entrepreneurs are bringing into the aging context and developing specific products for them.

So we have sensors, wearables, you have big data, we have mobile, lots of mobile…

Stephen Johnston
Yeah, there’s a mega-trend around aging in place that just really comes from multiple different angles. There’s so many smart homes and smart sensors, but there’s also a lot of people who are realizing the power of helping people stay connected. And addressing this isolation epidemic. We’re seeing some really interesting new models that are sort of merging traditional healthcare with much more wellness, much more communication and media tools, which is really coming into a whole new category that hasn’t existed before.

Steve Monroe
When you say there’s a need right now, there’s a rush to it, demographics has been talked about for a long time. But when you talk about technology and senior care, are we really talking about next year? Is there going to be huge technology change five years from now, 10 years from now? When will the big tech revolution come?

Katy Fike
I think that’s one of the challenging things about technology, I don’t think we should wait. It’s here and it’s going to continue to evolve and so when we talk to our corporate partners, it’s a lot about finding a platform that’s going to be able to evolve as the technology changes quickly. And so that’s why I think cloud-based platforms and open APIs and things so that you can have a platform and then, when that next widget or that next sensor comes out, it fits into your platform.

That’s a nice thing about the cloud is that you can stay flexible, whereas so many providers used to have their closed-in, self-built system that runs their enterprise software and I think that’s very much changing.

Steve Monroe
How do you feel about the response to this first global summit?

Katy Fike
We are overwhelmed. I keep saying this that it honestly reminds me of how you feel like on your wedding day. Which probably says funny things about me. But that we look at the guest list and we can’t believe that all of these people are coming together to talk about this. It’s one of those days where you hope it goes slowly, because there’s so many things that we’re looking forward to and having these conversations. And I think we’re already excited to do a multi-day…

Stephen Johnston
I know.

Katy Fike
…next time.

Stephen Johnston
I know, I know. We’re telling everybody you have to speak really quickly. One of the exciting things is so many people from around the world, as well. We have people representing India, Singapore, the Netherlands, Belgium, the U.K. and Australia. So it really is a global summit and one of the things that they are bringing is their perspectives. Because the world is very different outside the U.S. and they have very different regulatory environments and healthcare systems and business models. And so we’re going to be able to learn from each other tomorrow. I think that’s one of the most exciting things.

Steve Monroe
Well, that’s a good segue into this question: Are you going to take this summit on the road to other major U.S. and non-U.S. cities and try to replicate that? Or is it just this market’s so big that it’s easier to be more successful here?

Stephen Johnston
We have a lot right here to go with as it is. My accent, I’m from the U.K., I’ve been in the U.S. for six years and one of the things that Katy and I have always done since the beginning is to make Aging2.0 a global story. We would say the future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed.

And so we’ve done that already with the Aging2.0 local events. We’ve had 50 events around the world in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany. And we’d love to get on a plane and go to Singapore, go to Japan, go to China and continue that dialogue. But what we’re able to do now with this summit is really take things up a notch and have a really major event that is going to be a flagship. And I think after that it’s going to be much easier to see where the world lies. I think, ask us again in a couple of days and then we’ll be able to give you a better answer.

Steve Monroe
Okay, well, I’m sure it’s going to be a huge success. I went over the attendee list and it’s a great combination—it’s a unique combination of people. That’s what’s different compared to everything else I’ve been to over the last 25 years. So it should be fun and it should be a great learning experience. So, good luck to you all and I’m sure we will be sitting down together in the future.

Katy Fike
Thank you so much for making the trip.

Steve Monroe
Thanks for sitting with me.

Katy Fike
Thanks.
 


 

 

 

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