How to develop aging tech? Ask Finland.

When we in Vozrastech project think about our Russian aging tech market, we see that the best practice could be very useful. So we decide to look at our neighbors in Finland and ask colleagues in Upgraded association some questions about their experience and insights.

Developing aging tech is not only about social impact, but fun too.

Is aging tech treated like an independent segment or is it still considered as part of health and well being?

In Finland, we are mostly speaking about home care, assisted living, active ageing, meaning that the innovation can be suitable for the elderly but also for disabled people. It is considered easier to sell if there is a specific target user group for a solution.

How do you assess the current state of this segment?

The segment is growing and there is much talk about it in the public. It hasn’t though reached its full potential, a lot of technologies already available are not yet implemented in general practice. People only see the problems with the technology (cost, time) but don’t see the long-term benefits.

Do you see any growth of interest for last couple of years? Do You have any special programs with universities, accelerators, government agencies?

Ageing of the Finnish population is widely acknowledged and discussed problem. The interest is huge, especially now, since the current Finnish government has chosen the development of home care as one of their key projects in the area of health and wellness. There are multiple programs and projects ongoing in this area. For example, in addition to the TEKNO -project, there is also the HyTe-AiRo Programme, which is the Well-Being and Health Sector Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Programme headed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The key themes selected for the programme include living at home, care and logistics in the hospital environment, pharmacotherapy and pharmaceutical service, as well as well-being coaching and rehabilitation.

Where do you see the biggest prospects — like B2C SaaS for caregivers? What is your opinion about the prospects of independent devices for seniors?!

B2C (in medical devices) can be difficult to sell, since the majority of Finnish residents are using publicly-funded healthcare services. With a doctor referral, a person can receive the health care and nursing services they need at home (for disabled persons or seniors). You can imagine how complicated the work of home care services would be, if every customer would be using different wearables and other technologies. As for the biggest prospect, it is in home-care-system-integrated solutions for assisted living at home, rehabilitation, active ageing and well-being coaching.

We looked at Finnish companies in aging tech and did not see kind of their cooperation for complex solutions to give all set for aging in place for senior person — is it like this and why?

There is definitely a room for better integration, it might be e.g. a retirement home or home care clinics integrating different solutions in once. Some sheltered housings are already searching for different solutions related to security, food service, medication.

What type of investors are interested in aging tech?

Among the VCs showing interest in healthcare, are e.g. Butterfly Ventures, EQT ventures, Icebreaker, Inventure, Maki.vc, Superhero Capital. One of the famous angels investing in health is Leena Niemistö, MD with vast leadership experience.

Do you look at world trends? Which global startups in aging tech do you find most interesting?

We haven’t yet looked that much into the international markets. Finland is in top 10 of countries with the oldest population, that’s why by following the innovations here, you are already following the global situation. But we are going to look into this, starting from the Japanese market, there should be interesting solutions in robotics cooking in there. This is something we don’t see that often in Finland: for one reason or another Finns have not been that much fascinated by robots in the healthcare section. At the moment, we have only, Pepper, Finland’s first and only robot working in the public healthcare sector.

A lot of attention is now paid to voice assistants who are ideally suited to older people — we did not see such solutions in Finland. Why do you think it does not prosper here?

There are quite a few, e.g. Onerva Hoiva and Ovobot. We guess they are just hard to find when searching in English. There is a definitely a prospect for voice assistant solutions.

Does it make sense to work in this area or will Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all win anyway, cause all of them already looking at the elderly?

Selling your solution to a large corporation is one of the exit strategies for startup companies. Collaboration is a new trend, other large companies, not only mentioned above, are looking into the ways to collaborate with startups. You can get more ideas about startup-corporate collaboration on the website of Vertical.vc, the world’s first business augmentor that supports the joining of forces between corporate experience with Startup tenacity.

One of the problems with aging tech is generations gap — startups are 20–30 years old male geeks, and consumers — 60+ women, so their lifestyles and user experience are so different. Is there such a thing in Finland too?

We actually have never thought about this as a problem. The topics of user experience and UX design are highlighted almost everywhere. Almost every company is involving their target user groups into the project or service development, e.g. Sanoste, a platform for providing rehabilitating and recreational virtual services to enrich the everyday life of the elderly, had 100 people interviewed when they were developing the user interface.

How do you assess elderly Finns — how much are they willing to use technology, new devices — your view or some research figures?

We are individuals when we are young and we are individual when we are old. It is completely personal, depends on the individual. Some who have used technology before, are more are interested. But there are some who are not.

Could you say that the startups are focused on expanding to other countries or the Finnish market is enough for now?

Based on our statistics, the majority is looking into Europe and USA. Traditionally, UK, Sweden, and Germany are opening the top list.

Can you imagine there will be a unicorn in this segment or will it be health tech startup where the elderly are only part of the audience?

We are not expecting for one unicorn but possibly multiple big successful companies.

What is the attitude of startups in Upgraded to the Russian market?

Our startups have been often saying that it’s not about the country but about the concrete opportunities it is offering. We have heard from some about their interest in the Russian market.

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