Highlights from this week’s conversation include:
Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit abundantagingpodcast.com.
Michael Hughes 00:07
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Art of aging which is part of the Abundant Aging Podcast series from United Church Homes. On this show, we look at what it means to age in America and in other places around the world with positive and empowering conversations that challenge and encourage and inspire everyone everywhere to aid with abundance. Our guest today is Jenny Poth. And Jenny is Vice President Ziegler working with their principal investments and fund management group. She has almost a decade of experience working in what we can call a longevity economy, and Ziegler she currently oversees the firm’s portfolio companies and strategic partners in space. Jenny previously held roles with Ziegler’s corporate finance healthcare team and as the co author of his white paper series, deconstructing the telehealth industry, which of course, has pretty been a pretty quiet sector since COVID. happened, right? So you know, Jenny, I got to say, first of all, so glad to have you on the show. I’ve heard you speak. We’ve had some terrific conversations about the age tech longevity economy, I think that alone absolutely deserves you to be a guest on this show. But even more. So your role at Ziegler. We’re here to talk about how organizations like Ziegler foster growth with newer organizations in the longevity space, especially looking at not so much of VC level investments, but serious level investments. So with all that, Jenny, welcome to the show.
Jenny Poth 01:24
Thank you so much, Mike. It’s a pleasure to be here, I have more than once wanted to listen back to a conversation I’ve had with you to pick up all the little details that we ended up weaving into those discussions. So this is a real treat for me.
Michael Hughes 01:36
And for me, as well. And before we get started, I just want to give a plug for the Ruth Frost Parker Center, which is the thought leadership arm of the United Church Homes. That is the umbrella on which this podcast lays under. And I do want to mention that we do have an annual symposium in October, really addressing issues around ending ageism, you know, ages, whatever it might be, we have some great topics there. So please visit United Church homes.org/parker-center For more information on this year’s topic, and how you can get involved as a contributor or an attendee. So Jenny, I gotta say, you know, again, just reflecting on the past conversations we’ve had, you’re all right now. I mean, you’re clearly somebody who I think could be putting their talents into a lot of different areas. But here you are really working. Right. So directly engaged with the longevity economy with H tech. Why are you so passionate about the world of aging and technology?
Jenny Poth 02:34
Well, there’s really two big reasons Mike, and one of them that you alluded to, when you were talking about the Ruth Frost Parker Center, is that ageism is truly the last acceptable ism in our society. We hear that all the time. And once you start noticing it, it’s really overwhelming how many of our environments and the idioms that we use and our interactions, and even our self perception is colored with this bias against being older. And so the implicit assumption there is being older is objectively and universally and unavoidably worse than being younger. And we all acknowledge that in our current infrastructure, without major change without major investment, older adults are going to be facing more challenges instead of fewer challenges over the coming decades. But as a society, I don’t think that we’re fighting that hard enough, we seem strangely Okay with that being the trajectory of where older adults as a population are going to be headed. So I do this work, because God willing, it might help other people who might not be helped. Without the work that we do here at Ziggler linkage funds, it will help some number of older adults to have a higher quality of life in a society that doesn’t really think a lot about their quality of life or accepts that might be a low quality of life. And the second reason is that it’s more selfish, I suppose. I want to be an older adult someday. And I would like that to be something I can look forward to, instead of this weird, hazy, bogeyman, shadowy future that people tell you to be afraid of and nervous about. And so working with older adults, and doing work on behalf of older adults gives me a lot of hope. Ideally, it gives other people hope as well. Yeah,
Michael Hughes 04:14
and I can really, I mean, I really can’t agree with you more there. Because, you know, at least in the work and in the privilege, I’ve got to spend a United Church homes really interacting with so many of our residents, for, you know, doing a lot of workshops, human centered design workshops with our residents here, you really unpack, you know, that, you know, just just this idea of aging, you realize that, you know, you’re just yourself throughout the course of your life, you just finished different challenges we, you know, I probably still think I’m 22 I know people, you know, their age, and their heads are much younger than they have. They’re just dealing with different types of challenges. And I agree that sort of D stigmatizing that and finding ways to support that because I know that not only are our future generations going to live longer, but they’re going to have more healthy years. And I don’t think that there’s just enough examples. out there of people that are aging? Well, I mean, I’m not talking skydiving pictures or whatever, you know, aging well into the 80s 90s. And hundreds with that is more and more likely, in fact, I mean, I can’t think of a single market opportunity episode of climate change that is predictive as the age wave, right? I mean, everything that you see here today, I mean, it’s gonna be a huge demand in the future.
Jenny Poth 05:23
And it’s really interesting, because I even recall, when I was younger, like an elementary school student, having this awareness in my head of like, your 40th birthday is a big deal, because I see the balloons in the grocery store, and I see the funny joke cards and all that kind of stuff, and it’s on TV. And I’m really pleased that now I don’t really see that for 40th Birthdays, maybe I see it for 50th, birthdays, maybe for 60s. But we are moving the ball down the field in terms of what we consider to be older. But that hasn’t taken away a lot of the stigma. It’s just made it a sort of part of our lives. So working on that stigma element, I think is really the next step here. And stop having it be the one type of joke that’s acceptable to make, even on stages that are at positive aging conferences, you still get the tongue in cheek go, I’m showing my age. And it’s like, well, yeah, that’s okay. That’s how old you are. And so having those kinds of open dialogues and conversations, I think, is one of the big things we work for here at Sequoia linkage funds. I know it’s something you’ve worked so hard in your career also. Yeah.
Michael Hughes 06:25
And I think that the stigmatization, you know, comes more from a relative hope and age and what we see in many other societies around the world, and sort of this issue of avoidance, right? I mean, I was just talking with, you know, someone that’s sort of doing new things in the FinTech industry today. And it’s like, you know, it’s like, a lot of what I think we’ve experienced in aging is sort of this idea of trying to get people to eat their vegetables to get prepared to know what’s happening in the future. And that’s been a really, that’s a tougher barrier than you’d expect. But of course, you could imagine.
Jenny Poth 06:57
Yeah, it’s absolutely true. And there is a lot of intersectionality, especially when it comes to aging, there are differences along gender lines along geographic lines along cultural lines. And so when you put all those together, I think that there is a much broader picture of aging, that we could start to deploy more broadly and more widely without those differences of gender, race and things like this. But we have to actually study it and be intentional about it. Because just like every other stigma, it doesn’t go away. If people aren’t trying to make it go away, and aren’t doing that work. Now, we can’t all fight every battle, there are going to be some people who get to spend a lot more of their time and energy on these aging questions. But I just feel really grateful to have found myself in a position where I get to do some of that work.
Michael Hughes 07:40
But I do want to dive into you know, what, what Ziegler does that I think just to round out this conversation, just what pops in my mind right now is that, you know, first of all, you work with entrepreneurs, you work with people that are growing, you know, they’ve gotten past that first stage of venture capital funding, and now you’re looking at their eligibility for future growth. And I think that’s something we absolutely have to unpack. I think also, on average, you know, the study found that the average founder period is probably somebody in their 40s, or their 50s. That may have had some personal experience with age, you know, aging, age related issues, maybe with family caregiving. But we all know that I don’t want to make the point that ageism works in both directions. Because I think we know we have seen younger founders, young younger people the age in the industry, and there are jokes like, you know, oh, are you boys old enough to drink or you know, things like that? So just to round out the point that aging can happen, both in an older or in looking at older people, or will view younger people?
Jenny Poth 08:38
Yeah, it’s true. I mean, thinking about like, you know, younger founders, green founders, things like that. The fact of being an older adult or having older adults around you, you know, I joked earlier that I’m like, I want to be an older adult. So I really hope that’s a positive experience. Even though I’m not an older adult, now, they are all around me. They’re in my family, and they’re, you know, within my social network and my neighbors and things like this. And so it’s really important to everybody to have a stake in making sure that age is not a limiting factor, and that we don’t impose limits on other people because of their age. Just
Michael Hughes 09:10
I love that sentiment. So let’s start with broaching your Ziegler. You’ve been there for nearly a decade to tell us what you do in your role.
Jenny Poth 09:17
LoRa itself is a healthcare focused investment bank and over the 120 plus years that we’ve been in business, we have had a particularly strong focus on senior living and care. So today we serve more than half of the not for profit, Senior Living and care market as their m&a and debt bankers. We have a growing for profit practice. But we have a number of other practices throughout the healthcare ecosystem as well. And about a decade ago and 2024, something that the bankers in our healthcare technology practice realized was we’re seeing a ton of investment coming from new funds, where their limited partners their investors are hospitals, health systems and payers, and those hospitals and health systems and pay yours are not just getting the financial returns of being invested in a venture fund, which is great, because hopefully your venture fund is returning higher than the market. But also they’re getting a strategic benefit of seeing what’s coming down the pike toward them from an innovation standpoint. And so they can see earlier than their competition, what they need to be thinking about from an investment standpoint, internally, operationally. And our bankers said to her, from the healthcare side, said to our senior living folks, why doesn’t that exist for senior living and care? We don’t see vehicles that enable Senior Living and care operators to get that financial benefit and that strategic benefit, it’s a real shame. So we decided we’re going to create that. So about 2014, we founded the Ziggler linkage funds, we have raised three funds to date over $100 million in total capital, our partner and managing that fund is linkage, which is an aging research and innovation organization out of Ohio run by Scott Collins. And our investors are primarily Senior Living and care providers across the three funds, we’ve had over 160 of them invest in the funds, I do work across a number of investment vehicles within Ziggler. But the lion’s share of my time is spent on Sequoia linkage funds. So that’s primarily sourcing and diligence for new portfolio companies supporting our active portfolio, and then creating that strategic and financial value add for our limited partners. That means the majority of every day, I get to think about what kind of innovation can positively impact older adults and the people who love and care for them, go out and find the companies that are bringing that innovation to market and then help them put together the funding that they need to grow.
Michael Hughes 11:35
That’s terrific. That’s right. And you know, you, you join other people that we’ve been blessed to have on the show that are from the venture and funding space. But you’re the first one that really you know, focuses more on series level than that investment, so interested in trying in this series to kind of define just more of those steps that organizations go through as they grow maybe up to an IPO or or some sort of a, you know, level of that level of growth. So can you tell us just what changes, or what happened, what sort of characteristics are present in companies that may deserve to go into a series level round, and what happens when you actually get into serious funding.
Jenny Poth 12:16
So in a typical company growth cycle, they’ll probably raise friends and family money, maybe money from angel investors. And they’ll often go into that venture seed round. And after they’ve completed that seed round, you’re ready for that next stage of venture capital, which is the series rounds that you’re talking about. Most of our investments at the Ziggler linkage funds are in series A or Series B rounds, many companies will then continue on to a Series C A Series D, I’ve seen up to like a Series F although hopefully you don’t have to go through that many rounds of capital because it’s not easy to do. And then that next step after your series rounds like your buyout or taking a major cash infusion from a private equity firm, it might be an IPO, as you mentioned, some kind of exit where the founders and early investors can take some of their cash out of the company and realize some of that return. So that’s the progression framework that we’re looking at when you’re thinking about the growth of a company and what their investment story may look like. So we play in that series A to B segment. And that’s different from those earlier stages like the seed round primarily in terms of how mature and stable we expect the company to be when they get to us. So a few things that we look for that may not be required for a seed fund, although every seed fund and every series A B fund, we’re all different, we all have different expectations that these might be some helpful rules of thumb, we look for execution on your thesis. So having data about the results that you’re producing for your clients, we want to see a confirmed and proven product market fit and a meaningful client base that demonstrates that product market fit. Ideally, that’d be a fairly diversified client base, so that we don’t have to worry about you know, one client leaving, possibly taking a company under. Another thing is that typically, we’re looking for a more robust and mature team. So when you’re a seed stage company, your executives possibly are still doing this as more of a side hustle, they may not quite have a full executive C suite built out yet, they’re still missing some of those skill sets. But by the time that you reach a Series A round, we want those to be full time executives, we want it to cover all of the core skills that you need to run and grow a company. Now it’s a great linkage fund. In particular, we’re looking for companies with at least a million dollars of annual recurring revenue, or what you may hear is arr. And oftentimes, that means you have a dozen or more clients. And we’d like to see them launched and having most of them gone through at least one renewal cycle. So they’re happy enough with your product that they’re re-upping those contracts. Most likely in that series A you’re going to be raising $5 million, at least and so that’s a pretty pretty chunk of change, right? And we want to see that you have a mature and detailed understanding of your business. And you can tell us with clarity and with precision, how you’re planning to deploy that capital into projects that are really going to maximize your growth and make the most use of those dollars. As opposed to having maybe some more softer execution ideas and broader execution ideas. We’re looking for a lot more detail around that.
Michael Hughes 15:24
And you know, and that just pops into my mind right now. Because look, I watched Silicon Valley on HBO. I don’t know if you did, but there just seemed a bit but you know, you hear from time to time about companies that you know, or maybe take too much money in at once. I don’t know how to say it. I mean, like, because the more money you have the more expectations right. And then the more expectations, then it’s a pressure on growth. And that may not be I mean, what’s the kind of Goldilocks level of investment you look at? So people don’t get too ahead of their skis? And me, I don’t know, put themselves into an uncomfortable position. Yeah.
Jenny Poth 16:04
It’s such an important question, Mike, because that is a question that is being asked in every round that you will do from your seed on up. And typically, if you have some smart, engaged institutional investors around the table coming from funds that are really relevant to your space, they’ll have an idea of what the market is willing to give you and what you should be taking on at any given time, they can help to advise you and guide you. But you do want to stay away from having raised too little and then have to spend a bunch of time six months from now going back out to the market. But you also don’t want to become this hugely capitalized organization that’s just bloated, not making good use of capital, that you’re expected to get a return on every dollar that’s being used in your company. So if the cash is just sitting there for a while, you’re not getting that return that your investors are looking for. So there is, as you said, that Goldilocks zone, I think that’s the perfect phrase for it. But it will really depend on can you use this capital? Do you know what you’re going to use this capital for? And do you have a good idea of what the return on the investments that you plan on making the bets that you plan on making are going to be within your business, the more precise and again, kind of having a mature robust idea of how to answer that question, the better. And we see this a lot with Series B companies in particular, I’d say where maybe they’ve hit a certain scale where now they have to enter a new market, or they are introducing a new product, like they’re past that MVP stage, and they have an expansion plan. And it can get really complicated to tell a compelling story about how you’re going to use money for that type of work.
Michael Hughes 17:40
Yeah, and and, you know, when you’re going from a, you know, saying an angel investing round, and maybe that venture money, and, you know, you’ve got a lot of people kind of backing the premise of your idea. And when they now are reviewed by you, it seems to me that you’re playing the role of kind of like therapists to an extent because, you know, you sit down and, and maybe the mindset is either raise as much as possible or want to get as much as possible, and then breaking it down, not just in terms of what the smart level investment might be. But I bet you that reveals a lot about founders as you take them through this process. I mean, they need to be coachable. And they need to be able to read their market and take in consumer feedback to shape and evolve their product. But then to actually, you know, to now, if things start to get real, right,
Jenny Poth 18:23
yeah, yeah, it’s so true. And having those advisors in your corner you can trust, I would say that many of the investors were in our sector, they’re really looking for a win situation, they’re looking for what dollar amount of valuation terms that are fair for us, reasonable for us will meet our expectations, but will also be fair and reasonable and meet expectations for the founder and for the folks who invested in this before us. So I do think that there are many venture funds out there that even if you feel like you’re negotiating against them, you need to have some level of trust there to be open with them and to accept their feedback. But to be accepted, that may not be possible for you or you want more feedback, having you might necessarily meet a needed investment banker who’s actually doing your business but doing this deal. But having an investment banker or consultant or somebody else who does a lot of m&a in your corner as an advisor on a formal or informal basis can be really helpful just so that when you’re doing your gut checks, you feel a lot more confident , especially if you’re a first time fundraiser. I’m not making a big mistake, I’m making a decision that is within market reason. And so I cannot emphasize enough the quality of consultants that are out there to help you with those decisions and be a sounding board.
Michael Hughes 19:47
You know, and I love the practicality of the advice you’re giving because you know I was you know I attended I do care napkins are the Jarrow technologists she does. She had a great kind of chill that kicked off a year and she always crystallizes it, you know, level of investment, look at the CrunchBase. And all the rest of it and 2023 was another huge year for investment. And I don’t know if you think that 2024 is going to be greater or equal or most, but having these sorts of practical discussions and, and making sure you’re very finely attuned to your plan just seems like you because you’re, it seems like we’re chasing fewer dollars that are available for investing out there is you think that’s true. So
Jenny Poth 20:21
I think there’s a few things that made 2023 a really difficult year to raise capital, one of them that’s probably gotten the most airtime is that many companies that were raising capital in 2023, let’s say a series B, the last time they raised capital was two ish years earlier when the markets were white hot. And so they had these valuations that were crazy, high, just unreasonable. And we kind of all knew it at the time, we were kind of staying away from some of those bigger deals at the time, because we knew the valuations just couldn’t be sustained. But if you raise capital in that environment, now you’ve grown, now you’ve become a larger, more sustainable company, you’re going back out and you’re saying, well, I should be double the size, I should be worth double the valuation. And the markets telling you no, like, you’re worth the same thing you were two years ago, because our valuation multiples have come down, and our expectations have come down. There were a lot of venture funds that just sort of sat out this year, partially because of that it was really difficult to set expectations and have these meaningful conversations, without upsetting founders without upsetting other investors without creating dynamics you didn’t want in the boardroom. And so if a company could avoid raising capital this year, I think many did. And there were a lot of deals that it was just easier to sit out of. So for the time being now, that’s one of many reasons why 2023 was a really difficult year for venture capital raising in this space. I don’t know how quickly that will normalize itself. And we’ll get back to having a more fluid cash environment. I’m hoping it’ll be toward the second half of this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Yeah,
Michael Hughes 22:01
I get it. But if we are looking at the overall, you know, landscape of aging and long term, longevity Tech, we know that, you know, it bleeds into other areas, right, you know, health, consumer goods, finance, all those things. Do you find that organizations in the longevity space are getting into the serious level of investment that are? Do you think that they are concentrating on particular solutions or sectors? Is there, you know, some areas of solutions growing more than others? Yeah,
Jenny Poth 22:32
so there are definitely a few sub sectors that we’re particularly excited about right now. And we’re looking to collaborate with the investment funds that focus on those adjacent industries. So for instance, we’re really excited about fintech. Right now, we’re excited about transportation, we’re eager to look into behavioral health care that goes beyond teletherapy. And I think there’s also a lot of potential that was earlier in these theses, around sleep and around gut health, that I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting innovation in those spaces in the next few years. But we realize we know a lot about longevity, we have access to a ton of data and a ton of insights about older adults, we have a great network of professionals who work in that space. What we don’t have is a huge network and a huge Intel base around consumer FinTech or around some of these areas like gut health. And so we’re looking to meet those investment professionals who day in and day out, are spending their time in those spaces, so that we can collaborate with them, come alongside with our complimentary Intel and make really good investment decisions together. Every industry, though, has to be thinking about older adults, right now, it’s pretty unavoidable. And so that means investors in every industry are fortunately thinking about older adults. So we have more and more of them from outside of the specific funds that you’ve invested in, or I’ve spoken to many of them about the specific funds that focus on this area. We have more and more that are coming in looking for this expertise and trying to get into this market. And I think it can be really powerful to bridge those gaps between industries that exist today, and that those gaps might be where people are falling through. So we’re really excited about some of those areas. I think Fintech is certainly top of mind at the moment. Yeah,
Michael Hughes 24:16
and I think that’s super interesting. And, you know, part of what I’m thinking is, bigger organizations sort of look into the future. I think organizations that can afford to hire a futurist or really do have 10 year strategic plans. I think 2024 I mean, already, I think last year, you know, at least I’ve noticed large organizations kind of joining, you know, convening groups are throwing their hat in the ring, I’m noticing more and more interest in sort of associated sort of places where you find health, light Diet, Food as Medicine, things like that. And I think when you know, 23rd What’s going to happen in 2034? Well, it’s on people’s radar. That’s the magic year where there’s gonna be more people over the age of six defy, then there is under the age of 18. So I don’t know, what do you think? I mean, if you look at the different sorts of players in the space where all the money goes, you can think about health. We can think about finance, we can think about, you know, the limitations of long term care, insurance and all of those different things. But are you starting to see, I mean, do you think that first of all, the level of attention from these sectors is deserving towards the size of the future problem? And then, I guess, are we still looking at as oh my gosh, your customers have to be healthcare thing healthcare first? Or is there more of a? Are there other potential kinds of b2b buyers out there that will sustain some of his age check longevity chair solutions?
Jenny Poth 25:44
Yeah, so correct my direction here. If I’m not kidding, it’s my Yes. But questions like
Jenny Poth 25:53
So I think that when we talk about longevity, and I love this term, longevity, or smart aging economy, these are a couple of the terms that we’ve really appreciated seeing grow in space, and it’s created its own lingo, its own freezing within itself, that is really important. So like, for example, hearing more and more people use the phrase dyad for talking about an older adult and a close caregiver, which previously was something that you may only hear about, like a mother and her newborn, or a woman and delivery or something like this, right? That’s like how we use the phrase diet. And now we’re increasingly seeing, there’s this other kind of dependency that we need to think about and treat as two systems in one system. So I say that, because I do think that the longevity economy is becoming its own self sustaining system that people are paying a lot of attention to, but it doesn’t come down to just health, it comes down to well being that comes down to people. So one of the reasons that we recently made an investment in seasonal health, which is a Nutrition and Food as Medicine company, is because we were excited about food as physical medicine, how we use things that we eat and the things that we ingest, to make our bodies healthier. But I think I’m equally excited about when you’re investing in food as medicine, food is a really social thing. So it’s not just an investment that’s based on let’s help our bodies to grow up big and strong, and get our calcium and all that. But instead, how do we want to power our bodies so they can do all the things that we want to do. And we can go on that hike today. And we can play tennis and we can chase the grandkids, but to how do we also create these joyful experiences around eating and around meal prep, that helps us to expand our social lives, with our friends, with our family, with new people, expand our cultural horizons, try new things be creative, there are so many things wrapped into the one story of food. And I think that every investment that we make, and the ones that we’re looking at, they all have to be seen as whole people, and not just bodies that we’re making work better. The solutions that produce the best outcomes, especially in this value based world do look at mind, body, and spirit and think about those as one cohesive system, and not as the separate components of a person. So we think about that, in terms of bio psychosocial care is a phrase that we often use. I think that it resonates, interestingly, with a lot of philosophical schools with a lot of our lived experiences, as well as what we’re actually finding through the data as being important. Yeah, I want to
Michael Hughes 28:38
sort of get into the data. Because, you know, one of the things we have further down on our list of questions is this world of AI, but I want to bring this up now. Because, you know, when I look at that philosophy and agree with that philosophy, I think that, you know, you know, we don’t have a healthcare system, we have a sick care system, we, you know, this is something where and the promise of holistic models of care, you know, seem to be on more and more on everyone’s minds, you know, it’s nice to think about it, it’s nice to hear about it. But we’ve sort of had these, you know, these long standing clinical care pathways, the doctor’s orders, this idea, just, you know, sort of being so rooted in the healthcare world, at least in Western society. And when you look at where AI is right now, you see a lot of these nurse companion bots and diabetes come in, because you know, those have been sort of set pathways that are in the world. But we’re talking about a world where we need to get a lot smarter at data analytics when it comes to inputs and outcomes. And it seems to me I mean, ti seems really good at doing is sorting out really complex pieces of information. We have Victor Wayne from Kiryat coach on an earlier podcast and he said, you know, if you’re a cardiologist, you know everything about the heart. If you’re a geriatrician, you know everything about complexity. And so at least what we hope AI will do for us at United Church homes is allow us to maybe crosswalk a lot of the assessments and go a little bit deeper into really what drives someone’s motivations towards elk I’m so that’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of, but I think at the end result, there’s gonna be a lot of gold and that maybe that non clinical data at that at adjacent clinical data that I think may open up a really very interesting maybe open up those holistic models of care. So now that I’ve shared European my opinion, please disagree or agree or add to it or tell me?
Jenny Poth 30:19
No, I think that you’re spot on. I mean, if you went to the leading age this year, any expo floor focus on older adults is covered in the word AI right now or the term AI, you can’t get away from it. But I do think that we know a few things about AI, we know it’s not going to be a universal silver bullet that solves all of our problems. We don’t know what problems it will solve. And we do know that it’s going to cause additional problems that we can’t foresee yet. So as we go into 2024, there’s so little common understanding of AI, there’s so little data about its impact. And there are so many ideas of how we can apply it that we haven’t even tried yet. Some of them sound like great ideas, some of them don’t sound like great ideas, but we’ll try them all and see what happens. You know, I think that we’re gonna have to circle back to this every like three months from here on out and have a totally different worldview. And I can’t remember a time where I felt like that was something we had to do every three months with a different technology, I definitely think that there is a lot of opportunity for more data to come out of these, this greater ability to quietly track specific variables about people’s behavior and about how their bodies work. One that I absolutely loved seeing this summer was it was one of the smartwatches thought that they were able to detect women who are going to go into labor, preterm labor, by finding various metrics, I think, and like their pulse ox or something that no one else was tracking, like Who else has been looking at Pulse Ox for women who have no discernible signs of a high risk pregnancy. And now we finally have the technology to just do that whenever we want to, like we’re opening new doors to find vital signs we didn’t know existed, let alone track the ones we do know about better. And the problem, I think, is, we don’t know how to actually make use of that much data. Because we as people can still only, even if the computer is giving us the answers and say, here’s all the issues that you need to deal with today, we’re still only able to take in so much that information and deal with it in the time that we have available, the energy that we have available to us. So I do think that we are really going to have to rethink, not just this idea of partnering with AI and clinicians will be replaced by AI, but clinicians will be replaced by clinicians who know how to use AI, you know, that whole thing. We’re also really going to have to think about what are humans really great at that we don’t have to train AI to do? And what are we really not great at that we can treat AI to do. Because otherwise, we’re just going to overwhelm ourselves. We’ve seen this actually, in all this data that’s available to us. We’ve seen instances where families of older adults have been a little bit gun shy about getting a lot of data on mom or dad, because then they say, Hey, if something happens to mom or dad, regardless of whether it was my fault, it’s in my iPhone, it tells me that something was going to happen. It tells me this data, but I’m not a clinician, I don’t know how to read that. I don’t know how to take the right steps when I see that coming. I don’t want my siblings to all hate me when there’s a fall and they say, well, couldn’t you see that on your phone? Well, I’m not looking at it all the time. So I think that there’s this very big risk, morally, legally, etc. Of having so much data that the machine can make sense of and we can’t do a lot about. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t train the machine. It just means we have to be thinking ahead about things like, that’s a new problem for us to solve. Yeah,
Michael Hughes 33:57
yeah, it’s such an interesting cycle where you know, you lots of data try to comprehend catch up even more data, try not, you know, comprehending, if you remember, you know, years ago, when people were had their debts, they’d walk into doctors offices, and here’s six months worth of data and I’m like, the DOT, even the doc the doctor is like, I don’t what am I doing with weight well taken, yoga and just shifting gears in the last thing I wanted to cover with you is something that I’ve been asking other funders in the space. And it really comes on the heels of feedback from, you know, at least my observation and feedback from others that you look at the VC level, all the different solutions that are being funded in H tech and longevity tech. And you see a lot of companies out there that are really kind of doing the same thing. You know, there’s false detection, falls prevention, caregiver concierge, social engagement platforms, things like that. And, you know, this feedback is so fragment into it. Would you agree that the market is fragmented? And would you agree that there is a benefit to any sort of consolidation? Or may the best company win?
Jenny Poth 35:12
That’s a very difficult question. Yes, I think that if, again, if you read through like an expo book, or flipping through websites or looking through Geron technologists maps, it’s very easy to feel like a lot of companies are doing the same thing. But I think part of that is because we have somewhat limited language to describe what the different companies are doing. And so like fall detection companies, for instance, there are a lot of them out there. But they’re all doing really slightly different things, and are appropriate for slightly different groups of people and different organizations. So I think part of it is a marketing question and a messaging question that is improving, and that is becoming less of a barrier for us. But yeah, I do think there’s this expectation that the segment is ready for a roll up. However, roll ups work best when you have one company in the center of it that already has some amount of scale. And you can build off of that and create these economies of scale that simplify your internal processes, and equip your salespeople with just more tools in their tool belt for things that they can sell. So a roll up will happen when there’s one company that moves far enough ahead and has enough scale with its customers, that they can add those new solutions, bolt them on all those best in class products from their competitors, take the best of those and sell them into their install base. That’s the most likely rationale, I think for roll ups coming out of the sector. Periscope equity has actually been putting together the Centrix platform over the past handful of years, four or five different complementary assets are part of that right now. resident safety, engagement, things like this. But a roll up again works best when you have that core scale platform. And Centrex is a really smart platform that started off with a resident safety company, which had a very big install base already. So if you add entertainment capabilities, that platform or something like that, it’s easy to distribute it, easy to flip it on, you already have that trust built with your clients. And so you have to wait for something to be scaled before you can roll things around it. Now, I have to say, though, based on your question I think it’s really fragmented. I do. But I also think that the idea of fragmentation is subjective. And it’s a matter of perception. Because if you look at an industry and view it as fragmented, you’re projecting onto a wish or a vision for it to someday be brought together with lots of different solutions into a single company. So combining solutions isn’t always the answer. And we have to remember that we have to think about what the hole looks like today. Well, we want it to look like tomorrow, and then be very discerning about what pieces would benefit from being combined, which would actually add to the usability or the convenience of the product. So like, for example, if you want to have today, the best of breed of every point solution, and bring them all into your company, that’s going to be into your organization like a provider organization, integrations between diverse companies are so much better than they’ve ever been before. It is very doable. In many cases to select all the best and breeds, you don’t have to settle if you don’t want to, for this someday vision has a suite of solutions, where some of those solutions are going to be amazing. And some of them are going to be middle of the road, so you can choose the best breed constantly. Our portfolio company que for connect, I think is particularly making those integrations really easy by pooling your data from hardware, from software across your communities into a data lake. And enabling that cross tracking of information that pulls together insights you just couldn’t see otherwise flawlessly. That enables you to have again, that best of breed I come back to that term. Because I do think we undersell the complexity of this industry. If we really think that a senior living community can run off of a couple of big software suites. I mean, a bank can’t, a supermarket can’t. So why do we think we’ll see you living eventually? Well, I think that having really great integrations and then being able to be plug and play from there might actually be the ideal instead of going toward the big Google everything everywhere all at once. Model.
Michael Hughes 39:31
No and that’s that, ya know that that’s lots of food for thought. And thank you for tackling that question. I do want to move on to federal closing questions, though. But another thing just popped into my mind. So I’m going to put you even more on the spot. I suspect a lot of your time is spent looking at pitches and in information, things like that, and I’m just thinking about the way things come across your desk and If you could give our listeners either a top tip on a to do, or a top tip on a not to do when sending a proposal to Ziegler to Jenny and Ziegler or whoever does anything pop into your mind.
Jenny Poth 40:17
So for a to do, I would say in our sector in particular, we’re, I think, very fortunate and blessed that a lot of founders are coming to their businesses with this very passionate point of view. Unfortunately, it’s because a lot of them have actually experienced the challenges of a grandparent having a fall moving into senior living and having it be a really rough decision making process, seeing somebody have many complications from being a chronic condition patient. And so as a result, they recognize a flaw in the market, a gap in the market, and they go out and they start a company to address that. And so a large share of the founders in our portfolio, and others who come across our table, have had really difficult experiences that have led them to this passion project. Now, if you’re founding your business, that can be really powerful, it can be very motivating, it can be a guiding force, it can be a great part of building the right team around you. But to make a business scalable, you have to be able to look beyond just your particular instance. So I think there are instances where founders get very stuck and say, well, that wouldn’t have worked for grandma. It’s like, well, just because it didn’t work for your grandma doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for another grandma. And so being able to look at that scale as a business question, and incorporate your passions into the larger framework of business decisions, rather than subjecting business decisions to this very emotional side of the business, I think that’s a huge challenge. I would challenge everybody in every aspect of life. But moving from a passion project viewpoint, which I think is really great, especially when you’re in a seed stage, and you’re telling people I can do this thing, but I don’t even have an MVP for you, I don’t have that minimum viable product. But I know I can do it. And I want to do it. Moving into that Series A, to some degree, the biggest change and how you’re going to be pitching yourself is pitching as a business, rather than as a passion. And making that walk across can be very difficult to practically achieve, but also really difficult for some people to understand what they need to achieve and when to achieve that. So that’s one thing that I would put forward as a big difference that you might see going into series A Series B, as opposed to some of those earlier rounds of capital.
Michael Hughes 42:41
Yeah, well, again, lots of food for thought. And so appreciate you spending the time with us. You know, taking us through these subjects, you know, I always learned so much from you from your talk. And, and we do on the podcast, we have three questions about aging that we’d like to ask all of our guests. So if you might if I asked some questions about your own personal writing. Okay, but first, Jenny, where can we find you? I mean, is there anything you’d like to pitch? Yeah, I
Jenny Poth 43:07
I am easy to find, there’s basically just one place to find me, which is LinkedIn. I’m Jenny post, P O th on there. And I’m looking forward to connecting with anybody who found this conversation interesting, and might want to continue it. So just drop me a note in there. And I’ll be curious to kick off more interesting conversations from this one.
Michael Hughes 43:27
Awesome. That’s awesome. Okay. And apologies. My mother, for always, you know, is one of our longtime listeners. I’m trying to speak slowly. Okay, so three questions. So the first one is, Jenny, when you think about how you’ve aged, what do you think has changed about you, or grown with you that you really liked about yourself? So
Jenny Poth 43:46
I’m just about to turn 30. And so when I think of aging, I think of this decade of my 20s. And one thing that really stands out to me about the last 10 years is how many novel first time situations I found myself in so graduating from college and starting my career and buying a home and becoming an aunt, you know, all these things that I’ve gotten to observe myself over and over, be surprised and go through changes. And the top personal quality that I think I’ve intentionally developed in myself throughout that process, but also seen naturally growing in me and really like about myself is a capacity for gratitude. And I start counting up the ways that I am blessed. And the phrase that comes to mind over and over is it’s an embarrassment of riches. Like I am so grateful for so many things. It’s overwhelming. And yes, I certainly see that in a long term retrospective viewpoint, but I feel like it’s also something that more and more I’m experiencing in a day to day fashion, increasingly as life goes on. And so I’ve really focused on gratitude as a practice in the last few years become very deeply part of how I encounter the world and I think how I respond to an act in the world, including hopefully making me a more generously loving human being And I’m just really glad to see that grateful, I suppose to see that becoming a bigger part of how I think about myself and proceed myself. What goes
Michael Hughes 45:09
through my mind right now is just the practice of things like gratitude. Even if you think of yourself, you know, there’s there may not be a lot of things to be grateful for, if you look to find those little things, you start that practice, you know, it’s almost like, we know that, you know, your mind can make your body worse, you know, you can get gray hair, you can, but also the mind can make you better. And it just seems like, there’s this well, that you can tap yourself into where your mindset places you in the right moment to recognize things you have gratitude for. But it’s also kind of like the difference between chance and luck, right, you know, chances are random, luck is looking at something that’s random and taking advantage of it, you know, so I just love that you have that mindset. I
Jenny Poth 45:53
I think also, one thing I was told when I started practicing gratitude a little bit more and was motivated to do so was gratitude lets you experience all the good things twice. So, you know, I’m really grateful for my little nephew. He’s absolutely wonderful and perfect. But I only get to see him so often. But every time I’m grateful for him, I get to experience that happiness and that joy. Again, I just think that’s such a cool superpower that humans have. And I’m hoping I get to take advantage of it as many times as possible.
Michael Hughes 46:23
That’s the takeaway quote, for sure. I love that. Okay, question number two, what surprised you the most, surprised you the most, as you age.
Jenny Poth 46:33
So over the last few years, I have been really engaged in setting goals for myself. And I use the SMART goals framework. And some of them are easier to achieve. And very short term, others are a couple of years long and more challenging. And when I first started, my expectation was that it was going to be discouraging and make you feel very rigid. And instead, I’ve been really surprised that it’s been very positive and very motivating. I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to do without that planning and personal accountability. So I enjoy running. I’ve achieved new running times. But you don’t do that if you don’t plan for it, and you don’t measure it, and you don’t have consistency around it. So I think that’s something that surprised me about myself a lot is how much I can internally motivate myself to achieve when I start paying attention to it. And that’s been a really special notice about myself over the last handful of years.
Michael Hughes 47:31
That’s absolutely terrific. You know, I just love to hear that. It sounds like you’ve got lots of superpowers that you’re developing for yourself, which is awesome. And then the last question we have is more about the other people that you may have been in your life, you know, if you’ve if there’s is this because we talk a lot the United Church homes that you about abundant life and abundant aging, you know, and living with abundance and having more opportunity for spontaneity and purpose and connection and all these things that it just gives us such energy and joy. Is there someone that you’ve met? Or is this someone that’s been in your life that has that example for you, in aging, someone that’s inspired you to age with abundance.
Jenny Poth 48:08
My grandma Poth is one of my very favorite people in the whole world. And she’s in her mid 80s. And she continues to be a very Confident, Assertive, vivacious and curious person. And cultivates these really deep relationships with her family and her friends. She continues day in and day out to invest in people. And she really reminds me that life can get richer when you’re 6065, 7070, etc. Because there are ways that we assume life is going to get narrower as we age, rightly or wrongly, that’s an assumption that we make. But in your relationships, and in your sense of well being in the world, and connectivity with the broader human race and your passion for doing what you love. Those things can actually grow and be broader and deeper over time, not become narrower or not become shallower and not become harder. And she reminds me of that constantly by just always surprising me with how much she still invests in finding new goods. And determining that she’s not done finding things that she really likes and people that she really loves and things that give her that positive feedback. And that she can positively influence there’s just no slowing her down. So she’s one of the people who when you said abundant aging immediately comes to mind.
Michael Hughes 49:31
Yeah, and it just reminds me of one of my favorite phrases, which I got from my neighbor Ginny, who is walking by me saying that she is in her mid 80s and the bumper sticker on her car says curiosity never retires. That
Jenny Poth 49:46
is so true. And I mean, I think that we’re seeing a lot of interesting storytelling these days around people who have second careers or start a new venture later in life. Are you but one thing we’ve actually seen a couple of times is older adults, starting longevity companies and coming to us looking for funding and being really compelling. And we haven’t quite so far, I don’t think that we’ve invested in any companies that we would consider, like older adults founded. So people over the age of like 6065. But I really hope we do at some point, because that tracks so much with our investment thesis, not just the company itself, but the way it’s being managed, the way it’s being run. We’re really excited about the potential there. Absolutely.
Michael Hughes 50:31
Yeah. And know that and I hope you find them, they’re definitely out there, there’s a 100% chance that that’s going to happen. Well, Jenny, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. I always learned so much. Thank you so much for giving us your time today. And more. So thanks to our listeners. Thank you for tuning in and listening to this episode of The Art of agent, which is part of the abundant agent podcast series from United Church homes. And we want to hear from you, you know, what are you seeing in terms of innovation? What would you like to see in terms of innovation in the Aging and Longevity space? Who’s Your abundant aging hero? Give us ideas for shows, you know, visit us at abundantagingpodcast.com You can also see us on YouTube under United Church homes. And just a reminder to check out the Ruth Frost Parker Center at unitedchurchhomes.org/parker-center. And Jenny, again, where can we find you?
Jenny Poth 51:23
Find me on LinkedIn. I’m looking forward to it. All right. Again, thanks, everybody,
Michael Hughes 51:27
Oh, my pleasure. And thank you. Thanks to everyone for listening. And we’ll see you next time.