Year after year, startups in the health and wellness space capture more venture capital dollars than almost any other business sector, apart from maybe cybersecurity or financial technology.
Despite VC’s heavy focus on health, early-stage companies that specifically operate in the aging services and senior care arenas often go overlooked. Launched in July by one of America’s most iconic investors and a well-known wellness executive, New York-based Primetime Partners is trying to change that.
“There aren’t enough private-sector solutions to the questions that face older adults,” Primetime Managing Partner Abby Miller Levy told Home Health Care News. “We believe that the right answer is to really spur innovation by building an investment platform focused on early-stage investing.”
Before launching Primetime, Levy served as the founding president of Thrive Global alongside Arianna Huffungton and helped grow SoulCycle into the exercise giant it is today. After watching her retired parents grow older, she began learning about the opportunities, services and experiences currently available to help them age gracefully.
Levy quickly became “disappointed and frustrated.”
“I was trying to understand what opportunities there were for them to continue contributing to society and live meaningful lives as older adults in America,” she said. “I was really shocked and surprised by the lack of options.”
Primetime’s other co-founder — Alan Patricof, co-founder of Greycroft and founder of Apax Partners — had already been doing his own firsthand learning about aging. An 85 year old himself, Patricof has helped care for his wife in her battle against Alzheimer’s disease for nearly 12 years.
“I am very aware of the problems older people face, especially if they live with a chronic condition,” Patricof told HHCN. “My personal experience really got me interested in the whole area of aging. And not just people with chronic conditions, but all people — because we’re all getting older.”
Primetime’s investment interests
After both independently became interested in the opportunities to improve aging in the U.S., Levy and Patricof started talking about teaming up in the fall of 2019.
Levy had known Patricof since her days at Thrive, where Patricof’s Greycroft was an investor. But it was a key Harvard Business School connection that helped put Primetime’s wheels in motion.
“In November, I was with one of Alan’s sons, who I went to graduate school with,” Levy said. “I told him I was going to launch a venture fund focused on aging and older adults. He said, ‘That’s exactly what my dad wants to do.’’’
Upon launching, Primetime Partners announced it would focus on seed and early-stage investments in products, services, technologies and experiences related to aging. That includes everything from “aging in place” and financial security for retirees, to care management technology and improving the consumer experience for older adults.
Tom DeRosa, CEO of Welltower Inc., (NYSE: WELL) is an advisor to Primetime. Oak HC/FT’s Annie Lamont, Providence St. Joseph Health’s Aaron Martin and The Eisner Foundation’s Trent Stamp are also advisors, in addition to several others.
Primetime’s first fund will make initial seed and early-stage investments from $250,000 to $1 million, according to Levy. So far, the venture capital firm’s investment portfolio includes six startups, including Carewell, a home health e-commerce company.
In total, the fund is looking to make upwards of 25 investments, Patricof noted. It hasn’t been difficult to find opportunities, as Primetime already has a backlog of nearly 100 potential deals in its pipeline.
“We knew going into this that there was a big opportunity, but it has turned out to be even bigger than what we expected,” Patricof said. “We are swimming in opportunities, frankly, since we announced.”
Of those potential deals, a sizable portion are tied to businesses in home health, home care or aging in place.
“We’ve seen a lot of new companies focusing on, first of all, how we bring more care into the home — and telemedicine fits into that.” Levy said. “We’re also seeing a bunch of tech companies that are trying to serve home care agencies by helping their workers do their jobs better. They’re asking, ‘How can we help you hire, train and reduce the turnover of your staff?’”
Supporting veteran entrepreneurs
The interest Primetime is getting isn’t just from entrepreneurs.
Other VC groups have similarly been reaching out, hoping to form strategic investment alliances. Several established businesses with innovative care models have likewise checked in, perhaps thinking Primetime’s backing could take them to the next level.
“We are not interested in just people who have an idea or have a concept,” Patricof said. “We’re looking for companies that are already off the ground and … have some kind of unique differentiator, some kind of proprietary position or something that would give them an edge.”
How much action has there been for Primetime? HHCN connected with Levy and Patricof on Sept. 15. That week, Levy alone had at least one meeting with a new startup each day, in addition to a handful of calls with other VC firms and well-known home health industry executives, she said.
“There’s plenty of supply of capital for great founders and great businesses that are tackling these big, big opportunities and challenges that older adults face,” Levy said. “The issue is, in the past,. there hasn’t always been enough founders entering the space, with big and backable ideas.”
There have, of course, been dozens of VC groups to invest in the home health, home care and aging-in-place arenas.
The Andreessen Horowitz Honor, for example, has raised more than $115 million since its formation in 2014. Backed by Alphabet Inc.’s investment arm, Ready — a company that deploys specially trained in-home care medical professionals into people’s homes on demand — announced another $54 million in Series C funding just last week.
Patricof’s Apax Partners has a history in home-based care as well, with InnovAge, Encompass Home Health and Voyager HospiceCare among its past or present investments.
But Primetime is exclusively focused on aging issues, which sets it apart from the rest of the VC field, co-founders Patricof and Levy believe. What’s more, unlike many of its peers, Primetime is also hoping to back businesses launched by older adults as part of its mission.
“There are a lot of entrepreneurs who have built businesses and now find themselves in their late 50s, or 60s, either being forced into retirement or to sell their businesses,” Patricof said. “But they’re full of energy, they have their Rolodex and their battlefield scars. What we want to do is encourage them and say, ‘You built a great business once. Do it again.’”