April 8, 2015
Julie Halpert

Tapping into the longevity economy

The longevity economy, representing all economic activity serving the needs of Americans over 50, is expected to top $13.5 trillion by 2032, according to Oxford Economics. This opportunity isn’t lost on savvy entrepreneurs.

Out of a total 290 entrepreneurs who attended the annual Boomer Summit last month in Chicago, 40 percent were entrepreneurs hoping to pitch their products to potential investors and get ideas on how to best appeal to this demographic. That was twice the amount as the previous year, and for the first time, they came from many different countries.

Katy Fike, co-founder of Aging2.0, a start-up accelerator program, and founding partner of Generator Ventures, a venture fund focused on aging and long-term care, said the industry is attracting graduates from top-tier business schools. Some entrepreneurs have already developed particularly successful products geared toward the demographic shift. Many of these ideas sprung from a personal experience and a desire to solve a problem endured by a loved one.

Here are 8 business owners who have already found millions in the longevity economy.

Jeff Zimman, Posit Science co-founder

A former newspaper reporter and corporate lawyer, Zimman was asked to partner with Michael Merzenich, a scientist and co-inventor of the cochlear implant, to launch the company in 2004. Merzenich was at the forefront of discovering the brain’s plasticity—that it’s capable of change, even in older people.

San Francisco, California-based Posit Science focuses on brain fitness exercises; 110 peer-reviewed published articles have shown that exercises in Brain HQ, the company’s flagship product, significantly increased processing speed and improved memory and attention. Zimman, now the company’s chairman, said as people age, the brain slows down, but those in their eighties can develop a processing speed just as fast as those in their twenties after the brain training. The training also leads to lower rates of depression and better health outcomes—even better balance, Zimman said.

Posit Science has partnerships with many organizations, including AAA, AARP and State Farm. It also has 10,000 subscribers who pay either a monthly or annual fee for the brain training. Annual revenues “are over $1 million but under $1 billion annually. I can’t get more specific,” Zimman said. The company has 40 employees.

Zimman’s secret to success: “There’s been a focus on what works and what people want to do. We spend money on research studies instead of advertising. Every day we try to make it better.”