Technopolis attended the recent business convention AgeingFit in Nice, France where tech companies, investors, hospitals, care homes, health insurance providers and policy makers met and exchanged ideas.  We had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Yael Benvenisti, co-CEO of the Mediterranean Tower Ventures in Israel. Mediterranean Towers Ventures is the first and only investment fund in Israel which focuses on investment in early-stage technology companies that develop disruptive solutions for aging.[1] The corporate venture fund is backed by Mediterranean Towers Group, the largest chain of retirement communities in Israel.

Why do you focus exclusively on AAL?

Older adults increasingly want to live at home, and continue to be part of their community, for longer. There is a clear need to adopt innovative technologies to support independent living because there will simply not be enough human resources available to monitor and assist older adults in their homes. We recognise this challenge and embrace the demographic change as an opportunity to invest for the future.

What is the goal of Mediterranean Tower Ventures?

Mediterranean Tower Ventures was launched in July 2017 and aim is to invest in four companies each year, the first investments have already been made. In the next year or two, Mediterranean Towers Ventures plans to plans to raise more money to the fund and start looking at companies outside of Israel.

What type of companies do you invest in?

We invest in companies that deal with everything related to the life of older adults, including preserving and improving physical and cognitive abilities, solutions that enhance the quality of life for older adults, active community participation, smart homes, medical devices and more. Therefore, the companies we work with must have a focus on older adults or shift their focus to supporting older adults. We primarily provide seed investment. The entrepreneurs we invest in must dedicate themselves 100% to developing a real solution..

Will Mediterranean Towers facilitate be used as the access to the older adults market?

The solutions we invest in do not have to be implemented within the retirement communities of Mediterranean Towers Group. However, we do have an Entrepreneur in Residence Program[2] that provides start-ups that develop solutions for older adults, access to the Mediterranean Towers community, allowing these companies to set up focus groups to better understand the needs and wants of older adults.

How do you compare the Israeli market with the international market?

Israel is a very innovative market, always looking for quality solutions. The Israeli government is supporting start-ups in the first phase of R&D investment, allowing companies to develop their first prototypes. However, Israel is a small market and our start-ups needs to explore bigger markets like Europe or US very early.

What is your process to engage with start-ups seeking VC investment?

We are quite well-known in Israel and the local start-up communities know they can get both funding and advice from us. Start-ups apply online and, following the application, the technical expert and business or marketing person from the company are invited to a meeting with Mediterranean Tower Ventures. After the meeting, the start-up will either receive feedback or the start-up will be invited for a second meeting in which there will be a detailed analysis of the company’s business plan, finances and projected milestones. Altogether, it will take about 4-5 months before a start-up will receive its first investment.

What advice do you have for start-ups in the AAL space?

  1. Do not start with the technology. Start with an understanding of the need of older adults and the consumer market.
  2. Think about the user interface. Technology versions are changing rapidly but the interface should be kept the same. Older adults want to buy or use solutions that look and feel nice, they do not want simply to buy older people’s products. Design is crucial!
  3. The right way to start selling in this space, for now, is businesses to business (B2B). It is really hard to start selling directly to consumers (B2C) because you would have to deliver the support services behind the products and entrepreneurs do not have this focus or capacity.