I’ve just returned from a few days with Mary Furlong and her crew at the Silicon Valley Boomer Conference in Santa Clara, and have to say I’m thoroughly impressed. It’s the second of Mary’s events I’ve been to – the first was the Boomer Business Summit a few months ago in San Francisco, and she really has the ability to get a great collection of people together and encourage a positive spirit – a real dolce vita as Gianni Agnelli once said about one of the conferences I’d organized (that was my conference organizing highlight, I can tell you). Someone noted during the closing sushi & pizza party in Mary’s suite – that she seems to have a knack of weeding out the bad apples before they get there.
The event started with a cocktail mixer the evening before, and the next day was fairly intense – sessions started at 8am, and ran til about 5. My panel on raising angel and VC capital for your startup was at 8am (see next post), and I was surprised to see that the room filled up pretty well, even though there were another four panels happening simultaneously.
After that, all sessions were held in the main auditorium, and were loosely following the conference theme – Design for All. Greg O’Neill gave a thought provoking talk on the changing demographics, introducing some memorable imagery of vases that had been sculpted to accurately depict each country’s demographics.
I won’t recap all the panels, but would mention AARP’s Jody Holtzman’s talk as always entertaining, especially his friendly digs at Guy Kawasaki (who had made fun of his presentation at the last event) and a map of USA that his colleague Jeff (who some were convinced was a dead ringer for Clark Kent) had dug up. The venture panel, moderated by the unflappable Peter Ziebelman, featured a group of VCs and corporate venture types professing interest in supporting the Next Big Thing in aging, but as Andy Donner from Physic Ventures put it, investors like to follow other investors and there haven’t been any big exit to attract lots of money into this space.
This concept effectively became the rallying cry for the venture competition that was held next, and judging by the high quality of all the applicants, a big winner in this space won’t be far off. The winner was Pontus Medical, which provides an impressive home monitoring solution to alert doctors if patients’ lungs start to get filled up with fluid, which is one of the major drivers for hospital repeat visits. I had been asked to judge the elevator pitch competition, and after a good debate we picked Cadence Biomedical with their artificial limbs as the winner.
Going on in parallel was an exhibition of a number of age-focused technologies, and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see all of them in enough detail. Overall, a productive couple of days that raised important facts and questions as I explore this area in more detail, and introduced me to a number of fascinating people who are all passionate about this space.