5 Questions with Keith Camhi, Managing Director of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator

May 10, 2021
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Keith is the Managing Director of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator. Previously, Keith led Techstars global accelerator team as Senior Vice President of Accelerators. Prior to Techstars, Keith founded and led the rapid growth of health- and fitness-tech startups FitLinxx (reaching #20 on the Deloitte Fast 500), and Great Play (ranking on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list 3x). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding, holds several patents for sensor and machine vision technology, is an angel investor and LP in several venture funds, and enjoys mentoring promising startups. He received a BS in Computer Science from Cornell, and was an LGO Fellow at MIT, where he received an MBA and an MS in EECS.

01. What motivated you to move from your position as SVP of Accelerators to run the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator?

My favorite part of Techstars is our ability to help entrepreneurs succeed, and I’m looking forward to spending all of my time doing that. Managing our global team of managing directors has been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned so much from them and all the startup ecosystems we serve around the world. I’m looking forward to applying that global experience and network to this hands-on role. 

The focus of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator and the problems we’re addressing are universal in their potential impact and highly personal for me. As part of the sandwich generation, I’ve experienced the gaps in America’s caregiving infrastructure firsthand, and, having personally built a successful venture-backed startup serving older adults, I’m looking forward to supporting entrepreneurs building solutions to address this substantial market opportunity.

Pivotal Ventures is a fabulous partner and Washington D.C. is a great location for the accelerator, both as a vibrant and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and as a hub of activity for the longevity economy including public interest groups, federal policy and research institutions, and medical research and healthcare organizations.

02. What does our partner Pivotal Ventures bring to the accelerator?

Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates to advance social progress in the United States, has been a critical partner to the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator. The organization has supported our 13-week program with resources, access to its network of ecosystem partners, and mentorship to help founders grow and scale their companies.

In addition, Pivotal Ventures lends expertise, given their strong track record of advancing solutions that remove caregiving as a barrier to full participation in the workforce and society, particularly for women and women of color. Pivotal Ventures, like Techstars, aims to accelerate momentum where progress has stalled. Their dedication to growing the innovation pipeline in the caregiving space contributes hugely to our accelerator's ability to propel solutions to address the unmet needs of older adults and their caregivers. 

03. What makes the ‘future of longevity’ a compelling category for startups?

The Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator is focused on products and services for both older adults and the people who care for them. Both are massive, underserved markets ripe for innovation. 

Fifty-six cents of every dollar spent on goods and services in the United States is spent by someone aged 50+, and this is growing. Yet, many industries are doing a terrible job designing customer experiences for aging consumers. Caregiving is a similarly enormous and growing challenge in the US, with an aging population and a disjointed support infrastructure. Over 50 million unpaid family caregivers provide tens of billions of hours of care annually, which, if accounted for at its market rate, would be one of the largest sectors in the economy, but instead its impact is often overlooked. While caregiving is, on the one hand, an act of love and compassion, our broken infrastructure for both care and caregivers results in an extraordinary financial burden, emotional distress, and career disruption.  

Massive challenges give rise to massive opportunities for entrepreneurs to build creative solutions, and with 10,000 people turning 65 each day, the size of the opportunity keeps growing. Policymakers are increasingly focused on the category as well, which has the potential to unlock even more opportunity in the years ahead.

All these factors combine to create an enormous opportunity for founders and investors to create and fund solutions in markets that are huge, growing, underserved, and often overlooked, and therefore less competitive. In fact, I’d encourage entrepreneurs working on an offering for a general audience to consider focusing on older adults first as a way to “cross the chasm” as a good path to market - something I did with great success for one of my own startups after much trial and error with younger audiences.

04. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator?

I’m interested in entrepreneurs who are creative, strong executors, resilient, and passionately motivated to solve the problem they’re addressing. These entrepreneurs are able to communicate effectively so they can enlist others (customers, teammates, partners, investors) in their vision, and are interested in receiving and applying feedback (both because it’s a generally good founder trait and specifically because it shows that an accelerator would be a mutually rewarding experience).

For this program, we’re seeking startups building innovative products and services for older adults and the people who care for them. Our investment themes include:

  • Caregiver Support: Support for family caregivers including education, tools, respite care, and social support; and solutions for formal caregiving to address staff shortages, training, and care management tools.

  • Care Coordination: Solutions that address the complex and fragmented nature of the healthcare system, particularly for older adults who have multiple health conditions. These include care transition, clinical collaboration, medication management, remote care delivery, and care navigation. 

  • Aging in Place: Solutions that make it easier for seniors to remain in their homes as they age, including home retrofitting and accessibility, smart home devices, assistive robotics, fall prevention, homecare, health monitoring, digital accessibility, meal prep and delivery, emergency response systems, inclusive design of everyday devices, and general support for daily living.

  • Financial Wellness: Solutions for financial security through longer lifespans including financial planning, later-life employment, retirement planning, fraud and scam prevention, longevity insurance solutions, financial monitoring, and end-of-life planning.

  • Preventive Health: Solutions to support fitness, nutrition, wellness, behavior change, physical therapy, cognitive health, chronic disease management, digital health, and wearables.

  • Social Engagement: Solutions that address purpose, fulfillment, and community engagement for older adults including social connection, social determinants of health, and overcoming isolation and loneliness. 

  • And more: If you have a product or service that could be applicable to older adults or the people who care for them, this program is for you.

5. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars Managing Director and supporting entrepreneurs?

I consistently find that upstart Davids can beat entrenched Goliaths if they are scrappy, customer obsessed, fast, and execution-focused. There are many details such as overcoming tech hurdles, focusing the product through rapid customer-centric iteration, selecting a focused go-to-market approach, identifying and tracking KPIs, managing co-founder relationships, building culture, raising capital, etc, that contribute to this. But ultimately, what Davids lack in resources they can more than make up for with speed, agility, and simply playing by different rules than Goliaths. 

I bring decades of startup experience and a coach’s mindset to my role as managing director. A couple of companies ago, I had an incredible VC board member who seemed like Yoda to me. He’d sit quietly and patiently through an extended back-and-forth board debate over a seemingly complicated strategic issue, and then offer some jewel of wisdom that helped us pick a path forward. With the benefit of a couple decades of hindsight, I now recognize this ability to “see around corners” as pattern recognition from his years of experience - or, “I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends.” While I’m no Yoda, after many years of starting and growing my own businesses, and investing in and advising countless others, I’ve seen a lot of “movies.” I love helping entrepreneurs think through their next moves, and, more importantly, bringing the resources of the accelerator and network of expert mentors to bear on that as well.