Sacramento is a Synergistic Startup Epicenter

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG)  |  By Rebecca Graulich

It’s no secret Sacramento is a terrific environment for startups with university talent, investors, accelerator and startup programs, driving distance to the Bay Area, and an international airport, not to mention great quality of life. What is less known are the many features that distinguish us from other startup-friendly communities.

First, there’s our senior population. Americans aged 65 and older are expected to grow from 46 million to more than 98 million by 2060. California is projected to be among the fastest growing states. Californians age 60+ are expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total state population. By 2040, nearly 500,000 people age 60 and over are expected to live in Sacramento County.

A growing field addressing the needs of seniors is gerontechnology, a combination of gerontology and technology. It blends technology and innovation to address the challenges of aging and caregiving. For the savvy entrepreneur, it’s potentially the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

AARP reported in January 2016, “Companies from established multinationals to startups, mass-market firms to niche players, are recognizing a (senior) caregiving market opportunity that’s expected to reach $72 billion in 2020 alone. The cumulative total for 2016-2020 is expected to be $279 billion.”

A second unique feature is that in the west coast, Sacramento most reflects the overall makeup of the United States. An indication of how a product or service may perform nationally can be obtained locally. For startups targeting the 60+ crowd, Sacramento seniors offer an invaluable wealth of feedback to entrepreneurs. Innovation and technology may come from the youth, but practicality, insights and reality checks come from seniors.

A third feature of Sacramento is the growing infrastructure of startup support. In addition to the Hacker Lab, Urban Hive, Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy, SCORE, Sacramento Business Services Center and numerous Meetup groups, startup specialty groups are locating in Sacramento. Aging2.0 (www.aging2.com), based in San Francisco, focuses on helping entrepreneurs who are targeting the senior market.

Keri Vogtmann, (Sacramento@Aging2.com), founder of the Sacramento Aging2.0 chapter notes, “Given the Sacramento business landscape, we have a real opportunity to be the epicenter of gerontechnology.” Ms. Vogtmann is currently organizing the Sacramento Aging 2.0 pitch competition on Tuesday, April 18, 5:30 – 8:00p.m. The public is welcome to attend and vote for the startups they feel best meet the needs of seniors. Registration is at www.aging2.com/events.

Health 2.0 (www.health2con.com) is another startup specialty group, focusing on healthcare innovation. Keisuke Nakagawa (keisuke@whitekoat.com) is the co-founder of Health 2.0 Sacramento and of whitekoat, a startup focused on developing technologies to advance medical education and health literacy. “Sacramento and its leadership have done a tremendous job cultivating and promoting startups. It’s becoming a powerful startup ecosystem,” commented Mr. Nakagawa. “This is especially true in healthcare.”

Being the state capital is a fourth unique feature of Sacramento. Governments are often viewed as slow and not innovative. This is not necessarily accurate. Through policy, governments can create opportunities for startups. The critical factor is entrepreneurs’ involvement in local and state government. There are numerous ways to be involved. The Sacramento County Adult and Aging Commission (www.sacramentoadultandaging.org) is one of many bodies that welcomes the involvement of private citizens. Among other things, this commission is charged with advising the Board of Supervisors on matters relating to older and dependent adults. Entrepreneurs interested in gerontechnology are welcome on this commission.

“We fail to see that there is a cause and effect in our relationship with government,” said Mr. Nakagawa. “Being close to policy makers can be a strategic advantage.”

The startup “bones” of Sacramento – talent, investors, support organizations, user population and geography – create a solid foundation for entrepreneurs. What makes us especially appealing for startups are our additional qualities: our vital senior population, our national profile, startup specialty groups and being the state capital. When you put it all together, Sacramento is primed to be a synergistic startup epicenter.