Saks Snacks #24 - Food is Medicine, Building for Older Adults, Personalized Supplements
Elo Health | Ikigai | Brought to Tears | RunWithMe
Hi friends and Happy Mother’s Day from SF 👋.
If you’re new to Saks’ Snacks, I’m Adam Saks, a Digital Strategy Lead at Google, and a creator focused on the emerging intersections of health and technology. Reading is and should be fun. I encourage you to explore what interests you most:
Here’s what we have this week:
🥑 Snacks of the Week x 2 - Food is medicine + personalized supplements
💰 Capital Raise Radar x 5 - startups innovating for older adults
🎙️ Podcast of the Week: Ikigai
💥 Spark Moment - brought to tears
✨ Endnote - a lengthier endnote than usual… what I’ve been up to!
#1 🥑 Snacks of the week (x2)
Food is Medicine (FIM) interventions. Over 50% of Americans’ caloric intake is from processed foods and more research is proving many chronic illnesses stem from our poor eating habits. This article shares how FIM programs provide healthy foods as treatment and prevention methods. Insurers are piloting programs to cover these services like they would pharmaceuticals.
Both Aetna and Humana prioritize creating health system equity by addressing social conditions through healthy food programs, resources, and collaborations. Our teams help improve dietary health and food security by providing produce prescriptions and nutritious food. Examples include Aetna’s Mini Mobile FARMacy and Humana’s Healthy Foods Card supplemental benefit.
Food-as-medicine is an emerging trend that will gain momentum as we continue mapping diets to disease prevention and treatments.
Similarly, Elo Health is pioneering a new category of smart nutrition that “turns food into medicine”. The startup that raised a $5M seed round in February offers monthly, customized supplements based on an at-home blood test and wearable metrics.
Generally speaking, personalized micronutrient and vitamin supplementation based on blood biomarkers makes a lot of sense to me. It’s more geared towards athletes, and “health optimizers” who are already tracking their health, but with startling metrics like 50% of Americans being Vitamin D deficient and increasing deficiencies in magnesium, calcium, etc. you should keep tabs on Elo and this space.
#2 💰 Capital Raise Radar - Mother’s Day Edition
Almost 10,000 American adults turn 65+ each day. The wellness market for older adults is largely neglected, but it’s not completely unserved. Let’s explore 4 startups innovating for older adults and making healthy habits more accessible.
DUOS raises a $15M Series A to double down on its "System of Aging after coming out of stealth last June. DUOS pairs older adults with personal assistants, or "Duos". They help with the little things, focusing on members' social needs and maximizing independence.
2 prong crisis: The entire Baby Boomer generation will be over age 65 by 2030, meaning 1 in 5 Americans will be of retirement age. 51% of older adults have at least one unmet fundamental social need around areas such as transportation, food, or housing. These problems will only continue to accelerate as the older adult demographic grows
The number of US unpaid family caregivers increased +10 million people between 2015 and 2020 to 54 million. DUOS lifts a significant portion of the burden of these caregivers, who are often part of the "Sandwich Generation," taking care of both young children and aging parents.
DUOS addresses these problems with its “system of aging”.
Rosita Longevity, a healthy lifestyle app for seniors, closed a €2.4M ($2.74M) seed round in February and will launch in the US. They’ve built the largest longevity resort in Spain, where over 15,000 seniors go each year to “optimize their longevity”. Their app brings the methodologies and science of its Longevity School to users’ homes.
As I mentioned in Saks Snacks #6:
Rosita and other health platforms can build inclusive, supportive environments through coaching (live or asynchronous), robust catalogs of fitness options to choose from, and a socially engaged community and/or classes.
In early 2021, Bold, a digital health and wellness community for older adults, raised a $7M seed led by a16z. Bold offers personalized exercise programs, aiming to prevent injury, pain, and chronic illness.
I love Amanda Rees’ story (co-founder & CEO). They’ve helped tens of thousands of people through its platform and will partner with other health systems to deliver physical activity to millions of people.
It’s heartbreaking seeing older, loved ones have their health decline. What’s more painful? Conversely, it warms my heart that digital health communities targeting the 50+ demographics are emerging. Another example of these companies is Balanced, who secured $6.5M To Modernize Workouts for Older Adults.
All baby boomers will be officially designated senior citizens by 2030. As the future of fitness plots its omni-channel future, aging adults represent an untapped—and neglected—addressable market.
Sure, the “sexy”, new-tech I’ve written about is exciting, but there must be more subsets of “boring” startups chipping away at our sedentary population and drive the change we need.
Digital fitness platforms like Balanced view performance through a different lens, where moving more means living well. They’re not alone, either. Digital health communities targeting the 50-plus crowd, away from the gym, are emerging.
2022 Venture Observations - Jordan Pascasio shares broad market insights, and an updated health & wellness venture thesis, featuring industry perspectives across healthcare, biotech, fitness/wellness, and insurtech.
In addition to May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s also Older Americans Month. Most of the startups mentioned above were inspired by Fitt Insider’s article - share any other startups solving for our aging population!
#3 Podcast of the Week - Ikigai
If you’re ready to gain decades of wisdom, listen and learn about the beautiful concept of ikigai. I’ve been exploring this across multiple dimensions: flow states, logotherapy, longevity in the Okinawan society, and more. A few takeaways below:
⛽ Ikigai can be thought of as your existential fuel. Rather than creating your ikigai (purpose), it’s thought of as a discovery of your ikigai. The author mentions that “once you find it, it’s only a matter of having the courage and making the effort to stay on the right path”
🤔 Question to ponder: “Why do some people know what they want and have a passion for life while others languish in confusion?”
I think it’s because we don’t spend enough time reflecting on the big questions and their personal answers to each of us. Some of these can be answered through the lens of ikigai.
🔵 Blue zones + longevity: This podcast explores blue zones, areas where living to be over 100 isn’t uncommon (Okinawa, Sardinia, Nicoya, to name a few). Common traits and secrets of its inhabitants are shared, and the author describes “an uncommon joy flows from its inhabitants.
#4 💥 Spark Moment of the Week
Have you been brought to tears by anything that you’ve created? Me neither at the time of writing this. Here’s an unfiltered spark moment entry from early April as I finished David Perell’s 8th online writing cohort. It reminded me of my “why” behind a running community I’ve been building with a marathoner friend.
4/6/22 Unedited Spark Moment Entry
Today was the last day of David Perell's Write of Passage.
At the end of the cohort, he couldn't control the waterworks. He cried a little.
The pure gratitude he had for Rebecca, Will, and the team was inspirational.
As I clicked the red "Exit Meeting" zoom button, took my Airpods out, I looked around at the environment I was in. I was overcome with my own gratitude as I reflected upon the course/running cohort I was building. I was grateful that David concluded the course with what made Write of Passage different from others.
The difference was that people deeply care. Early on, the people building the cohort deeply cared about creating a vibrant community of online writers. They'd poured their emotional labor into it, and it showed. They'd acted like true diplomats, connecting 150 digital citizens to one another.
David mentioned how he's "doing the simple best thing that David can do with his life", and I was reminded of 2 things:
2) My last spark moment of the week (from edition #23): Rather than asking yourself "is this good or bad?", ask yourself, "Is this beautiful?".
The Write of Passage Cohort 8 was so beautiful that it moved David to tears. It moved others to tears.
Thank you David for showing me a sliver of what it takes to run a phenomenal cohort and to command a high price point on the internet and then deliver value that is priceless for all WOP'ers.
The irony couldn't be more evident to me as next week Alex Heatzig & I are launching RunWithMe. I wanted to capture this moment to remind myself of WHY I'm building and investing in this community. To remember to show to myself that it's the transformative end results that I'm chasing to show to others. The transformative moments that I want to bring to others.
What's David's Ikigai? What's his greatest life purpose? What is mine?! While I'm still grappling with this and trying to figure out the fine details, I know that RunWithMe is a step in the right direction.
I love helping others be the best versions of themselves. I've pushed my mind to depths that others haven't and I want to help them reach past those limits. I want people to have the same "holy shit it's great to be alive feeling" after a long run. After a run that for the first 20/30/40/50 years of their lives, they thought wasn't possible.
I want to take that feeling, and I want to scale it. To thousands of people across the world. To however many people across the world are down to buy in on that vision. To recognize that they can be more than they currently are, and want the challenge. I want to create the vision that strikes that chord in others. That wakes somebody up from a hibernation and is the deciding factor that makes them commit to themselves. Commit to a better version of themselves.
You can still expect a biweekly-ish industry roundup and more essays! Since it’s been several weeks since sharing, wanted to share highlights from last month:
✈️ I got back from New York, where I was supporting 4 of our RunWithMe runners for the Brooklyn half! The energy was electric. Watching these runners transform themselves has been the most rewarding process. Ironically, the collective human spirit at the race brought me to (small) tears. More details below if you’re interested or want to get involved.
👥 RunWithMe Context: A few weeks ago, a marathoner friend and I opened enrollment for the next RunWithMe cohort, the world’s first training community for first-time marathoners and half marathoners. The past 4 months, we ran a beta cohort to test out our idea, community strategy, coaching operations, and see how in practice, we could deliver the value we knew we could that was missing in the space. More details to come but we’re partnering with a few other prominent Running coaches on IG + TikTok and accepting new runners for our cohort backing into late August/early September race dates. Check out our initial site and reach out if interested or have any questions!
✍️ I refined some writing skills as a student in David Perell’s Write of Passage course. Connecting with other online writers and working through ideas I’d been sitting on the past 6+ months has been a blast. I learned a lot, and also met an incredible community of inspirational online creators. So much improvement to be had.
🗣️ Returned to Cornell’s campus to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the baseball field and get together with 20+ teammates that shaped my time on campus, and frankly my appreciation for health + tech. I also had an IRL chat with a business fraternity that I cofounded when on campus. I left inspired by students exploring topics of ethics in AI and cybersecurity.
I loved engaging with many of you around breathwork and meditation after the “Breathwork is our Superpower” essay - keep the emails and q’s coming!
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