In this installment of Geezeo One-To-One, Amy Hibbard spoke with Theodora (Theo) Lau, Founder of Unconventional Ventures, to discuss the benefits of technology and innovation for older demographics and how it can empower them to create the financial future that they want.
Geezeo: Do you see technology moving to meet the unmet needs of older adults? Or do you think there is still considerable work to be done?
Theo: I think there is still considerable work to be done. The biggest hurdle isn’t so much due to the technology not being there – it’s the mindset on how and where the technology can be utilized. Technology by itself should be age-blind; the same solution that helps younger generations figure out if they can afford to buy a home can be used to help sandwiched generations plan for finances between multiple households. As I often said, financial planning should be personalized based on life events and aspirations. Decumulation is a great example – and unless you can afford a financial advisor, it is not easy to figure this out on your own.
Geezeo: In what ways do you see Fintech specifically meeting the needs of older consumers and their caregivers?
Theo: There are quite a few use cases. Financial exploitation is a big challenge for older adults, and the loss can be substantial. There are ways that we can better safeguard their finances and a few FinTechs are doing interesting work there, including EverSafe and True Link Financial.
Providing financial care for your parents is another challenging area, especially at moments of crisis. This is the premise of Evin’s startup, Golden, which helps caregivers get organized and plan ahead. Similarly, Onist connects family members around their financial data and documents and provides a complete view of their family’s financial picture.
Geezeo: How did you get into addressing aging issues through technology?
Theo: I have a technology background in solution development and system implementation. I view technology as a means to an end, whether it is to improve operational efficiency or to help consumers go from A to B. I got intrigued about applying technology to help solve challenges in aging a few years ago by chance; I was having lunch with a colleague and he was telling me about his caregiving journey with his mom and how he “hacked” different pieces and parts of technology together. I was convinced there and then – we need to and can do better for the broader society.
Geezeo: At your company, Unconventional Ventures, you mentor FinTech and InsurTech startups. How do you balance all the different interests/elements of what you do?
Theo: For me, I am not as much interested in the specific vertical they belong to, but more so, what they are trying to achieve and how it aligns with the overarching goal of improving the well-being of older adults and their families. Throughout the last two years, in particular, I have also become more focused on helping underrepresented founders. I am a strong believer in diversity, not just gender but also age, ethnicity, etc. I believe that our services should be reflective of the society as a whole – and having different voices will not only provide a more inclusive solution but a better one.
Geezeo: As a consultant in the technology space, what advice do you have for someone starting out in a technology startup looking to develop and grow their business?
Theo: You need to have heart: empathy and conviction. You need to ask yourself every morning: Why are you doing what you are doing and what gets you excited? You need to know who you are serving and what they need. And you also need the appreciation that technology is just one part of the puzzle: The pieces that are not 1s and 0s will be what can get you across the finish line.
Theodora (Theo) Lau is an innovator, technologist, and connector, whose work seeks to spark innovation to improve consumer financial well-being and health. She focuses on developing and growing an ecosystem of corporates, entrepreneurs, and VCs to better address the unmet needs of consumers, with keen interests in women and minority founders. Most recently named LinkedIn Top Voice for Finance and Economy in 2017 and Top Female FinTech Influencer by Onalytica.