Melinda French Gates shares new data to stoke innovation and awareness in $648B ‘care economy’

As part of its Move Care Forward campaign, Pivotal Ventures is releasing new data on U.S. caregivers and highlighting some of their stories, including Dana Jones, 39, a single mother of two born with sickle cell disease. (Pivotal Ventures Photo)

Caregivers who provide for children, elderly people, and those who are sick or disabled are operating in an antiquated system that’s ripe for innovation, experts say, and worth an estimated $648 billion.

New research released by Pivotal Ventures tries to better understand that marketplace. A national survey found that caregivers spend on average 45 hours per week on unpaid caregiving responsibilities, and almost half also work full-time jobs.

Pivotal Ventures, a company founded by Melinda French Gates and based in Kirkland, Wash., on Tuesday is launching its Move Care Forward campaign to share data on caregivers and promote innovation and policy in the space.

“We have a really outdated caregiving system. It is broken. The tools and the resources for caregivers have been outdated for a very long time,” said Dr. Renee Wittemyer, Pivotal’s director of program strategy and investment, in a GeekWire interview.

Pivotal works with partners to support “care economy” entrepreneurs. It helped back venture capital firm Magnify Ventures‘ inaugural $52 million fund announced in May. Magnify is investing in technology assisting families, household operations, the future of work and aging. In 2020, Pivotal teamed up with Techstars to launch the annual Future of Longevity accelerator that’s focused on startups focused on aging adults.

This spring, Pivotal commissioned a survey of 1,500 Americans who provide unpaid caregiving. About two-thirds of respondents said they were sacrificing their own career and educational ambitions and their well-being to provide the care. There are an estimated 50 million U.S. caregivers.

Women disproportionately take on uncompensated caregiving duties, which can hinder their professional success and diminishes their power in the workplace and politics, advocates say.

“Entrepreneurs, employers and governments all have a role to play in building a system that makes it easier for people to do right by their families while also tending to their own needs,” said French Gates in a prepared statement.

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French Gates, who is also co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2019 committed $1 billion to improving gender equity. Also that year she published her book, “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.”

Entrepreneurial efforts in the care economy are getting traction.

Pacific Northwest startups in the industry include LegUp, which helps parents find daycare and other programs; Weekdays, a platform assisting families seeking microschools; and Nanny Parent Connection, a local community of parents, nannies and babysitters. Notable ventures outside of the region include Papa, a service providing older adults “grandkids on demand,” and Kinside, a childcare matching site.

“We are seeing more innovation in this space,” said Wittemyer. “We are just seeing more and more growth over the last couple of years specifically [and] that has been amazing.”

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