DURHAM – In a popular post on Medium, Ryan Holmes, the founder and CEO of Hootsuite, raised a question about whether the entrepreneurial economy may inadvertently be ageist. A new group known as Elder Innovators is tackling that issue in the Triangle.

“I see a void in our entrepreneurial talent pipeline and seek to include people 50 years of age and older into the start-up spaces,” reads the LinkedIn profile of Lee Anne McClymont, the southeast USA fellow for the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship (GIEE).  McClymont is among the leaders of a growing community of experienced professionals interested in learning more about and getting involved in the innovation economy in the Triangle.

Elder Innovators of the Triangle traces its roots to a summit meeting in February 2017 attended by faculty and staff from Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the UNC Chapel Hill Partnership in Aging Program (PIAP), the Research Triangle Park Foundation, and the Orange County Department of Aging, among others.

The summit, led by Elizabeth Isele, the founder of GIEE, resulted in the formation of a set of goals around involving the aging population of Orange County and the Triangle in the innovation economy.  After the meeting, a close-knit group of leaders continued to meet to discuss how they might expand their membership, recruit new members, and seek to address their goals.

“We believe that experience fuels innovation,” said McClymont in an email.

Reimagining startup culture

Photo courtesy Elder Innovators

Members of Elder Innovators tour American Underground

On Wednesday, the group toured American Underground and HQ Raleigh to learn more about how the Triangle’s innovation economy is structured and organized. Members also asked questions about the culture of innovation in each city in the Triangle “that gives rise to the start-ups which are shaping the future of our region and state,” the group said.

The goals of the organization are simple.

First, Elder Innovators hopes to raise awareness, showcasing the value, talent, and skills that members can contribute to the startup culture and economy.

Second, Elder Innovators plans to construct and model the direct pathways that lead into participation in the innovation economy of the Triangle to neighbors and residents that are above the age of 50.

To address their goals, the group aims to develop a program to onboard new members of the community and connect them with the startup economy.

“We are now designing pathways for the start-up spaces to access this experience in a coherent manner,” said McClymont.

Wednesday’s program was specifically designed to provide community members the opportunity to interact with members and leaders in the startup community.  The group looked to further understand several key roles their members might fill in the economy, based on the original summit and their ongoing investigation and research.

At the summit in February 2017, participants expressed a strong desire to be included in the design process for technology that would be used by or for the benefit of an aging population, a goal that remains today.