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June 05, 2019 | Tom Ballard

HealthTech Accelerator: Tim Vita explains reasons for Unum’s involvement

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a series spotlighting the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. “Demo Day” was last night at Unum’s Chattanooga headquarters.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Chattanooga’s inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” completed the 10-week experience for the first cohort with yesterday’s “Demo Day,” and the program has clearly benefited from the very active involvement of its two corporate sponsors – Erlanger Health System and Unum.

That benefit is not limited to the participating entrepreneurs; there is clearly a reciprocal value for the sponsors.

“We try to find ways to make an impact in the communities where we are located,” says Tim Vita, Chief of Staff to Unum Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rick McKenney. “We benefit when those communities have a vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial sector.”

Unum is a Fortune 500 insurance company – number 265 to be exact – that was formerly known as UnumProvident and was created in 1999 through the merger of Unum Corporation and The Provident Companies. It is the top disability insurer in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom and also offers other insurance products including accident, critical illness and life insurance.

Chattanooga is the corporate headquarters, but Unum has additional domestic offices in Portland, ME; Columbia, SC; Worcester, MA; and Glendale, CA. There are also several offices in the U.K. and in Poland.

Vita noted that the “HealthTech Accelerator” is not Unum’s first engagement in the multi-week type of start-up effort. In fact, it worked with an organization named Venture Hall to support a health accelerator in Maine.

“We wanted to see if we could replicate that here,” he told us, and the results thus far have been positive. “These companies have some interesting use cases. It would be great if we can also find ways to help our ways to help our business and bring new ideas to our clients.”

Being able to partner with Erlanger is another benefit to Unum. Vita noted that the two enterprises already had what he called a “strong relationship” that has only been enhanced by working together to support the start-ups in the accelerator and the team at CO.LAB.

“Marcus and Jennifer are just great to work with,” Vita said of Marcus Shaw, CO.LAB’s CEO, and Jennifer Skjellum, Director of Programs. “We really want to make sure these companies are having a great experience.”

In terms of the Unum people who are serving as mentors, he sees great value for those colleagues.

“Our people get excited about doing something different (from their day-to-day) and offering their expertise,” Vita says, adding, “It’s pretty cool for both sides.”

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