Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced Tuesday that it has signed on as a sponsor of the HubX-Life Sciences health care startup accelerator from Baptist Health and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
Arkansas Blue Cross made the announcement in a YouTube video released Tuesday morning.
HubX, introduced in October, is the state's first privately funded and industry-specific accelerator. Up to 10 startups will be invited to participate in the 13-week program, and each company selected will receive seed investment of $25,000 to $50,000 in addition to mentorship and assistance related to product development and customer acquisition.
Applications for the program's first installment will be accepted through Feb. 15 at HubX.biz.
"In our ever-changing environment, it is imperative to innovate and recreate the way we do business to better serve our members to ensure they have access to quality healthcare and reliable, affordable health insurance," said Arkansas Blue Cross CEO Mark White in a news release. "Effectively reaching health care consumers, empowering them with information they can understand for making good decisions, and providing them with the tools they need to make the process easy are all paramount to the future health of our members and all Arkansans. We want to encourage companies with bright, motivated employees to consider the possibilities of a great, new health care system."
Earlier Tuesday, Arkansas Blue Cross announced the successor to White, who plans to retire at the end of 2016.
Innovation Hub Director Warwick Sabin said the addition of Arkansas Blue Cross to the sponsorship team positions the accelerator to help make Arkansas a "national leader in health care innovation and entrepreneurship." Sabin said the Hub plans to introduce other industry-specific accelerator programs under the HubX name in the future.
The inaugural accelerator will focus on "key priorities" in the health care field as identified by Baptist and Blue Cross, including:
- Digital health care platforms
- Health care services
- Medical devices
The HubX program will partner with Iron Yard Ventures of Greenville, South Carolina, whose Digital Health Accelerator is ranked among the top five health accelerators in the nation. Iron Yard will share expertise, training, its mentor network and other assets to HubX startups, according to a press release.
Earlier this year, Iron Yard opened a campus of its acclaimed coding school in downtown Little Rock and graduated its first Little Rock class this fall.
The accelerator's first run is scheduled for April through June. Jeff Stinson, director of entrepreneurial programming at the Hub and executive director of Fund for Arkansas' Future, will lead HubX-Life Sciences.
"As the state's first industry-focused accelerator, we'll have a number of differentiating factors, including the collaborations with Arkansas Blue Cross and Baptist," Stinson said in the release. "To be able to offer a potential beta site and contract for successful cohort companies will be particularly attractive to entrepreneurs, we believe. Our programming will also build upon the lessons learned from past accelerators, and we're putting a great deal of effort into providing entrepreneurs with a transformative experience. We look forward to bringing this powerful model of corporate-sponsored accelerators to other industries in the state."