Techstars and MetLife have inked a partnership deal to operate a 13-week accelerator for early-stage insurance technology companies at the MetLife Global Technology Campus in Cary.

MetLife accelerator

The MetLife Digital Accelerator, Powered by Techstars, will focus on innovations in the insurance industry. The industry is massive—globally, $4.5 trillion were spent on insurance premiums in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. The terms of the partnership include a three-year minimum, with one cohort of up to ten companies to run each year.

“What makes Insurtech so exciting is the wide reach and breadth of what it encompasses,” said Mee-Jung Jang, the managing director of the MetLife Digital Accelerator in a blog post published on the Techstars blog. (Jason Parker writes more about her in a related post.)

As many as 10 startups will be selected for the program, which is scheduled to operate during the third quarter of 2018. Selected startups will receive $120,000 each in funding and gain access to the Techstars mentor network, including required meetings with more than 100 mentors during the first month of the accelerator, said Jang. They’ll also gain access to insurance industry connections, including executives at MetLife.

“By inviting the startups to join us on the campus, we will maximize the opportunity for MetLife employees and entrepreneurs to work together and learn from one another,” said John Bungert, assistant vice president for digital operations at MetLife, who works at the Global Technology Campus. “We believe the accelerator will help drive our digital strategy and reinvent the insurance industry once again.”

Three-month program

Selected startups will complete three distinct month-long phases throughout the accelerator. In the first month, companies will meet with mentors. The second month is focused on rapid iteration and execution. Throughout the third month, companies will prepare for fundraising and the Accelerator Demo Day. Applications for the MetLife Digital Accelerator are now open and the application period closes on April 8, 2018.

MetLife and Techstars hope that the 2018 cohort will include top startups focused on health and wellness, the gig and sharing economy, marketplaces, and underwriting.

“In the best case scenario, we’ll find and partner with transformational companies in each of these domains,” said Bungert, “Freeing us to pick five entirely new themes for the 2019 program.”

Selection process

The selection process is comprehensive. Techstars will be recruiting insurtech startups from across the globe to join the accelerator in Cary. And the first recruitment event will take place at the MetLife Global Technology Campus on Monday, February 5, 2018, with an information session in the morning followed by scheduled one-on-one meetings with MetLife and Techstars staff. The event is open to startups that are seeking more information about the selection process and the accelerator program. Investors and community leaders are invited to participate in the event as well.

“We are stage agnostic and very focused on team when it comes to selection,” said Jang in an exclusive interview. “Startups accepted into our program have ranged from pre-product to millions of dollars in revenue.”

After companies submit applications to the accelerator, Techstars and MetLife staff will review applications and schedule interviews. Companies that advance in the interview process will be invited to a day of in-person conversations with the selection committee at MetLife Global Technology Campus in Cary.

“MetLife has been widely investing in innovation and already have a successful track record of partnering with startups,” said David Brown, Techstars founder and co-CEO. MetLife is a limited partner in more than a dozen of Silicon Valley’s top venture funds and recently announced a $100 million co-investment fund to make strategic investments in top entrepreneurial companies.

Techstars’ growing Triangle presence

The Global Technology Campus is an optimal home for a Techstars accelerator program, said Brown. The partnership brings together an insurance powerhouse with a leading entrepreneurial organization in Techstars. In 2015, Techstars portfolio companies received 5% of all Series A deals. Through 2017, 90% of all Techstars portfolio companies have exited or are in active operations. Accelerator programs are designed to help founders accelerate and succeed regardless of their stage or their city of origin, says Jung.

Jung joins two existing Techstars staff based in the Triangle, Chris Heivly and Jen Riedel, and plans to hire a full-time, year-round program manager and as many as eight seasonal associates to assist with operating the accelerator program. The organization is also seeking volunteers and support from community leaders.

“We want the entrepreneurial community actively involved in this program,” said Jung, “reach out to us if you’re interested in getting involved.”