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Des Moines’ Global Insurance Accelerator named finalist in international competition

Des Moines, Iowa’s Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) was recently announced as a finalist in the ICC World Chambers Federation’s World Chambers Competition in the category of “Best Unconventional Project.”

“The Global Insurance Accelerator has leveraged strong leadership and collaboration to drive innovation in a key industry,” said Jay Byers, CEO of The Greater Des Moines Partnership. “This recognition further demonstrates that DSM is a global hub for insurance and financial services.”

The GIA was started by the Greater Des Moines Partnership in 2014 as a startup accelerator focused on driving innovation in the insurance industry. The Partnership helped get it off the ground but it is currently managed and operated as its own organization.

The accelerator has received wide support from companies in the insurance industry, with investment from American Equity Life Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Iowa, EMC Insurance Company, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Farmers Mutual Hail, Grinnell Mutual, IMT Insurance Company, Markel Corporation, Mutual of Omaha and Principal.

The World Chambers Competition is the only global awards program of its kind to recognize groundbreaking projects developed by chambers of commerce and industry worldwide. The GIA is one of 18 finalists and is the only finalist from the U.S.

The accelerator is being recognized as a collaborative solution that helps drive innovation in a worldwide industry that has a heavy presence in Greater Des Moines.

“It is a great honor to be a finalist for the World Chambers Competition and be recognized alongside outstanding initiatives in countries across the globe,” said Brian Hemesath, Managing Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator. “It is a powerful statement that so many key players in the insurance industry have committed to supporting the accelerator and moving the industry forward globally.”

One of those players is Mutual of Omaha. Brian Poppe, VP of Innovation Strategy at Mutual of Omaha, reached out to Hemesath to say that his company wanted to be involved after seeing the progress that the GIA had been making.

“After doing a bit of research in late 2015, we recognized that one of the premier accelerators was pretty much right in our backyard,” said Poppe. “We joined in year two after we had seen some activity that was going on in the insurance space with regard to startups.”

Trent Cooksley, Director of Strategy and Marketing at Markel Specialty, thinks that as much as the niche is central in driving the success of the program, the program itself is also structured in a unique way that almost guarantees its own success.

“The process that the companies go through is specific, it’s structured, it has specific outcomes that it’s going for, it’s run very well, and it has a governing body that is very engaged in the organization’s success,” said Cooksley.

Poppe also agrees that the GIA’s uniqueness is being proven out in their nomination for Best Unconventional Project.

“The uniqueness isn’t necessarily that there is a startup accelerator, but that it is a joint collaboration between companies that could be seen as competitors, a local chamber of commerce, and in a space that’s traditionally known for being risk averse and not particularly innovative,” said Poppe. “All that has come together in a way that really showcases what can happen when you’ve got a group of people who are committed to making the customer experience better either through technology or innovative ways of solving problems.”

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