Marcus Shaw, Co.Lab director, opens up the "Will This Float" event at Miller Plaza Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first half dozen Kiva loan applicants in Chattanooga gave their pitches during the event Monday night.

Updated at 8:12 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 to attribute the last quote to Matt Gibson.

The Company Lab (CO.LAB), Unum and Erlanger Health System will launch a business accelerator program for health care ventures next spring to help give entrepreneurs a chance to work with the world's biggest disability insurer and Chattanooga's biggest hospital on new products and services for the health care and the employee benefits market.

"This partnership creates a platform to accelerate growing companies in the region by providing them with insights into the markets Erlanger and Unum represent," said Marcus Shaw, CEO of CO.LAB, which has been conducting business accelerator programs for startups since its start in 2010. "At the same time, our partners will have the opportunity to apply entrepreneurial thinking and innovative solutions to challenges in the health care and employee benefits industries."

The health care accelerator initiative announced today during Startup Week in Chattanooga will use local business leaders and assets similar to other local accelerator efforts that have previously sought to capitalize on Chattanooga's other business strengths in high-speed broadband, logistics, additive manufacturing and the food and beverage industries. The typical accelerator class at CO.LAB runs two or three months and involves anywhere from five to 15 teams of entrepreneurs.

Shaw said focusing on local strengths has continually allowed CO.LAB and its partners to stimulate entrepreneurial activity in industries in which new ventures are well-positioned to thrive.

Ted Reed, vice president of business development for Unum, said the health care startup accelerator "is a chance to explore the challenges our health care clients face and innovate our solutions to better serve them, while supporting the small, nimble companies that will drive change in the industry." By luring or developing new talent in the health care and digital sector, Reed said Unum and other employers should benefit from the broadening the local labor market.

With nearly $12 billion in annual revenues this year, Unum is a market leader in providing insurance in the workplace. Reed said social responsibility also is one of Unum's core commitments, especially in Chattanooga where its headquarters has nearly 3,000 employees.

Matt Gibson, Erlanger's chief strategy officer, said the collaborative health care accelerator "is a perfect fit for Erlanger" in identifying, developing and testing new technologies for hospitals and health care services.

"It not only supports our growing emphasis on world-class clinical research and innovations in medical technology, but also ties directly to Erlanger's teaching mission," Gibson said. "Most importantly, this collaborative effort serves as a key investment towards improving the health status of the entire region."

Last week, Erlanger also joined with CO.LAB, EPB, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County in a research collaborative to work together to bring more research projects, funding and talent to the downtown Innovation District.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340.