New managing director for Global Insurance Accelerator brings wide-ranging experience

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Nicole Cook, formerly of startups Speeko and Dwolla, is taking over as managing director of the Global Insurance Accelerator following the conclusion of this year's cohort.

Based in Des Moines, the GIA launched in 2015 under the leadership of Brian Hemesath. Each year, selected startups relocate to the Iowa city in order to gain access to mentorship and funding from member and supporting companies including The Principal and EMC. The goal is for insurtechs to refine their product to better meet the industry's needs over a 100-day program, culminating in a presentation day at the Global Insurance Symposium, a Des Moines insurance conference in April.

Like Hemesath, Cook is an Iowa native who is enthusiastic about the potential for insurance to spur and support development in the region.

"This is the first time since i graduated from the University of Iowa that I'm returning to work permanently within the state," she says. "It was attractive to me to bring together these different pieces of my career, having worked in early-stage tech startups but also some periods of high growth, and also having experience in big banks and corporate entities."

Having stewarded startups though accelerator programs in the past, Cook believes that the mentorship opportunities available because of the clustering of insurance companies make this program especially attractive to startups.

"This is Iowa's competitive advantage to bridge the gap" between it and more traditional, big-city startup areas like the Bay Area or New York, she says.

The 10 insurtechs in the 2019 program started on January 15. Cook will work with current managing director Hemesath throughout this year's edition, with Hemesath transitioning to an entrepreneur-in-residence role.

“It takes a certain mindset to tune in to startups in general and technology startups in particular,” said Jeff Russell, president of Delta Dental and board chair for the GIA. “Nicole’s experience will help our program deliver even more benefits to participating cohort companies by bridging the gap that often exists between InsurTech startups and market incumbents.”

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