Stepping Up Sidebar: StartUp Symbiosis
Dr. Summer Knight, senior medical officer of Cigna, describes how the company’s new effort to support entrepreneurs and tap into their ideas has proved mutually beneficial.
This past fall, Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) launched an initiative to provide health and wellness services to members of the Startup America Partnership. The goal: to help entrepreneurs attract talent and grow their businesses, thereby elevating the U.S. economy at large.
NYSE magazine caught up with Dr. Summer Knight, national medical executive at Cigna, to discuss the success of the program — which includes mentoring opportunities, an educational series, and access to affordable health and dental plans — and Cigna’s involvement in the NYSE Big StartUp.
Why is Cigna interested in supporting startups and small businesses?
Our industry is shifting to a more customer-centric approach, so we’re looking for new ideas on how to help our customers. We know that entrepreneurs have some amazing ideas that we could not possibly act upon ourselves.
It’s also just the right thing to do. Over the past three decades, all new job growth in the U.S. has come from companies that are less than 10 years old. So if we can help these companies grow, we can help improve the overall economy.
How is Cigna’s learning series designed to help entrepreneurs?
There’s so much uncertainty about the future, and we know that health-care reform is on the way. Cigna can share a lot of information about health-care issues that most entrepreneurs probably don’t have access to. And we want to do so in a timely way, so they can plan, react and understand how the changes will affect their business not just today but in the long term — because while the Startup America businesses may be considered small today, they’re on a trajectory for huge growth. We want to help them anticipate what that means and help them attract the talent that will set them up for success.
Cigna is hosting meet-ups and roundtables where entrepreneurs can connect with its executives. What are you hoping will take place in these sessions?
Historically it’s been very hard for entrepreneurs to get in front of a large company and get traction with their new ideas. Our meet-ups give Cigna’s team a chance to explain how we want to better serve our customers while giving entrepreneurs a chance to pitch us on ways we can work together toward that goal.
We’re also hosting roundtables, where entrepreneurs will have the chance to ask our executives their most burning questions. We can ask them questions too — how might we target their customers, for example, and what are they doing in other industries that may be applicable to the health and wellness industry? We’re hoping to generate a lot of different ideas in these meetings, which we’d like to hold not just in the U.S. but globally, and for different sectors.
Why is participating in the NYSE Big StartUp beneficial for publicly traded companies?
It’s a great way to get established companies and entrepreneurs thinking about how they can work together. NYSE Euronext is collaborating with Startup America to figure out a way to make it easier for entrepreneurs to share ideas with larger companies. Meanwhile, those larger companies can help guide and mentor the startups, explaining their needs and how entrepreneurs can grab their attention.
NYSE Euronext’s Big StartUp team is so engaged and passionate about making these connections. Everyone’s excited about the program’s future, and we can only imagine what it will make possible.