Health care-oriented startup companies and entrepreneurs in Central Iowa are encouraged to compete for a spot in a "Mentor+Match" event next month in Cedar Rapids.


Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is collaborating with Elevar, a San Francisco-based company that provides business development services for health-related technology startup companies, to host the free event on July 12. Wellmark has also engaged the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to provide support and local business engagement.


Wellmark spokeswoman Traci McBee said the event is open to health care-oriented startups throughout the state; companies will be selected to participate based on an online application. The deadline to apply has been extended to June 20.  


The event will feature Iowa executives, successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who will interact with participants through presentations and mentorship sessions, including a speed dating-type format, to help provide insight and direct feedback for each startup. The day will end with a public Pitch Competition, in which each startup presents to a panel of judges for a chance to earn the top prize of a six-month mentorship and $5,000 in cash. The second- and third-place winners will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.


"Wellmark strives to improve the health of all Iowans by building and creating a sustainable health care system that assures innovative and quality care for generations to come," said Rebecca Falk, Wellmark's interactive strategy director, in a release. "This event allows us to support that goal while also investing in local companies to find innovative solutions, tools and services."


Insurers are increasingly reaching out directly to support technology innovation. Last month, the Greater Des Moines Partnership announced plans for a Global Insurance Accelerator that will work with insurance-based technology startups. American Equity Investment Life Holding Co., Delta Dental of Iowa and Principal Financial Group Inc. are the initial partners in that project.


Plans are also underway for development of a coworking space in downtown Des Moines for entrepreneurs and startups, as well as a space in which established businesses could interact with local entrepreneurs.