PROTO Accelerator Corporate Partner Spotlight: Delta Dental

Q&A with Margaret Trimer, vice president of strategic partnerships

Q: How has PROTO Accelerator impacted the environment, structure and pursuit of innovation for Delta Dental?

A: PROTO has been a strong complement to existing internal innovation efforts at Delta Dental. Working with three startups in 2019 made a statement to our employees and to the community that Delta Dental doesn’t just talk about stepping out of the box, we invest in new ideas and creativity. We do it internally, and we look outside our own campus for talent, inspiration and great ideas that we can capture. We’re still implementing a health app from one of the PROTO entrepreneurs we supported, and we’re expecting it will provide our staff with a fun way to stay healthy while providing a concrete example of cutting-edge technology. There’s an old saying, “Nothing succeeds like success.”  PROTO was a success in the first year, and we fully expect the momentum to continue.

Q: What inspired and/or motivated your organization to participate in the PROTO Accelerator program? What problems were you looking for PROTO to solve?

Margaret Trimer, vice president of strategic partnerships at Delta Dental

A: Innovation is the bedrock for product development at Delta Dental. Support of PROTO was one way to reinforce and enhance culture inside the company and send a signal to others in this market and beyond that innovation is one of our top priorities. Let’s face it, we are competing for talent and our culture is a big part of what makes working at Delta Dental exciting. PROTO Accelerator gave us a platform from which we could communicate and celebrate that.

 Q: What’s one thing you wish people knew about Lansing’s impact on insurance technology within the region?

A: Sometimes we seem to have an inferiority complex here in mid-Michigan, and there is no reason for that, especially in the insurance sector. Lansing is not only supportive of the insurance industry in the region, the business and education sectors deliver programs that support and enhance growth in this space. Lansing also has a gritty, entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of creative, tech-savvy young people who are ready to create the future.

Q: How will the collaboration of PROTO and Delta Dental impact the people it serves? 

A: We expect the partnership to intensify our current culture of innovation and, perhaps even more important, we expect it to teach us how we can support entrepreneurs and inventors in our industry and in our region.

Q: What does “innovation” mean to you? What’s trending within the world of tech and innovation that inspires you and makes you excited?

A: Innovation? You know it when you see it. It’s creating something new, repurposing something old to be used in a new way. Innovation is a disruption that drives change, or it is the change that emerges from a disruption. Innovation is often the aha that comes after a failure. Innovation means taking risks to deliver new products or solutions and remain relevant in the marketplace. There are so many different ways of defining and experiencing innovation. At its core, innovation is progress. There are many interesting things trending in the areas of AI, teledentistry and telemedicine. But perhaps most intriguing right now is how the ways in which we all work are transforming as a result of the pandemic and the challenge of staying off-campus and out of the office and still doing great work. Some things may not return to the way they were, and yet we will still need to figure out how to build relationships, support creativity — and one another.

And we will … through innovation.