Columbia – Silicon Valley of the East?

Insurtech in Columbia SC

What the world knows about Cola Town that you may not

By Martie Cowsert Streit

Columbia, South Carolina, is a wonderful place to call home. Beautiful parks and rivers, affordable real estate, not overcrowded – many things make Columbia a great place to live and work.

But what many of the city’s natives and newer residents alike don’t know is that a massive, booming industry was born right here in Cola Town nearly 50 years ago. Policy Management Systems was founded in 1974 as a division of Seibels Bruce to automate insurance processing functions. This began what became the insurance technology industry, or insurtech, which spans the globe and generates billions in revenue. Just last year, Columbia-based Duck Creek Technologies opened on the NYSE with a wildly successful IPO that surpassed all projections.

Over the years dozens of insurtech companies got their start in Columbia. As technology and consumer demand continue to evolve, we see more and more innovation among the new businesses as they emerge.

Insurtech providing solutions and jobs in Columbia

According to Insurance Journal, insurtech funding reached a record high of $7.1 billion in 2020, even during the global pandemic. In the past four years alone, much of that investment has reached our city through industry-giant Capgemini’s acquisition of TCube Solutions, as well as multiple startups such as Rainwalk Technology, Avolanta and Yovant, that are showing great promise to continue to solidify Columbia’s position as a major insurtech hub. These companies offer a wealth of opportunities for young professionals, including working with the state’s universities on internship programs.

Mann Tool and Supply

Dedicated to promoting Columbia within the insurance technology sector is its.cola, an association with a mission to cultivate an environment where talent, innovation, collaboration and a shared vision empower this world-class industry. Overseen by the City of Columbia Department of Economic Development (CED), its.cola is an educational, networking collaborative. Its members share knowledge and information, and explore innovative ways to optimize the extensive talent and experience of Columbia’s insurtech resources.

Who is doing what in insurtech?

CED serves as a catalyst for businesses, developers, investors and partner agencies focused on growing the local economy and high-value industries. According to the city’s website, Columbia is home to multiple additional services to attract and support new and growing businesses, including:

  • USC/Columbia Technology Incubator helps to recruit, develop, and launch local technology driven companies.
  • Innovista is a USC led economic development effort that connects university-spawned innovations with entrepreneurs, businesses, and stakeholders.
  • Center for Entrepreneurial and Technological Innovation is a partnership between the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator and Innovista to support entrepreneurial business development.
  • SCLaunch facilitates applied research, product development, and commercialization programs.
  • Benedict College Business Development Center helps address the business development needs of small and minority owned businesses.
  • IT-oLogy is a non-profit collaboration between businesses, academic institutions, and organizations to grow the IT talent pipeline and advance the IT profession.
  • USC Darla Moore School of Business is ranked number two in the nation for both its International MBA program and undergraduate studies.

Because Columbia is home to some of the top industry talent in the world, dozens of companies from across the globe are represented by the work being done by our local professionals. It is because of this talent that the city continues to be an industry hub, influential in insurtech transformation, innovation and direction. Those working in insurtech often hear Columbia referred to as the Silicon Valley of the East. We don’t agree. We prefer to think of Silicon Valley as the Columbia of the West.

Martie Cowsert Streit is the CEO of Lilichuks, a Charleston-based firm offering a portfolio of marketing, communications and sales operations services.