How 2 Nashville companies turned tech around and thrived | Crain's

How 2 Nashville companies turned tech around and thrived

It’s no secret that as technology races ahead, companies have had to pivot or even completely change their strategies and approaches just to stay in the game.

Companies like Asurion, one of Nashville’s largest private employers, and Bernard Health, a rapidly-growing benefits startup in town, are among that number. 

Founded in 1994, Nashville tech giant Asurion originally focused on device protection. The company added tech support to its roster of products and services in 2011, after realizing smartphones and their interconnectivity with other devices were advancing rapidly.

“We realized with the adoption of smartphone technology that consumers were in need of a service that allows them to get the full potential of their device,” said John Leonard, senior vice president of product development at Asurion. “We saw an opportunity there to make the service better for customers so that when they get into the technology, they have experts that can help them with all their technology needs, including anything that connects to their phone.”

When tech support was first introduced to the company’s repertoire of services, the way smartphones connected with other devices was still in its early stages. Even five years ago, smart doorbells were not on the market, and Alexa was just someone's name. Asurion has had to adapt and grow to this ever-changing technology. Now, its support not only includes voice and messaging assistance, but videos and other guides to help their customers get more out of their technology.

“We inform them on topics that may be useful to them, for example the recent news around Facebook. We will send content to customers letting them know what it means for them and the actions they can take to protect their privacy,” Leonard explained.

From stores to software

While it was a changing industry that prompted Asurion to adjust its focus, Nashville benefits and HR software company Bernard Health’s pivot occurred after Blue Cross Blue Shield left the market.

“We had eight retail stores in five states, and were in this place where Blue Cross had left the market and our software business was starting to take off." Bernard Health CEO Alex Tolbert told Crain’s Nashville. "The pivot we made was to close our stores, and we continued to help individuals via their medical provider or financial advisor, but we were no longer serving the general public.”

A growing tech scene in Music City, and the increasing demand for software in the workplace, also encouraged Tolbert and his company as they decided to switch gears.

“The reason that people are expecting a lot of uptake in software adoption among small-employer HR has a lot to do with the fact that millennials are becoming more and more predominate in the workplace, and prefer working with software over paper,” Tolbert said.

Now the company counts 148 brokerages in 38 states that have adopted their software. Each one of those healthcare brokerages represents, on average, 250 employer clients. 

These two tech-centered companies are only the tip of the iceberg for Nashville companies seeking to hop on the technology train. In order to compete, many companies, particularly in health care, are turning to the tech side to attract users, investors and clients.

“There are a lot of companies here, especially in healthcare, who are in a much better place to be successful in technology than other cities like even San Francisco,” Tolbert said. “[I believe] people in Nashville who have the benefits of learning about health care by being here can learn software more quickly than someone in San Francisco can learn about healthcare.”

April 13, 2018 - 1:01pm