Recently departed Delta Dental president James Epolito said today that he might open a venture capital firm or business incubator in a building he owns in downtown Lansing that would focus on launching biotech, health care and Internet technology start-ups.
Epolito, the former head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. from 2005 to spring 2009 when he took the Delta job, said that he left Delta Jan. 6 because, among other things, he was not able to indulge in his entrepreneurial cravings.
Epolito also that the death of his father in December and related obligations to his family in the Pittsburgh area also contributed to his leaving Delta Dental.
“I’ve just kind of been reevaluating my life and, you know, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to take advantage of any entrepreneurial kinds of pursuits that now was the time,” he said. “And that for me, at Delta, it just wasn’t a great fit.”
“Sometimes, when you’re my age and you’re not loving your job and not enjoying it, you have to make hard decisions.”
Epolito owns the YMCA building on the southwest end of downtown Lansing. He said he wants to move into a third floor office he has in the building as soon as possible. (Epolito is on the board of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds.)
But, he also said there are other opportunities out there that he might be interested in. Epolito said that while he was working at Delta Dental, he was given several offers to head up other insurance companies — one in Michigan, and one outside the state. Epolito was the CEO of the Lansing-based Accident Fund insurance company from 1994 to 2005.
Epolito said that he and his friend Kevin Kelly, the former head of the Michigan State Medical Society, who died in 2008, had a business plan to start their own venture fund in 2010.
“I’ve always said downtown Lansing with a river running through it has a tremendous potential to be a world class city,” Epolito said. “I want to be involved in that.”