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Launching the Venture

For healthcare exec, it was more than a class at Vanderbilt.

Corey Johnson
Founder, CareEco

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2022

When Corey Johnson began the Executive MBA program, he’d thought about the possibility not only of earning greater responsibility at HCA Healthcare—where he was a manager—but of starting his own healthcare company. Either way, he thought, the quality of the Vanderbilt program and its connections to the Nashville healthcare community would be strong positives.

About halfway through the program, Corey recalls, “a company I had been kind of playing with on the side, as a startup, received some funding, and I elected to go on board full-time.” Serendipitously, he also had the opportunity to take Owen’s Launching the Venture course with Professor Michael Burcham, a successful healthcare entrepreneur. 

“It was ideally timed,” Corey says. “As I was trying to grow my own company, we were able to use my company as the subject for the class. We went through everything from ideation to creating the business plan to meeting with investors.” 

As part of the course’s design, groups of students pitch their ideas for a new business to venture capitalists, not only from Nashville but from across the U.S. Corey’s healthcare tech company, CareEco, won the competition. “To learn from prominent individuals and get real-time feedback was incredibly helpful,” he says. 

After winning the class competition, Corey was asked to be part of another pitch competition sponsored by Vanderbilt’s Center for Entrepreneurship. His fledgling company won that one, too, and was on its way to success.

The network Corey formed through Vanderbilt was also a key part of the experience that fueled his new venture. “I’ve been blown away by the alumni network,” he says. “So many professors and faculty members or peers have referred me to alumni who are executives or leaders in their fields and who are willing to form relationships with current students.”

Many of the relationships he formed in class, Corey points out, carried over into business relationships after the class was over. In fact, now that they are alumni, Corey sees some of those former classmates every day: they became some of his new company’s first employees. 

Fun Fact: Corey enjoys golf, live music, and spending time on lakes around Nashville.

As I was trying to grow my own company, we were able to use my company as the subject for the class.