SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 1]

SummerHack 2021 Winner

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with our SummerHack 2021 winner, Team Foresters. I asked the team to share behind-the-scenes stories and advice from their innovation experience — check out the full interview below! 

Check out a snippet of the interview with our winner, Team Foresters! 

Team Foresters, congratulations on your big win at SummerHack 2021! Before we dive into the event, let’s do a quick round of introductions first. 

Raresh: I’m Raresh Bunea, a Contract Administrator at Foresters Financial. I handle contracts for sales distribution in the Canadian market. This is my second time participating in a Cookhouse Labs ideathon, for which I’m very grateful. It was an amazing experience this time around, as it was the first time around! 

Liam: Hi, I’m Liam Kinnon. I’m a Marketing Specialist with Foresters. This is my first time participating in one of these events and it was a blast. 

Ravinder: My name is Ravinder Sabharwal and I’m a Control Analyst and it was my first time participating in SummerHack. 

Sandra: I’m Sandra Viteri, Senior Underwriting Manager. It was my first time participating in one of these events. I loved it! 

Brian: I’m Brian Cournoyer and my title is Manager, Advanced Markets & Training. This is also my first time participating and it definitely was a great experience that I can’t wait to repeat. 

And we’d love to have you back next year for sure! It would be awesome to see if you could pull it off twice, but before we even talk about next year, let’s talk about this year and hear from the team. What inspired you to get involved this time?  

Sandra: I noticed that there is a lot of disruption happening right now, and of course, it was long overdue in the insurance industry. At Foresters, we’re embracing that change. We’ve been going through a lot of transformation, with new technologies and innovative products. So, for me, this was an opportunity to participate and sharpen my skills in Design Thinking and innovation methodology, especially after reviewing last year’s topics. I felt they provided interesting and relevant challenges, applicable to today’s world. So, I just thought, “This is great. This is perfect”, and went for it. 

After you made the decision to join SummerHack, you pulled together really a big team. We’d love to know; how did you prepare? 

Brian: That’s a great question! Obviously, we don’t want to give away all our secrets because as you mentioned, we have a title to defend. Before the competition, we reviewed what the team did last year, but more importantly, we identified areas together that we felt we could improve upon to be better prepared for this year. Some of us were new to the competition, me included. So, after those conversations I reviewed the material again and I did some research to make sure I would be able to offer the right support to the team during the event. On a personal level, I made sure that all my priorities outside of this event were already taken care of so that when the competition was on, I wasn’t going to be distracted and instead could help my team build a winning strategy. 

Wow! It’s always amazing to see the energy and dedication Foresters brings to the competition every year. So, we ‘ve talked about pulling together a big team and about making team decisions. The question now is, which of the four challenges did you select as a team and then ultimately, what was the solution that you decided to pitch? 

Liam: We voted on challenge #4 to develop a solution or service to support dynamic and engaged independent workers. While walking through the process and through interviewing a freelance designer, we discovered that one of the challenges of the gig economy is the lack of benefits. Using the Design Thinking methodology that Cookhouse was walking us through as part of the hackathon, we came up with a solution called GigLife, which is a benefits platform for the gig community. We thought of a platform providing health benefits funded through a combination of participation fees and perhaps through the unique use of group life insurance. We realized that perhaps benefits could be provided to participants by purchasing a life insurance policy and advancing a portion of the death benefit to cover the costs of the benefits, legalities to be considered of course. Then, the other part of it that we were excited about was that there isn’t really any group advocacy for the gig community. We wanted to include a social component in the GigLife app, which would allow a space for advocacy to form organically. 

That is a really well-thought-out solution. And it wasn’t just a judge favorite, it was also a crowd favorite because you were awarded People’s Choice for the Americas. So, in your opinion, what was it about the solution that made it a crowd favorite? 

Raresh: I think it was our consideration for building an advocacy community for gig workers and the simplicity of how benefits can be accessed via the paid participation. 

Considering nowadays everyone is working remotely, it’s pretty cool that you thought about all of this.  So, thinking back now to your entire SummerHack 2021 experience, how was it? 

Ravinder: Overall, it was indeed a great learning experience for all of us. Design Thinking was a concept that I had heard about, but this platform gave me an opportunity to practice it. One thing that stood out to me was coming together as a team and working through a structured methodology to deliver a customer-focused solution, and all within two days, wow! Talking about GigLife, it’s more than a digital solution — it is our responsibility towards the community we live in and that is what matters. I sincerely thank Foresters Financial and Cookhouse Labs for this wonderful opportunity.  

Well, we thank you for coming back every year with all this energy and an incredible game plan! Speaking of coming back, we’re very curious to know; how has the ideathon concept, environment, and energy evolved and improved since last time? 

Raresh: For me, the energy level was much higher, and I also set higher expectations for myself this time around. Adding Joolia (the virtual innovation assistant tool) helped us stay on track with deliverables and helped us keep an eye on the time.  

And now looking back at your experience, what advice would you give teams who will soon be participating in SummerHack 2022? 

Raresh: I would suggest teams consider a holistic approach that considers both a feasible business model and the natural economic reality. There’s a trend in the expansion of the safety net. There’s talk about UBI, UBS, and Pharmacare in Canada, as well as climate crisis developments and trends towards the green economy. More and more countries are aligning themselves to IPCC recommendations to eliminate carbon emissions. I believe that solutions that come from the insurance industry will also need to adapt accordingly to all these realities. 

Liam: I was a bit nervous at first because we had a four minute limit on the video and we only hit two minutes. I thought, “Oh, did we not communicate enough?” and so I was thrilled when we were chosen as a winner. I realized that you just need to explain your concept as clearly and succinctly as possible and the length doesn’t really matter— what’s important is the story. I would also say that you should construct a narrative around your solution. That’ll give you a leg up in terms of how to position your solution to the challenge. 

Brian: It’s important that you put the judges’ hat on once you formulate your idea. You must step back and say, “Now if I was a judge, what type of questions would I ask?” This way, when those questions are asked, you’re prepared to answer them. That helps you build the strategy upfront so that it includes all those details. Stepping back and reevaluating helped our team and then from there, we made sure we had a solid plan to deliver to the judges. 

Final question for the team now: As you know, Cookhouse Labs is all about making insurance better and that’s the objective of these types of events. So, in your opinion, how can an event like SummerHack help make insurance better for the global community? 

 
Sandra: I see SummerHack as a practice arena to develop new skills, learn Design Thinking techniques, and simply to inspire us to be more creative. My hope would be that it translates into impactful change in the industry that makes insurance easier and better for everybody. For most of us, that’s basically what we hope to achieve, so this is a great platform for that. 

With a solution like GigLife, you’re helping people that want to be included in insurance benefits, so you definitely did what you set out to do. You took a very big step towards making insurance better for gig workers, so thank you Team Foresters and congratulations once again on your big win! 

Curious about our ideathons? Check out our past ideathons, winning solutions, and team interviews here! 

Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs [Part 6]

Startup Bites CoverGo

We’re excited to continue our series, “Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs”, where Co-Founder Sven Roehl sits down with founders of startups to chat about their exciting solutions and how they’re on track to make big waves in the insurance world.  

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with CoverGo, the winner of our Startup Pitch Specials: China event. The Hong Kong-based startup is the proud provider of a configurable no-code platform that allows insurers to build any type of insurance product within days. Founded in 2016, their 30+ enterprise clients across 3 continents come mainly from the insurance industry, including P&C, life, and health. CoverGo’s solution makes it possible for insurance to be 100% digital, allowing insurers to be agile and stay relevant in the changing global market.  

Check out what we learned about CoverGo below! 

We also interviewed CoverGo in our April 2021 Food for Thought live session — here’s a highlight from the event!

Their Incredible Journey So Far 

Over 4 years ago, Tomas and his business partner moved to Hong Kong with no local connections. They spent 3 years developing insurance APIs instead of going to market immediately. Since then, they have grown the CoverGo team to 40+ people and have signed clients from around the world, including the U.S. and Canada. Even as we spoke to Tomas and Julien, we could see the many awards and trophies CoverGo has won in the background — very exciting! 

Their Biggest Challenge?  

Enterprise sales in one of the most traditional industries!  

Tech startups often face the challenge of building trust with corporate giants and gaining support from traditional companies. The first client is always the hardest one to onboard, but since then, CoverGo has grown exponentially into other parts of the world and is working with clients that are excited to welcome the innovative software solution.

So, How Does CoverGo Help Insurers? 

CoverGo understands the industry’s pain points: legacy systems, tons of paperwork, and manual processes. While it is clear that insurers want to improve this, they do not know where to start. CoverGo specializes in helping insurers, MGAs, and banks make insurance 100% digital in order for them to better serve their customers, which in turn helps insurers reduce costs and increase revenue.  

Here are the 4 ways CoverGo helps insurers:

  • Build and launch products faster 
  • Enable omni-channel distribution
  • Improve policy, admin, and claims management 
  • Integration to any system and can operate on top of existing legacy systems 

While competitors take months to develop new products, CoverGo achieves this for their clients in just weeks! 

Our Favorite Things About CoverGo’s Solution 

1. CoverGo recognizes that off-the-shelf solutions are too generic to cater to insurer’s individual requirements, and so they tailor their solution specifically to each client’s needs

2. With 500+ APIs, the startup can quickly help insurers to scale the solution to add phase 2, 3, etc. 

3. Users can use drag and drop product components in the visual product builder to build and launch their new insurance products in hours with APIs auto-generated — no code required! 

Bonus: How CoverGo Adds Value to the IT Department 

CoverGo is not looking to replace in-house IT departments. In fact, IT teams can take CoverGo’s system and can enhance it, build on top, and even use CoverGo’s APIs to build new applications. This allows insurers to retain the power internally instead of relying on third parties to manage the software for them and empowers users to focus more on value-added tasks.. 

After witnessing CoverGo’s solution in action, we can see why the judges voted for this innovative startup as the winner of our Startup Pitch Specials: China! We wish CoverGo all the best as they continue to grow internationally and looking forward to welcoming the team back for future events! 

SummerHack 2021: Developing New Insurance Solutions in Just 2 Days

It’s almost time to kickoff SummerHack 2021: Global Insurance Design Thinking Ideathon!  

This global event brings together InsurTech experts and innovators from all over the world for 2 days of exciting insurance innovation and friendly competition. Our teams will tackle challenges related to the theme “New Times, New Experience”, and under the guidance and support of our Certified Innovation Experts, use Design Thinking to develop creative solutions to present to our esteemed panel of judges at the Final Pitch Event

To help you prepare for our upcoming virtual Ideathon, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to disrupt the insurance industry using Design Thinking in time for the big deadline! 

Before We Begin 

If you’re new to Design Thinking, visit “Introduction to Design Thinking”, where we describe the concept behind the methodology and the stages involved. 

How to Use Design Thinking at SummerHack 2021 

While the Design Thinking stages may sound time-consuming, it’s possible to walk through each of them within a short timeframe. As a reminder, our Innovation Team will be available via regular check-in calls during the event to answer any questions and provide support on how to follow Design Thinking to develop impactful solutions. Please note that each check-in calls will be held between 9 AM to 5 PM in three different time zones — Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), Central European Summer Time (CEST), and Singapore Time (SGT). 

So, how can you use Design Thinking to create a winning solution in just 2 days

Below, we share a quick guide on how you can structure your time according to the stages in the Design Thinking methodology to help you conquer SummerHack 2021 and blow our judges away! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021  
10:45 AM – Empathize 

At 10:00 AM, the Cookhouse Labs team will announce our “New Times, New Experience” challenges and you will have 2 days to create your solution for your chosen challenge! 

After you select your challenge, your Design Thinking journey begins with the first stage, Empathize. This is where you will begin to understand your target group, which can be done in 2 ways: internet research and interviews with your persona. You can’t create a customer-centric solution without putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, and a good way to do this is to speak directly with the potential customer and listen

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have: 

  • An Empathy Map to help you visualize how the user thinks/feels and documents their pain points 
  • Your Persona, a character that represents the type of customer/user of your solution. For example, in our last project about mitigating small business bankruptcy, we created the persona of Fiona, a small business owner in Toronto  

1st Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 10:45 AM to 11:15 AM! 
 

2:00 PM – Define 

The next stage focuses on constructing a point of view based on the user’s needs. Here, you will take time to reflect on what the user has shared with you and to visualize their experience. By doing so, you can define what problem you are trying to solve based on your persona’s main needs and pain points, which will help you shape a better experience for the user. 

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have: 

  • Journey Map, which is a narrative of your user’s steps to accomplish a specific goal. This is mapped out in 2 layers: a timeline of the user’s actions and their thoughts/emotions while completing each task. You want to identify areas where the user encounters obstacles or barriers along their journey 
  • How Might We (HMW) statement, a brief statement presented in form of a question that clarifies the actual problem you are focusing on based on the Journey Map and identifies the benefits and gains the solution. In the same project about bankruptcy mitigation, our team created 20 HMW statements and selected, “How might we reduce the risk of financial impact of current economic events?” and as they moved through interviews and customer journey the focus of their project became “How might we use the Internet of Things to assist small business owners with their Financial management, improve profitability and reduce bankruptcy?”. (Notice the benefits and gains in bold)

2nd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 2:00 PM to 2:30 PM! 
 

4:30 PM – Design 

After selecting a single HMW statement to focus on, it’s time to ideate! This stage is all about connecting to your inner child and using your imagination to come up with multiple solutions to the problem your team identified. Quantity is important here, so remember to list as many possibilities as you can! 

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have: 

  • Multiple possible solutions to tackle the challenge in various timeframes 
  • chosen idea to begin prototyping! 

3rd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 4:30 PM to 5:00 PM! 

5 PM – Networking

At the end of Day 1, participants are invited to join us for an hour of networking with other innovators and our jury panel!


 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021  
11:00 AM – Create 

Once your team has voted on a winning idea, you are now ready to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You will begin by creating a low-fidelity prototype, which could take the form of a sketch, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation.  

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have: 

  • sketch of your Lo-Fi prototype to help visualize and test the solution 

4th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM! 

 
3:30 PM – Presentation

In a little over 2 hours, you will submit your final solution!  

At this time, you should begin to practice your pitch and prepare any materials required (such as PowerPoint slides). Remember, you will have to submit a 4-minute video of your pitch to play for our panel of judges, who will ask you follow-up questions right after!  

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have: 

  • Submitted your pitch video on our platform, including a brief description and all supporting materials 
  • Prepared for questions from our judges at our Final Pitch Event beginning at 8:00 AM EDT 

5th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 3:30 PM to 4 PM! 

5 PM – Networking

At the end of Day 2, we will hold another open networking session for participants and judges to come together to celebrate crossing the finish line!


 

To provide even further support, our Innovation Team has prepared an Introduction to Design Thinking video to introduce you to the methodology and on the day of the event, you will have access to breakout sessions where our experts will explain in more detail each phase of the methodology. They will also be available to answer any questions. 

And with that, you are now ready to disrupt the insurance industry!  

We wish all our teams the best of luck for SummerHack 2021! We invite our community members to join the Final Pitch Event on Thursday, May 20th at 8:00 AM EDT to see the exciting solutions our teams of insurers, startups, and student innovators develop.  

To receive an invite, please register here. 

Cookhouse Labs Opens its First Open Innovation InsurTech Hub in Europe

Cookhouse Labs First Hub in Europe

Toronto, Canada, May 13, 2021 – Cookhouse Labs, the leading collaborative and innovation space where the global insurance community comes together to co-create solutions to make insurance better, announced today the official opening of its first European hub in Utrecht, Netherlands. 

Cookhouse Labs has always brought the unique experience of open collaboration from its North American flagship lab in downtown Toronto to the insurance community around the globe through pop-up labs across Europe and virtual co-creation events. With the increase in virtual collaborations brought on by the pandemic, Cookhouse Labs recognized the need for global insurance innovation but with an element of local interaction by operating through a hybrid model, combining both virtual and physical hubs to bring the global insurance community closer together. 

“Having organized more virtual collaborations due to the pandemic situation, it allowed us to reach an even broader global audience and more than ever, we see the need for a more holistic global collaboration within the insurance community,” says Sven Roehl, Co-Founder of Cookhouse Labs and Head of Innovation at msg global. “The future will be hybrid and that is why we decided that in addition to providing a virtual innovation space, we will open physical Cookhouse Labs hubs around the world, starting with Europe in the Netherlands.” 

Cookhouse Labs Utrecht: Meet the New Chefs

Cookhouse Labs Utrecht is uniquely located in a charming old Dutch house that has been converted into an office and innovation space, along with picturesque views of the waterway canals. The new hub in Utrecht, which takes less than 30 min to reach from Amsterdam, will be the first of many to follow. Cookhouse Labs plans to open regional hubs across Europe, Asia and Latin America to provide an innovation space for insurers across the globe to collaborate, network and come together to address solutions to current and future problems in the insurance industry. 

“Cookhouse Labs was born out of the idea of creating a global insurance community, by bringing great minds together to shape the future of insurance through open collaboration, co-creation and Design Thinking,” shares Peter Umscheid, CEO of msg global solutions. “We believe that these are the key ingredients in accelerating the insurance industry to make insurance better. Therefore, we are excited to bring our unique open collaboration model to Europe, to create an innovative space for the insurance community to come together and tackle the challenges using latest technologies, such as AI, IoT, blockchain or simply by improving existing processes as an industry.” 

Since its founding in 2017, Cookhouse Labs, owned by msg global solutions, has innovated with over 100 insurance organizations across 20 countries to tackle challenges the Life and P&C insurance is and will be facing, focusing on technologies such as IoT, blockchain and artificial intelligence among many others. Current and future members of Cookhouse Labs can expect a global membership model with full access to facilitated co-creation projects, innovation initiatives masterclasses at a regional hub location of their choosing – from Toronto, Utrecht and future lab locations. 

For media, membership or collaboration enquires, contact Insiya Meherally, Community Manager at Insiya.Meherally.ext@msg-global.com.

To find out more about Cookhouse Labs membership benefits, click here.

About Cookhouse Labs  

Inspired by a test kitchen, Cookhouse Labs is a collaborative space for innovative chefs, Tastemakers and taste-testers to create recipes, infuse flavours, and experiment beyond boundaries. Our community of insurance innovators and insurtech experts is the key ingredient in the ideation process, empowering and integrating a global collection of ideas with Design Thinking to serve innovation in the insurance industry, based on a paid membership model. To learn more about Cookhouse Labs, visit: www.cookhouselabs.com.  

About msg global solutions  

msg global solutions is a systems integrator, software development partner, and managed services provider focused on SAP solutions for accounting, finance, regulatory reporting, performance management, and customer experience. Operating from offices across the globe and growing, our expert teams help clients achieve operational efficiency and improve decision-making capabilities. While the heart of our expertise is in the financial services sector, our solutions are utilized in a wide range of industries. We’re part of msg, an independent, international group of companies with more than 8,500 employees around the world. These companies offer a broad spectrum of creative, strategic consulting and intelligent, sustainable services and value-added IT solutions. To learn more about msg global solutions, visit: www.msg-global.com. 

Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs [Part 5]

We’re excited to continue our series, “Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs”, where Co-Founder Sven Roehl sits down with founders of startups to chat about their exciting solutions and how they’re on track to make big waves in the insurance world. 

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Cees van Dijk, Co-Founder and COO of Spearhead. Check out the full interview below! 

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Cees, thank you for joining us! We met you two years ago at an event at Cookhouse Labs, where we introduced Spearhead to our audience as an exciting and interesting startup. I was personally very impressed by the work that you have done, specifically around the claims area. For our readers, let’s rewind and start with an introduction of yourself and your startup. 

Thanks for the opportunity! My name is Cees, and I’m a Dutch living in Switzerland in the Alps. I’m one of the founders of Spearhead. We are a company that focuses on motor claims and especially the first notice of loss. We see it as our mission to make that first notice of loss more digital and offer a better and more efficient experience. And since we started the business in 2016, that’s what we’ve been focusing on. 

You already mentioned a couple of words about motor insurance and insurance claims. Can you tell us a little bit about what Spearhead is providing in this area, especially how you came up with the idea? Every founder has a moment where you decide to start your own business because you really believe in something. So, what was this moment for you and what makes Spearhead unique? 

In my previous life, I used to work in the US and Canada in automotive claims. That was my first touchpoint with vehicle telematics. Someone asked me, “Cees, could you use this in a claim, too?” I started looking into this probably in 2013, and I figured out, yes, vehicles are actually generating potentially useful data that you can work with. Originally, the US and Canada were far more advanced when it came to self-service. So, the first trends of people managing claims online or through apps started in the US and Canada, and then later came to Europe. The interesting thing I discovered is that it’s always a problem for a consumer to describe a damage report for loss. But if the car starts telling part of what’s happened to it, then you make that self-service notification a lot easier. 

 Of course, the discussions inspired me; can we automate the claim, can we use smart analytics to automatically process, and what if you could use telematics? If you combine these things and make it easier with the help of analytics, then you can create a whole different claims process experience. I moved back in the meantime to Switzerland, and the idea came kept coming back. So, at a certain point in time I thought, “Let’s do that, but let’s really focus on that idea only because you can’t do 10 things at the same time and do them right.” 

I founded Spearhead together with a partner and decided to focus on the domain of using telematics data. Additionally, we focused on making the experience a bit better and using predictive analytics to basically provide (for up to 80% of the claims) all the answers in the first couple of minutes after an accident or a loss has happened. And in the meantime, obviously we built that and we’re successful with this approach. 

Impressive solution and a great idea! When you started the company and as you grew it, what were the specific challenges that you faced? 

How much time do you have? I would say it’s been a journey of challenges, but let’s take a few out of that. Of course, these kinds of things require a lot of investment and a lot of R&D. So, on one hand, you’re doing the R&D, and on the other hand, you’re securing finance, and on the third hand, at a certain point in time, you need to do sales. So, one of the challenges becomes running everything together and eventually separating these things. I’ll be quite open here, another challenge we faced was we originally thought in 2016 that telematics would be a great idea. I think we were right in the idea itself, but we were wrong in the timing because effectively it took three, four more years than we expected before that telematic data became available on the scale. Now we’ve reached that point, just a bit later. And of course, that creates challenges of its own. 

Looking back on your journey, what are some of the highlights and moments of success that stand out to you? 

I think there are a couple of them, actually. I remember the first one clearly, even the date: when we launched the first predictive model allowed repair cost. To our surprise, the first model turned out to be pretty accurate. That was a reason to celebrate because until that point in time, it was an idea that I thought should work. Once you see it working and of course, the first real customer to use your system productively, these are things I will always remember. We’ve learned to celebrate the successes because sometimes things don’t go as you would like and then you fall down, you get up and you continue. 

That’s great! Continuing this journey with all the successes, where do you see your organization in two to three years from now? 

For sure, a larger part of our transactions will be telematics-based. The second thing is, currently we are based in Europe, but in two or three years, I expect also to be on the other side of the Atlantic. There’s plenty of ambition! 

Usually, creating a successful startup comes down to collaboration in the beginning. So, what is your experience partnering with large organizations in the beginning and along the way? 

I think partnerships are essential, especially when you’re focused because you have your own mission, and you try to do it right. So, the first set of partners are those that work in adjacent spaces around your mission. What we’ve learned over time is that it is very important to select the right partners. The second kind of partner we typically work with are the larger companies that use our service as part of an overall service. For instance, we develop things together and we partner because we bring things to the market. 

The third set is, of course, the customers because you start co-developing things. I find that you learn the most from your customers. Fortunately, with several customers, we’ve actually managed to build a more partnership-customer relationship, where we really create things together. That brings me to insurance, because some of those companies are insurance providers. As a startup, you need a bit more time because you always want to go faster and insurance companies have their own pace, so it takes more time. Nevertheless, over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that an increasing number of insurance carriers are changing and trying to speed things up, especially in the digitalization area. There is hope that our timelines come together eventually, but for the time being, a bit of patience is required. 

We often hear this feedback from startups, and I agree, it is certainly improving. On the topic of collaboration, how do you think innovation ecosystems such as Cookhouse Labs can bring value to your journey? 

Organizations such as yours are very useful for two reasons. So first, insurance companies need to figure out what’s out there in the world, and you scout for ideas and connect people. The second thing is when you decide together with an insurance carrier that you want to do something, but you don’t want to do it the traditional way. Bringing both parties together in a slightly different, less formal, and less traditional way is very important and helping facilitate that co-creation is very useful. 

A final question we always like to ask: What advice can you give to an entrepreneur looking to follow in your footsteps in the InsurTech scene?  

Do the groundwork. Make your business plan and really validate it before you start. The second piece of advice is focus. Once you start, many new ideas cross your mind and although the temptation will be there to go sideways, it’s important to stay loyal to your original idea. The third thing is if you want to be able to spend your time on focusing on your idea and bringing it to reality in the early days, make sure that you have someone on board that can help take away the burden of financing your journey. 

Cees, thank you very much for sharing your time with us! I’m personally looking forward to the upcoming Food for Thought event with you and learning more about Spearhead’s offering and seeing the live demo. I saw some of it already and it was very impressive. You know, we’re happy to help you wherever we can on your growth path and your move into North America! 

Want to learn more about how you can use Spearhead’s incredible telematics solution to improve your claims process? 

Join our upcoming free 45-minute session, “Food for Thought ft. Spearhead: Connecting the Dots in Motor Claims”, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. In the webinar, Cees will show you how you can make telematics work for you and how to optimize your claims process for non-connected drivers. 

Click here to secure your spot! 

Recap: Meet the Cookhouse Labs Robot

1 challenge.

4 students.

200+ hours.

1 robotic solution.

Last week, we were excited to conclude our 5-month student project with a big reveal in front of a global audience of 50+ insurers. This marks the end of yet another successful collaboration with The University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg-Schweinfurt, Germany (FHWS), during which our student teams developed innovative solutions to our members’ (and our own) internal challenges. In case you missed our big global presentation on Friday, we’ve broken down our internal project into bite-sized pieces to help you catch up — check out the summary below:

The Challenge

Since lockdown began in March last year, we have been finding ways to make our in-person sessions more interactive and engaging despite the virtual gap. Today, virtual collaborations have become the New Normal, and we expect that after we have successfully overcome this pandemic, hybrid models (combining the virtual and in-person experiences) will be the future. We tasked a team of E-commerce and IT students to define solutions to keep innovators connected, despite being in different rooms, either at home or in the office.

The Process

Beginning October 2020, our students followed the Design Thinking methodology, guided by our certified innovation experts, to find ways to tackle our hybrid challenge. Typically, the FHWS student project is held in-person in our downtown Toronto lab space, but given the current situation, we conducted our sessions virtually for the first time. Our students interviewed our team members, partners, and customers to understand pain points and opportunities in the current virtual model. Through this process, our students identified one of the main challenges was difficulty in building trust and engaging communication with remote participants. Good ideas, they learned, often arise during coffee break discussions, and it is difficult to replicate this experience in a virtual model.

Our students asked, “How might we build trust and improve communication among participants on-site, remote participants, and the moderator during the whole project in a hybrid digital workshop?”

Together, the students ideated many potential solutions and narrowed it down to their top 2 choices, which they further developed into MVPs to present at the end of the project.

The Solutions

Having prepared prototypes of their solutions, our students proudly presented their ideas to our community on Friday. The solutions were:

1. Double Robots

By employing the use of self-driving video conferencing robots, the students allowed participants to feel more present in the Lab. These robots could be controlled via one’s keyboard arrow keys from anywhere in the world over a Wi-Fi network, and gave participants an opportunity to explore the physical space from the comfort of home. With video display on the attached iPads, this solution also overcame the barrier of joining coffee breaks, inviting discussion and ideation despite the physical distance.

2. The Cookhouse Socializing Box

This solution promised an unforgettable social experience, complete with ingredients to make a customized cocktail and a light pasta meal. The Box included the tools needed, such as a branded glass, apron, and even a wooden spoon! To complete the experience, participants would be brought into a virtual culinary class hosted by a Cookhouse Labs moderator, where they would create these dishes together while still being in their own kitchens. This worked to create a sense of community and would act as an icebreaker before the main workshop date.

At the end of the presentation, our audience had the opportunity to ask their own questions about the solutions. Undoubtedly, the Cookhouse Labs robot was a crowd pleaser and opened the floor for a discussion about the new hybrid experience we will soon launch.

While plans for our hybrid experience are currently underway, we wanted to invite you to participate in our next student project to be held in October 2021. If you have a challenge you would like our students to tackle, click here to learn more about our memberships and how you can get started with your very own student project!

Connecting with Young Talent in an Increasingly Virtual World

The topic of attracting and retaining young talent to the insurance industry has been around for years — in fact, we even ran a project on it last year. In the past, many insurers would turn to campus events (such as career fairs) to find the leaders of tomorrow. However, this search has become more difficult in a virtual world, full of technological distractions and disconnect. In the case of insurance, an industry that is seen as old-fashioned and traditional, the challenge of engaging young talent has only increased tenfold.  

In a virtual world where human beings have been reduced to images on a screen, how can one truly connect with the right person for the job? 

At Cookhouse Labs, we’re all about human-centered design and connection. That’s why this week we’re excited to offer our top 3 tips to help you find young talent in a virtual world! 

Tip #1: Check Out the Chat Section 

You read that correct — we recommend attending external industry events to find engaged young professionals. For example, a frequently overlooked area is the chat section of webinars, where young attendees often ask thoughtful questions. By reaching out to these attendees on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee chat, you can informally screen them and determine if they would be a great fit for your organization.  

We spoke to several recruiters and found that all of them preferred passionate candidates, even if slightly underqualified. One of the best ways to assess this passion is through interaction, so we encourage you to put aside your stack of resumes and join a virtual industry event or two! 

Tip #2: Discover Passion in the Pitch 

The most passionate young professionals always find a way to stay involved with the global industry, even if they’re on another continent, through online projects and competitions. A virtual world offers the opportunity to discover a future leader in a whole different country, sans travel expenses. This type of candidate can bring a fresh perspective and resources into your project team, which may currently consist entirely of local members.  

If you’re wondering how to begin connecting with global young talent, you’re in luck! This Friday, we’re hosting our Young Talent 20/21 Final Pitch Event in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences in Wurzburg-Schweinfurt, Germany. Our team of students has been working on a new way for Cookhouse Labs to innovate in a hybrid model with participants both in the physical lab space and joining us virtually. The team will be revealing their solution at the pitch event — click here to meet them and see their results! 

Tip #3: Join Them in the Sandbox 

How can you assess if a candidate will be a perfect fit for an upcoming project? 

Easy — give it a try! 

Many virtual events simulate the experience of working together on a project by connecting students to organizations and tasking them with solving a challenge. For example, at our upcoming SummerHack 2021, you will have access to our pool of passionate students and can invite candidates of interest to join your insurance team for the 2-day competition. By working together in this guided ideathon to tackle a real industry challenge, you will have the opportunity to see how your chosen candidates fit within your project team and assess their personalities and work styles.  

To start forming your team and meeting young talent, click here

So, there you have it — our top 3 tips to bridge the virtual gap and connect with global young talent. By making the extra effort to scout these young professionals, you’re likely to find the most passionate, thoughtful, and engaged candidates for your next project! 

To stay up to date with our upcoming young talent opportunities, check out our 2021 Events Calendar or join our mailing list! 

Member Stories: Meet Abhi from HSB Canada

Member Stories Abhi Gupta

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the next part of our Member Stories series, meet Abhi Gupta, Business Development Manager for Applied Technology at HSB Canada. Read about Abhi’s innovation journey below!

Abhi, thank you for joining us today! Before we dive into your experience with the Lab, let’s start with a quick introduction of yourself and HSB Canada.

I am a Business Development Manager for Applied Technology, which is a new part of HSB Canada. It’s part of the Leap initiative, which accelerates innovation for HSB Canada. As part of this initiative, we promote different kinds of technologies, especially for the insurance space, in the space of sensor-based devices. These are devices that help in communicating and minimizing losses for insurers, and so working with our clients and insurance companies is part of my responsibilities.

Thank you for sharing that! We were happy to see you quite a bit this year — you’re one of our active and engaged innovators. We’d love to know what inspired you to become an active participant!

HSB Canada has always fostered innovation and there is no better place to start than Applied Technology, because it’s all about innovation. We were looking for opportunities where we could collaborate with people who could help us and our teams think differently, and I found that perfect fit with Cookhouse Labs. You foster innovation like no other and you work in the insurance space, so in terms of synergies, that is the perfect fit. We want to collaborate and gain certain synergies and competencies, even in the way we do our business. That is the perfect driver for us!

Reflecting on your experience, what made you happiest when collaborating with us?

I would have to be biased and say that I loved the team! There are certain places that talk about innovation but are not really centric to innovation, but the Lab is one place that really fosters innovation in every sense of the word. I have been fortunate enough to be associated with Sven (Co-Founder of the Lab) and from personal testimonial, I can say that there have been times where I have reached Sven after-hours and he has been just as active. I talk about the entire team — you’re still happy to connect after-hours. I’m not trying to promote working after-hours; all I’m saying is that it’s just the spirit and the infectious enthusiasm that really talks to you about a certain place, location, or people, and we found all of that at Cookhouse Labs.

Thinking about your experience from a different point of view, what has surprised you most during this collaboration?

When you are looking to do business in a new way, you want to be pleasantly surprised. The biggest surprise was how exponentially beneficial these takeaways could be. I have attended workshops in the past in different organizations, but what I found extremely useful to us was the true spirit of working with teams. It’s because of all the amazing events that you do, where you put us in a time crunch so that we have to work very collaboratively as a team. The Lab is so great at putting everything together to create those kinds of workshops and tools, and it really helps someone who wants to learn about these new technologies, methodologies, and tools achieve this holistically. I talk particularly about Design Thinking, and I think using all these tools and bringing all these people together from different facets and industries to work and collaborate together, that creates magic really.

What is your favorite memory from your time with us?

I have to say, jogging down memory lane, that we stood second place at WinterHack 2020 — what could be a better memory than that, right? Competing with 11 other great organizations from all over the world and coming second — to this day I cherish this, and I’m not saying this because it was a victory, but because it was incredible how the team came together despite having disagreements and time crunches. Everything came together and was a beautiful symphony. How can you describe that? I think it speaks volumes when you’re doing something so beautifully in a team environment, and that’s what truly brings out the spirit of our organization: an organization like Cookhouse Labs.

On that note, what have you been able to achieve since attending these trainings and events?

I keep referencing the Design Thinking workshop, but I think it has had a huge impact compared to other workshops. Cookhouse Labs offers a better way to work towards creating more innovative insurance products and services, and so holistically I would say that it is fostering a different way of thinking about insurance, which is invaluable. The tools I have taken away from these workshops have helped me think innovatively, which is the first achievement.

The second is that these workshops have taught me how to create teams and work amazingly well and collaborate with teams. I do thank Cookhouse Labs for that skill, because I have always led teams, but I have never learned the skill and art of leading them so well, so thank you for that.

You have already recommended the Design Thinking training, but besides that, what trainings would you recommend to others?

There is a plethora of trainings that Cookhouse Labs does, and Design Thinking is just one of those. There are different kinds of sprints, where Cookhouse Labs helps companies collaborate and create better teams. The Lab will help you think about how to design a product or service, empathize with the customer, and understand the customers’ needs. I am extremely interested in attending one in the future myself.

In terms of the hackathons that the Lab hosts, those are great opportunities for people to come together to create something innovative. It gives you a different toolbox and mindset; I would never underestimate it because that is so invaluable. I also had the great opportunity to speak at the Back to Business Summit, and that was phenomenal because it gave us the opportunity to think from a customer’s perspective. Insurers are generally one arm’s length away from the customer, and in order to bridge that gap, there have to be different ways to engage with the customer. I think Cookhouse Labs really brings together the insurers and the customer, so hats off to you!

Final question: Is there anything you would like to add?

I just want to express my gratitude to Sven, Ibeth, yourself, and to the whole team. I really love to work with you, and I talk about HSB Canada as an organization. I have come across so many people, and they all have one thing to say: these workshops have added value. That automatically says to me that we feel really good about having an insurance partner of sorts that we can use as a springboard to reach higher levels of success in the future. That’s all thanks to all of you, so keep on doing the great work!

Abhi, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We enjoyed collaborating with you and HSB Canada in 2020 and we wish you all the best in 2021. We can’t wait to continue this collaboration with you in the New Year!

The Recipe for a Successful Startup Collaboration

During the spring of 2020, we took on the industry challenge of Collaborating with Startups — read more about it here. Although the team chose to focus on one pain point, let’s go over what works best (what startups appreciate most) when collaborating with large insurance organizations. 

1. Shared Vision 

Startups are often founded on the basis of customer needs that are unfulfilled in the market. Founders are often so inspired by their discoveries that they are willing to take bigger risks and try new things than the average established organization. As we spoke to several startups during our sprint, we uncovered that a common element founders sought in their partnerships was a shared vision. Without this, they told us, their large insurance counterparts were less willing to take risks and less open to big ideas and possibilities.  

As you seek out a startup partner to collaborate with, openly discuss your vision and goals for the collaboration beforehand. Finding a perfect fit will lead to a powerful partnership, so be sure to align on these topics early on! And make sure you, yourself, are clear on that vision, what is flexible and what is non-negotiable.

2. Speed 

Many of our startup interviewees felt that large carriers had long internal bureaucratic processes that slowed the partnership down. One of our founders even told us the story of an unpleasant experience she had with a partner organization. While trying to arrange a meeting, she noticed the partner frequently rescheduled until a month passed by. The reason for rescheduling? An unavailable conference room! Such obstacles can delay the overall time to market, and we found this was a common pain point for startups. 

When structuring your collaboration model, be sure to agree on a timeline that makes both partners feel respected and accommodated. This will create a positive experience and lead to faster outcomes that can secure potential future collaborations. Even more, be clear as to why you are rescheduling. On this example, the experience could have been better if the partner would have been clear about the why, the startup founder could have also helped out, maybe she had access to a meeting room. Remember, in all relationships, communication is key. 

3. Strong Communication 

This area is so vital, that it’s worth mentioning again. Often startups get lost in insurers’ long bureaucratic processes and are excluded from early strategy discussions. When they are finally brought in, many key decisions have already been made that do not align with the startups’ goals and visions. Our interviewees cited strong communication and inclusion as one of the most important elements, as this consideration made them feel supported and respected by carriers.  

Including these partners early on will build trust in the relationship and create a win-win outcome for everyone involved. We highly encourage you to discuss a suitable communications strategy to ensure a smooth collaboration experience! And respect that strategy.

And there you have it. We are part of an industry where we are often looking to partner up, support or even found a new startup. Now you have some insights on what is needed to make sure your partnership or own creation heads to success! 

Join our summit! Who knows – the startup you’ve been looking for just might be there. To learn more about how you can get involved in the summit, reach out to us by clicking here

Current Times and Innovation

Let me share a brief summary of a story from my perspective. It all started on March 13, 2020. That was when I was informed that I no longer needed to go to our Lab space in Toronto and that suddenly, I needed to ideate on how to we were going to deliver our planned activities for the next three months in a virtual space. AH! Sound familiar? Perhaps you don’t deliver trainings or facilitate sprints, but you also had to redesign how you presented to your clients, how internal meetings were going to take place, even how your workspace was going to look and how you were going to share space with your new colleagues (spouse, pets, children, etc.). In other words, change all, or as I prefer to say, redesign.  

So how has the current situation impacted me personally as an Innovation Coach? Here are ways in which I have used my Innovation Coach skills to get me through these times: 

Embrace creative mindset

From day one, it was obvious that I needed to put my creative mindset to work. I was expected to redesign our programs and how we delivered them while ensuring our participating members still had a pleasant Cookhouse Labs experience. It was an opportunity to let go of all limiting beliefs and get to creating ideas and putting them to test. Sometimes I was afraid of failure, but I knew that the biggest failure would be to not show up.  

Dance with change

Most of us hide from change and try to avoid it. In my area of work, what I am passionate about – creativity and solution-focused mindset — change is the constant that keeps showing up in all aspects of my life. Instead of avoiding it, I choose to create a song with it and dance to the melody. Dancing with change allows me to see the situation from different angles as I continue to move. Can you see how that is possible? How are you choosing to dance? At what speed? And which partners are you bringing along to the journey? 

Accept uncertainty

As solution-focused as I am, there was a point when I realized no one actually has an idea of when things are “going back to some normality”. That realization invited me to choose between fighting that feeling of uncertainty and feeling angry, sad, frustrated OR accepting that uncertainty had become the only certain thing around me. Accepting this fact made it easier for me to flow and look at life as many opportunities because it allowed me to play with one of my favorite two words – WHAT IF? And if you have been on our campus, you know that ‘What If’ is a door to creativity and ideation. Accepting uncertainty, asking what if, and staying solution-focused definitely made my daily work more fluid.  

Connection, connection, connection

These current times have definitely highlighted the importance of staying connected. And in the world of innovation, connections are vital because it is how we can collaborate and in our Lab, it is how we can co-create. After seeing and hearing many of our participating members share how much they miss being in their offices, it really invited the opportunity to reach out more often and stay in touch with our community, which leads to our continued purpose to #MakeInsuranceBetter as a community.  

I invite you to reflect on how these times have impacted you, changed your habits, expectations and/or ways of working. But most important, as an innovator, how have these times invited you to expand and develop your innovative skills?  

I’d love to hear from you and read how you are levering these changes for your growth.