WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to #MakeInsuranceBetter [Part 2]

WinterHack 2020 Winner Team

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with WinterHack 2020 Winner, Team EMIL-Hannover Re. I asked Dr. Lorenz Kemper (Hannover Re) and Henrik Dittmar (EMIL Group Gmbh) to share behind-the-scenes stories and advice from their WinterHack 2020 experience — check out the full interview below!

Team EMIL-Hannover Re, congratulations on your huge success at WinterHack 2020! Before we dive into the event, let’s do a quick round of introductions first.

Lorenz: I have been working as a Data Scientist at Hannover Re for 2 years now. Just recently, I became the first member of the Hannover Re Digital Accelerator, where I am responsible for the technical aspects in a team that works with insurers, digital insurers, and InsurTechs to get them going globally.

Henrik: I am the Head of Product at EMIL Group. We’re a technology company that helps insurance companies quickly launch innovative products.


Thank you for the introductions! We’d love to know, what inspired you to join WinterHack 2020?

Lorenz: When I heard about WinterHack, I thought it was a great place to meet like-minded people and network to meet possible corporate partners from other parts of the InsurTech industry, such as a primary insurer or technology provider.

Henrik: Since we provide software for insurers and reinsurers, it’s essential for us to collaborate with them and see how they are thinking, especially when it comes to innovation. Networking, of course, is a motivator, but we really want to know how insurers and reinsurers approach innovation.

Speaking of collaboration, this was your first time meeting one another. How did you connect and how was the experience of working together?

Lorenz: We hit it off on a personal note very quickly. We actually met before the event for a quick call to get to know one another and to get on the same page. We talked about our backgrounds and our goals for the event, and in that initial call, we decided we wanted to have fun but also win the competition!

Henrik: It was a fun 2 days, which has a lot to do with the team. In our case, that meant Lorenz as our teammate! We started out on the same page and worked well from the beginning, which was really nice.

It’s always great hearing about successful collaborations! Diving into your solution now, which of the 4 challenges did you choose to tackle and what was your idea?

Lorenz: This is a funny story — the jury panel thought we were tackling the challenge of loneliness for the elderly, but what we were really focusing on was digital subscription models!

Henrik: Our solution was an app that integrates many tools and services from around the digital world and makes them accessible to senior citizens, so I understand how the confusion happened! It was all about combining these easy-to-use services in an app as an entryway into the digital world for senior citizens.

How was your experience using Design Thinking to develop this solution?

Lorenz: Design Thinking was a good way to encourage customer-centric thinking, especially because none of us are a customer group. We used Design Thinking to empathize with the customer, but we actually didn’t use all of the tools. We cherry-picked within the toolbox of Design Thinking to select the best tools that would help us reach our goal, such as the Persona, Empathy Map, and Journey Map, and decided very quickly what product we wanted to pitch.

Henrik: The target group focus in the Design Thinking approach is very essential in today’s world, especially when it comes to innovation and developing something the target group actually wants. It was very helpful for us to get into the mindset of the user group and start from there. Our general approach was to get to the prototyping stage very early, and so we chose the tools that went along with that. We wanted to create the solution quickly and test it by having the prototype ready, creating a landing page, and seeing how people would react when they saw the page, which is how we chose to validate it.

On that note, what else do you believe contributed to your overall success at WinterHack 2020?

Lorenz: Because we were a small team, we were really quick and well-coordinated. Everyone took charge of certain tasks quickly and owned them. We were very clear on who was responsible for each task and relied on them to do a great job.

Henrik: Our focus on prototyping the solution early helped us create something that in the end, when the judges saw it, conveyed the usefulness of the idea in real-life. As much of a bubble as these 2 days were, that’s what they were trying to evaluate — how much would this idea make sense outside of this context?

Looking back at the event, how would you describe your overall experience?

Lorenz: For me, it was fun and broadened my perspective in many ways. I was surprised at how much we were able to get done in 2 days. I was also quite surprised that we were able to hit a personal note even though we had never met before! This was new to me, because I felt this year that it would be difficult to really connect with other people via Zoom, but I think we were able to do that quite effectively. It was a big learning for me!

Henrik: There was a lot to do in 2 days and we worked through it quite well as a team, which made it really enjoyable. Our skillsets matched up very well with all of the tasks we had to do!

As you know, at Cookhouse Labs our mission is to #MakeInsuranceBetter for everyone! How do you think your solution and events like WinterHack 2020 help achieve this?

Lorenz: In a way, our product has the same characteristics as what makes insurance better. Our product aims to bring technology to the elderly, who typically are not the primary users of technology but could benefit from it. Technology can improve their lives and make things much easier for them. In the same way, the industry is not typically the first to take up digital ideas and technology. However, it is an industry that is predestined to make use of technology, and in this way, we can make insurance better.

Henrik: Historically, insurance has been a slow industry, especially when it comes to product innovation. It takes a very long time to launch an insurance product. Changing this mindset is one thing that events like WinterHack encourage, and this is our goal at EMIL, too. We want to make it technologically possible to launch new products, but this only works if we can bring the insurers we work with into the mindset to launch new products quickly. These types of industry events create the sensibility for innovation in a short time and make the process of quickly launching new products possible.

Team EMIL-Hannover Re, thank you for an insightful interview and congratulations once again on your big win at WinterHack 2020. We wish you the best and hope to see this collaboration continue in the future!

Curious about our next big global Ideathon in 2021? Stay updated on the details by signing up for our newsletter and following us on LinkedIn!

WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to Digitize Insurance

A Global Race to Digitize Insurance

Last week, we wrapped up our first ever virtual WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon. We were delighted to partner with InsurLab Germany and msg to bring this exciting event to life! After months of planning and preparation, we kicked the event off on November 3rd in 3 different continents with 12 different re/insurance organizations. At the end of the 2-day ideathon, our teams competed in an exciting Final Pitch Event to blow our global panel of judges away with their disruptive solutions, and boy, did they succeed!

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the global ideathon and highlights from the 3-day event:

A truly diverse and global event

We ran the ideathon in 3 different regions (APAC, EMEA, and the Americas) with 85+ participants from all over the world who spoke 12 different languages. Our insurers partnered to form 11 insurance teams that consisted of a diverse mix of re/insurers, brokers, startups, vendors, and student innovators. Some of our teams even comprised of members who were continents apart — now, that’s true global collaboration!

WinterHack 2020 Participant Organizations

Announcing our “Digital Ecosystems” challenges

Our kickoff events were full of energy and excitement, hosted by Lead Facilitator Ibeth Ramos and Co-Founder Sven Roehl. At the kickoff events, we announced our 4 “Digital Ecosystems” challenges:

  1. Reduce Loneliness
    How might we develop a solution/service offering to reduce social isolation or loneliness of elderly people?
  2. Building Inspection
    How might we develop a highly automated service/solution for building inspection of commercial properties?
  3. Subscription Model
    How might we develop a new subscription-based business model of insurance built on Digital Ecosystems?
  4. Understanding Insurance
    How might we develop a solution/service allowing customers to fully understand the personal risk and coverage situation?

Together, the teams counted down the final seconds and off they went to tackle their chosen challenge!

Design Thinking — our innovation compass

We challenged our teams to use Design Thinking as a compass to guide their innovation journeys. To help our teams prepare, our Innovation Experts created an Introduction to Design Thinking Masterclass and a prep guide titled “WinterHack 2020: A Guide to Disrupting Insurance in Just 2 Days”. We wanted to provide our teams with support during the event, and to achieve this, we scheduled regular breakout sessions with our Innovation Team to walk our participants through the Design Thinking stages in more detail and to answer questions from our teams. Since these breakout sessions were run in 3 different time zones, our facilitation team delivered trainings at all hours of the day (and night)! From 8pm EST on Monday, November 2nd until 6pm EST on Wednesday, November 4th, our Zoom lines were shut down for 2 only hours — the rest of the time, the Cookhouse Labs team was online and continuously available! 

The big reveal

On November 5th, we brought our global innovators together for a combined Final Pitch Event, attended by members of our innovation community. We were delighted to welcome leaders from across the world as members of our jury panel! On our panel, we had:

  • Bernd Scharrer, COO Operations / IT at VHV Holding AG
  • Emily Hill, Manager, Strategy & Planning at TD Insurance
  • Gil Arazi, Founder and Managing Partner, FinTLV Ventures
  • Kayte Fredrickson, Vice President, Insurance at Ontario Medical Association
  • Manisha Dias, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at SCOR
  • Max Bachem, Head of Corporate Development, Innovation, Strategic Partnerships & Venture Capital at AXA
  • Sven Roehl, Co-Founder of Cookhouse Labs
  • Thomas Börtzler, Chief Innovation Officer at Munich Re Canada
  • Torsten Oletzky, Professor of Strategy and Process Management at Cologne University of Applied Sciences

Our judges were amazed at the creative and well-designed solutions our teams revealed! All of our teams focused on helping customers understand their insurance policies better or on supporting senior citizens as they combat loneliness. Each team shared a unique approach to tackle these challenges through AI, mobile apps, tablets, and sensory devices. At the end of the event, the judges deliberated on the winners and returned with the big announcement:

  • Winning Team: Hannover Re and EMIL Group Gmbh
  • Runner-Up: Munich Re Canada

Our winning team took home a 6 months Cookhouse Labs membership, and will enjoy free access to a variety of open co-creation projects, Masterclasses, global pop-up Labs, and support from our Certified Innovation Experts! Our runner-up won tickets to insureNXT|CGN courtesy of InsurLab Germany, a new congress fair with the goal to develop new business models by connecting traditional insurers, start-ups and cross industry partners.

We want to congratulate all of our teams for conquering WinterHack 2020! We were blown away by the creative ideas, dedication, and hard work from all of you. Every idea pitched at the Final Pitch Event has the potential to disrupt the insurance industry and we can’t wait to see what you achieve next!

A big thank you to our partners, teams, judges, and community members for your continued support and enthusiasm for our global innovation event. Your excitement encourages us to dream bigger on our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter and we look forward to seeing you at SummerHack 2021!

Wondering when the next innovation opportunity will be? Stay informed by joining our innovation community — sign up for our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn!

Digital Ecosystems in Insurance: Putting the Modern Customer First

With less than 2 weeks before we kickoff WinterHack 2020, it’s time to talk about this year’s theme: Digital Ecosystems. Today, we discuss the concept behind digital ecosystems, why they matter, and how they can benefit insurers who are looking to thrive in the digital era.

What is a digital ecosystem?

Simply put, a digital ecosystem is a network of companies, their customers, and third-party service providers that share digital platforms. These stakeholders combine their offerings to provide services more efficiently, thereby creating greater value for all their customers. Digital ecosystems integrate several industries, allowing participating companies to create targeted products that are better tailored to changing customer needs and preferences.

Why are digital ecosystems important?

Customer expectations are rapidly changing — and providers must evolve in order to keep up with these changes.

Modern customers want customized insurance products, and they want these offerings to be available immediately. They want transactions with their provider to be smooth, quick, and simple. They want the best possible value for the price they pay. And they want to be able to trust their provider to protect their personal data.

In a digital ecosystem, insurers partner with digital service providers to create cross-industry product and service offerings that capitalize on technological capabilities to serve these customer expectations. These ecosystems enable insurers to quickly modify products and services based on changing customer preferences. By collaborating with experts in other fields, the insurer can create true customer value in an efficient, cost-effective, and mutually beneficial way — which is the first step towards building a long-term relationship directly with the customer.

How can you benefit from digital ecosystems?

According to a report published by Accenture in 2019, insurers who do not quickly respond to these changes will miss out on growth opportunities worth USD $177 billion over the next five years.

Collaborations through digital ecosystems allow companies to scale faster than if they stood alone. For example, access to partners’ technological resources makes it easier to roll out new offerings quickly. These cross-industry partnerships provide opportunities for insurers in local and global markets and expand into new sectors by offering complementary products and services with already-trusted partner brands.

Data aggregated from these combined products can be used to generate new leads and lower operational costs, McKinsey says, as well as create targeted products with increased value. It further suggests that insurers can use this data to offer risk assessment, predictive modelling, and other analytics capabilities as a service to partners in the ecosystem.

Insurers must move quickly to adopt a more active role in their customers’ daily lives. By shifting to a digital ecosystem strategy, these insurers can improve product offerings, distribution, and customer relationships while capitalizing on collaboration opportunities that can take them well beyond borders and into a whole new era of globally focused growth.

Wondering how you can adopt digital ecosystems in your insurance organization?

At WinterHack 2020, our Certified Innovation Experts will guide your team through the Design Thinking methodology to help you create an innovative solution around our “Digital Ecosystems” challenges. At the end of the Ideathon, pitch your solution to our esteemed panel of judges and global audience for a chance to win our big prize!

Limited spots remain — sign your team up here!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 3)

SummerHack2020 Quantummy

In the next part of our series, I had the pleasure to chat with Team Quantummy, winner of our Best Solution – Greater China Area prize and overall 2nd Place in our main SummerHack category. I chatted with Natasha Gibe, Derek Jones, and their Mentor Tommy Kim about the team’s two-time winning solution and how staying awake the whole 24 hours helped them develop their idea!

Team Quantummy’s winning solution: RELIOT

Natasha, Derek, and Tommy, thank you for joining us today and congratulations on winning in 2 major categories! Before we talk about the incredible experience and outcome, we’d love to know more about you.

Natasha: I live in Toronto and I work in contract software development. I have been in the industry for less than a year now — I actually transitioned from dentistry into software development!

Derek: I live in Toronto as well and work in software development. I work for a SaaS startup called Uberflip and I have been in the industry for over 7 years.

Tommy: I have been in the Property and Casualty insurance industry for almost in 8 years now, and am currently working as a Senior Actuarial Analyst at Munich Reinsurance.

Thank you for the intro! Tell us, what inspired you to join SummerHack 2020?

Natasha: We enjoyed the last hackathon we joined on Hackworks, and so I went on the platform and searched the upcoming hackathons they were supporting. I came across the IoT SummerHack 2020, and asked Derek if he wanted to join. Registrations were closing on the same night, so we signed up!

Looking at your double-win, that was definitely a good call! How did you prepare for the 24-hour event?

Derek: We didn’t prep too much, but we did try to learn about the insurance industry. We watched some YouTube videos and learned the basics of how insurance works and some common terms, like what an actuary is. There were all these things that we didn’t know about, and that was our prep. It wasn’t super extensive, it was learning the basics. We tried to learn about IoT trends as well.

Which of the three challenges did you choose, and why?

Natasha: We choose to tackle the small business challenge around how small businesses manage risks that they are exposed to. We related to this one the most, especially seeing small businesses in Toronto that were highly affected by COVID-19.

Could you walk us through the process of how you developed your solution?

Derek: Everything was remote, so the Zoom call was up and running. We had our webcams on all the time and collaborated with Tommy, which was really cool. We checked in with each other every hour or so. We talked about our workflow pretty early on; we decided to spend a lot of time understanding the problems that small businesses face, which would really be useful at the end of the day. We went ahead and discarded a lot of ideas through the first 12 hours, so we really only started solidifying and forming a more developed solution around midnight. We ended up staying awake the whole 24 hours to get to the final product — I don’t think we had any naps!

Tommy: Most of the focus was placed on empathy. Team Quantummy was more practical and realistic rather than visionary. We really understood the pain points of the small business owners, and we tried to simulate that and research to get to the exact point that we were heading to. At the end of the 24 hours, it was very effective. Our team was very confident and we were able to achieve that delivery.

On that note, tell us about how your mentor supported you throughout the journey.

Natasha: Tommy was on the Zoom call basically the whole time. He had such high energy the entire time, and he even stayed up the entire 24 hours! He taught us a lot about how the industry works and shared some links to studies and data that helped support our solution. He was a really great guide for us.

Tommy: Well, thank you!

It’s really great to hear about the collaboration and commitment within your team! It definitely paid off, because your solution was clearly a crowd favorite. Could you explain the concept of your solution for us?

Derek: The specific problem that we zoomed in on was that small businesses are very exposed to risks within their supply chains. Supply chains can get pretty complicated, and most small business owners are not experts at evaluating risk. Our solution was to create a certification program and an application that would end up creating a database of suppliers that are following industry best practices and risk prevention. Essentially, it would be a database of really low risk suppliers. Primarily, it focused on ensuring that suppliers are leveraging internet of things technology, so IoT tech. It had really shown to improve delivery, and would prevent destruction in manufacturing delivery, so we have a database of those suppliers. Small businesses could partner with those suppliers so that small businesses can build a reliable supply chain without having to analyze and understand all those risks.

Your solution won two prizes; it came 2nd in the main prize category and also won the Best Solution – Greater China Area special prize. How does it feel to have such a big win?

Natasha: We were surprised the first time we won; the first time our team name was announced, we thought, “Really?”. Then, for the second category, we were even more surprised, because a lot of the teams had awesome solutions, so we weren’t really expecting it. We were happy to hear that the solution resonated with them, and that the challenges really resonated with real life challenges and the problem that small business owners were facing. Throughout the event, we were trying to understand small businesses and the industry.

Tommy: It’s wonderful to see all the passion and hard work from Team Quantummy! Natasha showed the humble side of it, but I have to show another side. I would say that we were capable of it, because as we were dealing with all the different criteria, and the solution effectively met them and was very solid from my perspective. And at the end, yes, I really enjoyed hearing Quantummy announced as winners, and two times in a row, as well.

Team Quantummy, in your opinion, what made you so successful?

Derek: I think there were a couple of things. We definitely benefited from having a mentor who we could bounce ideas off of; that definitely helps the creative process and got rid of the uncertainty that we would have had on how feasible our ideas were. The second thing that I would say is that we decided to focus on understanding the domain. We wanted to understand the industry, IoT and technology, and see how those trending things are currently fitting into the industry. It’s amazing to see what is already in place! We were shocked to see all these devices and technologies that were already out there, and so that helped improve our understanding and it became feasible, helping us decide which ideas worked and which didn’t

Tommy: I would say the collaboration, firstly. I think we acknowledge our current knowledge and also tried to learn from each other too. Even though my title is as a Mentor to a wonderful team, I learned a lot more than I expected, so I think it was a great journey for myself. The second point is that we weren’t afraid to get knocked out in innovation. Sometimes innovation and creativity can be really hefty and a powerful word, and at the same time if we try to connect more dots, we can embrace our creativity and can propose more creative solutions.

How would you describe your overall experience at the hackathon?

Natasha: We had a really great time, overall. It was really tiring! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to branch out and learn something new. Staying up for 24 hours is something I don’t recommend doing often, but in this case it was a really rewarding.

Tommy: The experience itself was very enjoyable. I actually worked hard myself during those 24 hours, and we had some very creative ideas too. There were some very innovative solutions proposed too that really made us laugh over the 24-hour journey!

WinterHack 2020 is coming up in November, and as a winning team, we want to know: What advice would you give incoming teams for our upcoming hackathon?

Derek: Keep in mind that from the very start, the main output of everything has to fit into a very short pitch. When you’re pitching, time can go way faster than you expect, so from the very beginning keep in mind that it has to fit into 3 minutes. Make time for a few practice runs so that you make sure you don’t spend all that energy developing the solution and you run out of time before you even get the idea across. We have seen that happen with other teams in various other hackathons before ourselves.

Tommy: Please enjoy the challenge, please enjoy the discussion, and please enjoy the creative ideas that you can come up with after squeezing your brain over 24 hours!

Our mission at Cookhouse Labs is to #MakeInsuranceBetter for the overall industry, and our events are part of our journey. In your opinion, how can events such as SummerHack 2020 help us achieve this?

I asked Team Quantummy how events like SummerHack 2020 can help #MakeInsuranceBetter.

Natasha: There were so many smart people participating in the hackathon, so events like this can provide a great opportunity to problem solvers that don’t work in the industry. We can still contribute a lot in terms of problem-solving, knowledge, or technology from other domains. I think that getting fresh eyes for the problem will really bring innovative solutions to the surface.

Tommy: Sticking to the hashtag of making insurance better, the term ‘better’ is relative to the previous. Through this hackathon at Cookhouse Labs, we are already ahead of the game to welcoming a new face of innovation. And one day, we will hear positive feedback from policy holders, where insurance is no longer a necessary evil, but instead an angel that can provide more comforting protection eventually.

Team Quantummy, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us, and congratulations once again!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 2)

In the next part of our series, I had the pleasure to chat with Team ABC, our 1st Place winners at SummerHack 2020. I spoke with Rachel FermoPrinsa Gandhi, and JiaQi Zhao about their experiences as first-time Hackers and how they worked together to come up with their winning idea. 

Team ABC’S winning solution: Smart Tooth, a device glued on to any tooth that transmits different waves in the radio frequency spectrum to detect and measure the calories consumed. An embedded small Bluetooth radio wirelessly transmits data to the app, Byte. Users can redeem rewards for healthy living in the form of reduced insurance premiums.

Rachel, Prinsa, and JiaQi, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on conquering your first hackathonBefore we dive into your winning solution and your experiencelet’s do a quick intro about yourselves. 

Rachel: I’m going into my third year at the University of Toronto, and I am studying Actuarial Science and Statistics, possibly with a minor in Math. Eventually, I want to become an actuary in Canada. I’m not exactly sure which area to go into, possibly Life and Health, but they say it depends on your first internship!  

Prinsa: I’m also going into my third year at U of T. I’m a double major in Actuarial Science and Statistics, working towards a minor in Math. I also want to become an actuary. I am interested in Property and Casualty, but I’m not sure yet either. 

JiaQiI’m going into Actuarial Science, and I also study Computer Science. I’m hoping to get a minor in Statistics or Economics.  
 

In line with that, what inspired you to join SummerHack 2020? 

Rachel: We get emails from our Statistics department about opportunities related to Statistics, and we got an email invite to SummerHack. We said, “Why not, it sounds really fun and it’s something we can put on our resume for experience”! It was a learning opportunity, and that’s why we wanted to join.  

Prinsa: Initially, we were pretty nervous about it! When we went to the Slack webpage, there seemed to be a lot of older participants from the insurance industry, so we joined for the experience.  

JiaQi: We thought, “Let’s just try it. No matter how it goes, at least we tried our best”.  
 

As first-time Hackers, how did you prepare for the 24-hour event? 

Rachel: The first thing we did after hearing about it is that we tried to search up definitions, because we didn’t really know what IoT was. The Cookhouse Labs team also released prep videos, which Prinsa watched and shared notes about, and that’s how we prepared for it. 

Prinsa: We received videos and articles from our Mentor on Slack, so we read those. We also saw the guide you posted about Design Thinking in 24 hours with time stamps, so we read that and watched the videos you shared.  

JiaQi: We worked with our Mentor, David Schraub, who shared definitions, videos, and articles, and we asked him a bunch of questions. That was really helpful! 
 

So, which of the three challenges did you pick, and why did you choose that challenge?  

Rachel: We ended up picking the challenge about overcoming obesity. We each decided to research a challenge, and then come together with our notes and ideas to see which ones would work. Overcoming obesity was the soundest one, so we choose that challenge.  

PrinsaWhen you released the challenges, we had a discussion with our Mentor and he explained each topic in the real industry and how it works. Then, we split up and found ideas for each topic. We chose obesity because we had the most ideas for it.  

JiaQi: We had to choose between small business bankruptcy mitigation, overcoming obesity, and mobility. We had the idea of an app and we tried linking each challenge to it. We wanted a solution that was possible to implement but was also original.  
 

Once you choose a challenge, how did you go about developing your solution? 

I asked Team ABC to walk me through the process of developing their solution using Design Thinking.

Rachel: First, we came up with our idea through research around overcoming obesity and insurance. We talked about our idea with our Mentor, and he gave us ideas about how to further develop the idea. Our idea was a Smart tooth, so we asked, “How do we link that to insurance?” We decided to add an app to our solution and reduce insurance premiums, and so on.  

Prinsa: We followed the guide on Design Thinking, and when we decided on overcoming obesity, we did the survey research part on Google. We had a meeting with our mentor, and he told us to think of a specific target group, since this solution wouldn’t work for everyone. So, we created a persona, and we went ahead with it.  

JiaQi: When we met with our Mentor, he told us that it was best to choose a target group first, and then create our solution around it.  
 

You mentioned your Mentor, David, helped you quite a bit. Could you tell us more about how he supported you throughout your journey? 

Rachel: He was really helpful, because he would notice things that we wouldn’t, like what we should focus on and what we should include in our presentation. He would give us research articles and things to think about when we were researching our idea. We definitely attribute our success to how he helped us throughout.  

Prinsa: He also thought about the business side, which we didn’t really think about. He gave us a lot of advice on how insurance really works in the real world, such as pricing. He would join our Zoom call every two hours and would give us suggestions on what would work and what wouldn’t. 

JiaQi: He gave us a lot of insights and examples of how internet of things is currently used in insurance. It helped us develop our idea of Smart tooth and link it better to insurance. As we were developing our concept, on our zoom call, he can always bring something new on the table and help us make our solution better. We couldn’t have done this without his support.  
 

You mentioned that your idea was an IoTpowered Smart tooth. Could you tell us more about the concept behind it? 

Rachel: It’s a tiny piece of metal glued to your tooth, and depending on what nutrient it absorbs, the metal shifts its electrochemical properties. You can transmit the information from the tooth to your phone, and you can view the data on the app. It’s easily accessible compared to calorie counters that exist right now, where you have to manually input the numbers, which can be inaccurate. Our way was to make it easier for people to access the information and make it helpful for insurance companies, because you can give that information to insurance companies and it will be an incentive to reduce your insurance premiums for healthy living.  

Prinsa: When we researched our personas, we found that a common problem with health apps was that the customer didn’t have time to input information. The Smart tooth would automatically tell you the calories that you consumed, so it makes the process a lot easier.  

JiaQi: In Design Thinking, we were told to put ourselves in place of the person who would be using the app, and we learned that it wasn’t that people didn’t care about what they were eating; it was that they didn’t have time. This method was very helpful! 
 

What do you think contributed to your success in winning 1st Place at SummerHack 2020?

Rachel: I think our idea was really creative! Personally, I was really impressed with all the work that we accomplished in 24 hours. A big part of our success was that we worked together; this was our first time working together and we all knew what we had to do! We communicated with each other the whole day and we didn’t leave the Zoom call until we finished it and recorded our presentation. Only then did we fall asleep!  

Prinsa: We were always on the Zoom call working together, always discussing our ideas. 

JiaQi: Listening to each other’s ideas really helped. Rachel came up with the idea for the Smart tooth, we added to it, and that’s how it became the final solution.  

How would you describe the overall experience at the event? 

Rachel: We had never done anything like this before! When we heard that we had 3 minutes to pitch our ideas, we always had that in the back of our minds. We recorded the video a couple of times so that it was under 3 minutes. We were pretty good go-getters and we didn’t back down from the challenge. We continued the whole way through.  

Prinsa: It was a fun experience because it had to do with real life industry issues. While working on the solution, we were completely interested in it because we felt as if we were working on something that was meaningful. It was super fun! 

JiaQi: I really liked it, especially because it was 24 hours. Prior to us doing that, I would have never thought that we could create something in such little time. The fact that we actually did it has made me more confident in doing hackathons now! 

As you know, WinterHack 2020 is coming up in November! As our 1st Place team, what advice would you give incoming students for the next event? 

Rachel: If you’re a student, you might be taken aback by the 24-hours and not know what to do. If you take advice from your mentor, that will be really helpful for you. It’s not always about winning; it’s also about learning, so have fun while you’re doing the hackathon! 

Prinsa: I would say, don’t be scared or nervous about what you can contribute! Just enjoy the experience, because you’ll end up learning a lot. That’s why we went into this — we wanted to have a cool experience.  

JiaQi: Don’t overthink it! I’m sure all of the participants were nervous but it went really well. It always goes better than you expect! 
 

Final question: How do you think that an event like this can make insurance better? 

Rachel: In an event like this, you have to be really creative and think outside the box. The ideas that you come up with are ideas that people don’t normally think about. By doing this, we have ideas that didn’t previously exist and can really help insurance.  

Prinsa: The challenges that we were given made us think from the consumer’s point of view. We did what we thought the consumer would want and it really helped in the end. 

JiaQi: I think that gathering people from different countries, industries, and experience brings much more diversity and different perspectives on tackling a problem. I believe that an event like this can bring new insights and ideas in insurance.  

Team ABC, thank you so much for your time and congratulations once again on your big win at SummerHack 2020! 

We’re gearing up for our next global hackathon, WinterHack 2020. To stay informed about the event, follow us on LinkedIn!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 1)

Summerhack Mentor interview

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with David Schraub, a Staff Fellow at the Society of Actuaries and the Mentor of our 1st Place team at our 24-Hour Global SummerHack 2020. During the interview, David discussed how his team developed their winning solution and shared advice on how teams at our upcoming WinterHack 2020 can replicate this success.

Thank you, David, for joining us — not only for the interview, but as a SummerHack 2020 Mentor to a student team. Congratulations on your team’s big win! We would love to hear about your experience as a Mentor, but before we do, let’s start with a quick introduction about you.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate! It was my first hackathon and my first interaction with Cookhouse Labs, and I had a lot of fun. Now, about me — I’m a French actuary that moved to the U.S. about 17 years ago and became an American actuary. I’m currently working for the Society of Actuaries (SOA), helping advance professional design and continuing education programs. My background is in Life Insurance; I focused on the ERM and investments side. Now, I’m working on predictive analytics and InsurTech initiatives that bring the SOA and actuaries to the forefront of innovation.

David Schraub and Insiya Meherally during the virtual interview.

Thank you for that introduction, David! Our students loved having such an experienced Mentor guide them throughout the event. Tell me, what inspired you to mentor a student team?

A member of the Cookhouse Labs team reached out to me with the opportunity to mentor a group of actuarial students, and I became curious about the innovation process and the event itself. So, it was the curiosity, the potential for disruption, and the question, “What can we create in 24 hours?” I wanted to find out!

How did you go about engaging and preparing your team for the hackathon?

We started with an introductory call to get to know each other. The Events Team also suggested using this call to align on how Mentors and students would stay in touch during the event. I was interested in learning about the students’ backgrounds and what they wanted to get out of the experience. They were interested in Data Science and Internet of Things. In advance of the 24-hour period, I shared related articles and background reads to clarify a few concepts and help them prepare.

What process did your team undergo to develop the solution?

The Events Team spelled out a very good process with milestones that we had no reason to challenge — the Design Thinking methodology. Our team started by sharing ideas on each of the 3 challenges given and decided on the first one, Overcoming Obesity. We created a detailed Persona to help us understand the target market. We discussed the size of the target market and the expected profitability of a product. Your product doesn’t have to be relevant to everybody, so long as your target market is large enough to generate a profit. You may have a small group of people that are extremely interested in one topic, and you may be able to build a completely viable product for them. After we had a Persona, we defined their interests and disposable income. We then went about developing a solution, and the next step (if we had time) would have been to develop a business plan around it.

We’re very excited to hear Design Thinking helped your team create their solution around Overcoming Obesity! Could you briefly describe the concept behind the solution?

We came up with an IoT-backed tooth with sensors to monitor what you eat. For example, it can count the calories you consume or your snack times. Let’s say you’re craving a snack — the app will use the information to suggest you go for a walk instead of opening the fridge. The app could also be connected to your doctor, who could use the data to help you manage aspects of your health and wellness that are impacted by your nutrition.  

What do you think your team did well that led them to conquering SummerHack 2020?

One thing that they did well was to actually deliver; they had a good presentation that was submitted on time. Another thing is that their solution met the need and was possible to implement. We found a few articles suggesting the concept is already being developed. They also demonstrated a clear link to insurance: there is potential to reduce life insurance premiums.

On that note, what would be your advice to teams going into our upcoming WinterHack 2020 in November?

Fully understand the requirements and deliver based on them! Submit your materials way in advance of the deadline and rehearse your pitch well. In fact, submit a video pitch to avoid technological issues that come with a live presentation. While all this may sound very basic, it is the key to success. Also, know what your solution can achieve and back this knowledge with numbers and statistics.

That’s very valuable advice! In a nutshell, how would you describe your experience at SummerHack 2020?

I’d say it was fun, interactive, and a great opportunity to learn!

How do you think such an event can help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

The basic answer would be to share these ideas with potential startups so that those products can be developed. They may make insurance better because they address the needs of the insured and of the insurance industry.

Thank you, David, for sharing your time with us and for mentoring our students at SummerHack 2020! Congratulations once again on your big win and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming WinterHack 2020 in November!

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure!

We’re about to announce the winners of our Best Solution – Greater China Area prize (valued at $1,000 CAD)! The announcement will be made via Facebook live stream on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 at 8 pm EDT. You don’t want to miss it, so click here to stay connected!

Everything You Need to Know About the Back to Business Summit

FAQs Back to Business Summit

After we recently announced our upcoming Back to Business Summit, many members of the community reached out to us with questions about the event. To bring you up to speed on how you can get involved in this community support project, we’ve summarized some of the questions we frequently receive below!

  1. What is the Back to Business Summit?

Cookhouse Labs is partnering with the Insurance industry to organize this virtual community support summit, designed to aid small business owners across the Americas in recovering from recent business interruptions and support them in preparing themselves to go Back to Business. The event will comprise a mix of live and on-demand sessions which focus on key business topics that are important to the small business community. The event will go live on September 15 and 16, 2020, and will be entirely online/virtual.

  1. Why should I get involved?

Insurance was born out of the idea of community and right now, it is our responsibility to show up for the small business owners in our community. They are more than just business owners – they are our friends, neighbors, and family members. In these trying times, the community needs to come together. Your small business customers need your help to navigate the uncertain futures they face. This event is your way to:

  • Provide community support
  • Connect with your customers
  • Show you care
  1. How can I provide support and get involved?

There are four ways to get involved in the Back to Business Summit. You can:

  • Provide expert speakers for defined topics
  • Invite your customers to the event
  • Spread the word, share, and repost our posts on Social Media
  • Join the event coordination team

The event is an opportunity for Partners to connect with their small business customers. We will provide invitation emails, website registration links, and social media content so that you can share the event information directly with your customers.

  1. What topics will be covered in the speaker sessions?

We surveyed small business owners across the Americas to see what business topics they are interested in learning more about. Some of the high-interest topics are:

  • Business Strategy and Planning
    – Clarify Mission & Vision
    – What is the New Normal?
    – Design Thinking 101

  • Marketing and Social Media
    – Marketing 101
    – Social Media 101
    – Build Customer Personas

  • Insurance Policy, Coverage, and Claims
    – Know Your Coverage
    – Know Your Rights
    – Tips for Filing a Claim

  • Financial Planning & Taxes
    – Cash Flows and Expenses
    – Banking Resources
    – How to Protect Employees
  1. What benefits will I enjoy as a Partner?
  • Create goodwill with your customers
  •  Access expert knowledge for your customers
  • Expand your commercial network and meet potential small business customers
  • Receive high brand visibility throughout the event promotion and Summit duration
  • Show your customers that you care about them!

We invite you to join us in making a difference to the community – become an official Back to Business Partner and support your small business customers!

To get in touch with our Events Coordination Team about this community support opportunity, click here.

SummerHack 2020: IoT-Powered Disruption in 24 Hours

Race against time

In July, we hosted SummerHack 2020, our first virtual 24-hour global hackathon. We were joined by 100+ insurers and student innovators from 10 countries around the world, mentored by 20+ insurance experts. This year’s theme was “IoT Disruption in Insurance”, and at our Kickoff Event, we announced the 3 challenges our teams could tackle:

  1. Mobility Services
    How might we develop an IoT-based customer-focused holistic mobility insurance product/service?
  2. Small Businesses
    How might we develop IoT-based risk-prevention services/products for small businesses?
  3. Fight Obesity
    How might we develop IoT-based solutions/services to prevent and reduce obesity and overweight?

With that, our 22 teams set off to race against the clock to develop their IoT-powered solutions!

We wanted to provide support to our teams throughout their 24-hour journey – after all, innovation cannot happen without the right environment! At Cookhouse Labs, Design Thinking is our core methodology, and we encouraged our teams to use Design Thinking to guide their solutions. To help our teams prepare, we equipped them with Design Thinking Masterclasses, live topic-specific workshops, and a step-by-step guide on how to structure their time according to the 5 stages.

During the event, our Innovation Team provided live workshops with Q&A sessions to expand on the information shared in the Masterclasses. Whether it was Coach Ibeth’s high energy, UX/UI Designer Adys’s prototyping expertise, or Co-Founder Sven’s tips and tricks on presentation styles, our innovators had full access to our team’s knowledge and guidance. We were available round the clock to provide support – we even held a workshop at 3 in the morning!  And man, was that fun!

What inspired us was the level of commitment shown by our participants; Mentors took time away from work to check on their teams, and Hackers worked on their solutions throughout the night, pausing only briefly for short breaks. There was a shared sense of community spirit, coupled with an understanding that innovation cannot thrive without collaboration. Before the event, Mentors shared advice on how to best support their students and took time to expand further on the specific topic and on insurance. During the event, teams tested their solutions with each other. Even our Judges stopped by the Kickoff Event to share in the excitement!

The 24-hour hackathon period ended with an adrenaline-fueled final hour, where Hackers rushed to add last-minute details to their IoT-powered solutions before the submission deadline. Once this deadline passed, our Live Pitch Event began – the moment of truth, where each team had 3 minutes to pitch their solution to our panel of esteemed Judges.

Our panel comprised of 5 Judges with over 120 years of industry experience between them. Our Judges were Kin Lee-Yow (CIO, CAA Club Group of Companies), Manisha Dias (AVP Business Development, SCOR), Thomas Börtzler (Chief Innovation Officer, Munich Re of Canada), Till Heydel (VP Strategy & Corporate Development, BI&I Canada), and Sven Roehl (Co-Founder, Cookhouse Labs and Head of Innovation, msg global). After a fast-paced round of pitches, our Judges stepped away for deliberation.

During this break, Coach Ibeth shared interesting facts about our 100+ innovators, a compilation of results from polls and questionnaires our teams had answered before the event. As we learned, for over 70% of participants, SummerHack 2020 was their first hackathon – an amazing surprise!

Our Judges returned and it was time to announce the winners. Based on the Judges’ feedback, the top solutions were:

1. Team ABC

2. Team Quantummy

3. Team HackerExplo

Stay tuned as we interview the winning teams and we share more details about their solutions on our upcoming series “SummerHack 2020 – A Race Against the Clock”.

The students won a total of $4,000 CAD in prizes, sponsored by msg global solutions Canada. Our 1st Place Mentor won a virtual Design Thinking session (valued at $2,000 CAD), hosted by our Innovation Team! We celebrated all teams, and in that moment, all teams shared a sense of accomplishment, of true community – they had just conquered a 24-hour global hackathon!

The competition is not over yet; we still have 1 more prize!

In the upcoming days, we will announce the winner of our Best Solution – Greater China Area prize. Sponsored by Besurance China Limited, this prize is valued at $1,000 CAD and will be awarded to the solution that best serves the Greater China Area. We will be announcing this prize via social media live stream – you don’t want to miss it, so click here to stay updated!

A big thank-you to our sponsors, partners, participants, Mentors, and Judges for helping us create an exciting global innovation experience! A special thank-you to our platform partner, Hackworks, for their continued support in organizing and executing SummerHack 2020. Your support made this journey a lot easier and fun!

We are grateful for the support we have received from the community in our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter. We hope everyone enjoyed our first virtual hackathon! We look forward to seeing our innovators again at our upcoming virtual events, especially our WinterHack 2020, which is scheduled for November 3rd and 4th 2020.

Follow us for more details as we announce the dates, format, and topics – click here to stay connected!

Supporting the Community in Going #BackToBusiness

Back to Business Summit

Somewhere in Toronto, a family-owned café serves its final customer, preparing to shut its doors indefinitely. Just across the border in New York, a salon owner wonders how she will make her next $6,000 rent payment. 

While the definition of the ‘new normal’ continues to evolve every day, for many the future is as uncertain as ever. Despite lockdown restrictions lifting in some areas, sales remain low as shoppers spend only on basic necessities.  All around us, small business owners are struggling to pay rent, plan for their families and themselves comfortably, keep their employees, and return to pre-pandemic levels of income. 

In challenging times, it is often critical to look through a lens of empathy. In doing so, we see that these individuals are so much more than “just” small business owners; they are members of our communities with families to support. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members, and our customers. And right now, they are overwhelmed with the possibility of losing their livelihood and for many, losing their dream.

Insurance was born out of the spirit of community, where the burden of one was shared by many with the intention to support each other and protect each other’s wellbeing in times of hardship. So, in these difficult moments we ask, “How might we come together to support the small business owners in our community?”

In April, we asked this question at our first virtual co-creation sprint, “Innovating to Save Community Businesses During COVID-19“. Innovators from across the Americas collaborated for 4 afternoons to develop a solution to this shared challenge. To accomplish this, we began by empathizing with small business owners in Canada, the US, and Bermuda through virtual interviews.

The interviews gave us incredible insight into the challenges they were facing, and many tears were shed during the conversations. We understood the fear and anxiety that our community members experience every day, and how painful this experience is for them. 

After the interviews, one of our innovators was able to put into words what our entire team felt. She said, “This was a reality check. People’s dreams are being put on hold and there is a lot of uncertainty for them as business owners.”

Over the course of the project, we deliberated over many potential ways we could provide support in these difficult times. Our team came up with 70 ideas, and 1 MVP later, the concept of Back to Business was born!

So, what is Back to Business?

It is a solution to assist small business owners in preparing to return #BackToBusiness. We understand that many owners seek vital information to develop their reopening strategy, such as financial planning, marketing, and insurance coverage. As an industry, we will stand by our small business owners and provide access to experts on these topics and more in a 2-day virtual summit. To provide support to as many business owners as possible, we will make the information accessible across the Americas at no cost, truly from the core of supporting the community. 

As an industry, we will come together to show our community that we care about them, that we are here for them in times of hardship.

We will reach out to the family in Toronto and the salon owner in New York. We will support them in recovering from recent business interruptions. We will provide access to resources to help bring them peace of mind in these difficult times.

This is our community and we will show up for them.

Who do you know that wants to show up and support the community?

To become a Back to Business Partner and play your part, click here.

How to Disrupt Insurance in 24 Hours

Only 3 days left to SummerHack 2020!

If you’re joining us as a Hacker or Mentor this summer, you’re probably wondering how you’ll create a disruptive IoT-powered solution in just 24 hours. To help you prepare for our upcoming virtual hackathon, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to disrupt the insurance industry using Design Thinking in time for Friday’s deadline!

What is Design Thinking?

Previously in the insurance space, most insurers took the approach of creating solutions based solely on assumptions and hoped that their products or solutions would resonate with target audiences. Design Thinking reverses this logic by first identifying the root(s) of the problem, observing how people think and behave, and gathering customer insights. From there, they create practical solutions. Using this methodology invites teams to look at a problem through the eyes of the customer, put themselves in their shoes and fully empathize with the customer – who is ultimately the people impacted directly by the solution.

Stages of Design Thinking

The following are the stages of the Design Thinking process:

  • Empathize with the customer and other stakeholders
  • Define the opportunity or problem
  • Design a solution
  • Create and build a Minimum Viable Product/Concept/Service
  • Test the solution with customers and users

How to Use Design Thinking at SummerHack 2020

While the stages listed above 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 to answer any questions and provide support on how to follow Design Thinking to develop impactful solutions.

Below, we’ve broken down the 24-hour hackathon period using the Design Thinking process to help you structure your time (should you choose to do so) and succeed in SummerHack 2020!

Thursday, July 30th

9 AM – Empathize

At 9 am EDT, the Cookhouse Labs team will announce our IoT-based challenge and you will have 24 hours to create your solution!

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 target group. 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 11 am to 12 pm!

3 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, which will help you shape a better experience for the user.

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

  • A 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) statements, which are short questions that focus on specific problem areas from the Journey Map and identifies the benefits or gains the solution will bring. 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?”

2nd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 3 pm to 4 pm!

7 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
  • A chosen idea to begin prototyping!

3rd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 7 pm to 8 pm!

11 PM – 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:

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

4th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 11 pm to 12 am!

Friday, July 31st

3 AM – Test

Now that the solution has taken shape, it’s time to test and retest the idea with different users. The objective is to receive feedback on the content, design, and usability of the prototype and is usually done via surveys and interviews. It is important to remain open to feedback and fully engage with the potential end-user in order to understand their thoughts and improve your prototype. Note that if it is not possible to test with actual personas, you can either test within the team, with friends or connections you have in your network, your Mentor, or ask the Cookhouse Labs team if they have a chance to check out your solution.

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

  • A final MVP that is ready to be presented

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

7 AM – Wrap-Up

In 2 hours, you will submit your final solution!

At this time, you should begin to practice your presentation and prepare any materials required (such as PowerPoint slides). Remember, you will only have three minutes to pitch your solution to our panel of judges!

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

  • Submitted your solution on our platform, including a brief description and any additional materials
  • Prepared your presentation for our Live Pitch Event beginning at 9:30 am

6th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 6 am to 7 am!

To provide even further support, our Innovation Team has prepared a Design Thinking video series to walk you through each stage in more detail, which you will have access to before the event.

And remember – along the way, you will have support from your Mentor, an industry expert dedicated to providing your team with valuable knowledge and expertise.

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

We wish all our teams the best of luck for SummerHack 2020! We invite our community members to join the Live Pitch Event on Friday, July 31st at 9:30 am EDT to see the exciting solutions our teams of student and corporate innovations develop.

To receive an invite, please register here.