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! 

2020: A Year in Review

2020 a year in review

One year ago, we re-launched Cookhouse Labs in December, and what a great year it has been!  

Cookhouse Labs 2.0 introduced an Acceleration stage to our collaboration model, supporting both MVP and product development after the initial Ideation and Creation stages of a co-creation project. We’re delighted to say that Cookhouse Labs 2.0 was a major success this year, breaking traditional barriers to collaboration both locally and internationally! 

Here’s a look at some of the Labs’ incredible accomplishments since December 2019:

1. 500+ innovators joined our community this year — and generated nearly 200 ideas!

We were excited to meet innovators from all around the world in 2020! 

Innovators from all across geographies, ages, and cultures came together for our virtual events! They collaborated during co-creation sprints, ideathons and student projects, learned about various innovation methodologies in our Masterclasses, and dove deep into industry topics in sessions with seasoned experts. We were delighted to welcome innovators with diverse experiences and backgrounds including tech, venture capital, finance, law, marketing, HR, and student life!

2. Our Innovation Team hosted 10 global innovation Masterclasses

Our Masterclasses were informative, engaging, and full of high energy! 

Our participants spent time learning about various innovation methodologies from our Lead Innovation Coach, including Design Thinking, Google Sprint, and Lean Startup. Other attendees joined our Train the Trainer sessions to explore tools and communication styles they could use to facilitate their own innovation projects. In our Design Tools Masterclass, our Senior UX/UI Consultant walked participants through design theory and led them through exercises to build their own mobile app mockups. Some of our favorite app ideas included coffee orders, pet care, and late-night cookie delivery!

3. We brought together 200+ hackers from over 10 different countries

85+ participants celebrate the winning team at WinterHack 2020 — Team Munich Re! 

This year brought some of our biggest innovation events, including our 24-Hour Global SummerHack: IoT Disruption in Insurance and WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon. Our teams were full of innovators of all ages and backgrounds — including insurers, students, startups, and vendors — who were often continents apart! Similarly, our Events Teams pulled these events off with incredible coordination despite being in separate locations around the world, such as China, Germany, Canada, and Pakistan!

In these truly global events, our teams tackled a diverse range of challenges and pitched their solutions to a jury panel of accomplished innovation leaders. We were blown away by the ideas that were shared at these Final Pitch Events, solving key issues such as mitigating small business bankruptcy, overcoming loneliness in the elderly, helping customers understand their policies, fighting obesity, and creating IoT-based mobility insurance products. Our winners took home exciting prizes, including a Cookhouse Labs Membership, a Design Thinking session, and tickets to insureNXT|CGN, courtesy of InsurLab Germany!

4. We fostered incredible community spirit during these challenging times

Our Lead Innovation Coach, Ibeth Ramos, interviews two salon owners from Winnipeg, Canada in the session, ”Success Stories of Small Business Owners”. 

2020 was a difficult year for the owners of small businesses, who faced major sales declines and the possibility of permanent closures. In these challenging times, we brought the insurance industry together for the first-ever virtual Back to Business Summit in September, an idea that was generated through a co-creation sprint we ran earlier in the year. The event aimed to provide small business customers with free access to experts on key business topics through 19 live and on-demand sessions. Our experts shared helpful information for owners on topics such as low-budget marketing, financial assistance programs, finding alternate revenue streams, legal considerations towards employees, and understanding their insurance coverage.

This initiative was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, motivating us to bring the event back in October with additional free sessions for the small business community. These sessions continue to be available on our official event page, and we encourage you to explore and share these with any owners you know who may benefit from this free knowledge!

Reflecting on this past year at Cookhouse Labs, it has undoubtedly been a fascinating one full of new ideas, connections, and opportunities. As we raise a glass in celebration of these achievements, we want to take a moment to appreciate our global community of innovators. Thanks to your continued support and enthusiasm, we have achieved innovation across borders on a scale beyond our wildest dreams. You inspire us to dream bigger on our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter, and for this we are truly grateful!

Looking forward, we’re delighted to announce that our 2021 Events Calendar is now live, full of exciting Masterclasses, co-creation projects, and global innovation opportunities! As a token of our appreciation to the community, we’ve extended our 50% Virtual Discount on our Annual Memberships to December 31st, 2020, with Memberships starting at $250 CAD monthly. We invite you to check out our upcoming events and other perks of becoming a Cookhouse Labs Member — hurry, our 50% Virtual Discount ends in less than 3 weeks!

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 #MakeInsuranceBetter [Part 1]

Winterhack 2020 Runner-Up

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with WinterHack 2020 Runner-Up, Team Munich Re. I chatted with Abhishek Gupta, Calvin Choi, Joanna A., Salman Ghaffar, and Tommy Kim about the process of developing their innovative solution and invited them to reflect on their experience and success at the global ideathon.

Team Munich Re, congratulations on your big win! Before we begin, let’s start with a quick intro. What can you tell us about yourselves in 30 seconds?

Abhishek: I’m a Business Development Manager for IoT in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada. I focus on commercializing sensor and IoT technology here in Canada, which includes water, temp, and pipe sensors.

Calvin: I’m a Data Analyst within the Client Company Management Team at HSB Canada. My role involves assisting Client Company Managers with data to build compelling stories about why clients should work with us.

Joanna: I’m a Marketing Communications Specialist at HSB Canada with a focus on branding and digital marketing. It’s been a rewarding journey for me as a marketer, being part of a team that encourages intrapreneurship, and a company that’s innovative, technologically driven, forward thinking, and people focused.

Salman: I also work in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada as an IoT Operations Specialist. We bring solutions from the U.S. to implement in the Canadian market, and my responsibility is to ensure everything goes smoothly, from bringing in the solution hardware to installing it at client locations.

Tommy: I’m from Munich Re Company of Canada, which is a life, property, and casualty business. My current role is a Senior Actuarial Analyst from the Pricing team, and my day-to-day responsibilities include supporting the Reinsurance business with actuarial services.

Great, thank you for the introductions! We’d love to know, how did you come together and what inspired you to join WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: I was looking for an amazing and super talented team with lots of brainpower! I came across one of our champions from MRoC, Tommy Kim, who is great to work with. I found more talented people from our organization: Calvin, who is a new member of HSB Canada and was very excited about the ideathon; Salman, who is our IoT Specialist and is incredibly talented; and Joanna, who brought everything together from a marketing perspective.

Calvin: What motivated me was the space for people to come together to innovate in the insurance industry. If you think about it, the industry has always been resistant to innovation and change, so if there’s an opportunity to work with like-minded people on innovative ideas and solutions that can help develop the industry, I’m all for it.

Joanna: Abhishek was putting together a team to represent Munich Re at WinterHack 2020 and he reached out. The theme “Digital Ecosystems” was a huge driver for me to join the team. As a marketer, I’m always thinking of innovative and better ways to do business, so it was a good fit.

Salman: I’ve been a part of QHacks, which is hosted by Queens University, so I understood how hackathons work. Considering WinterHack 2020 was going to be held remotely, I was a little inquisitive as well about how it would go, and that motivated me to participate.

Tommy: What inspired me to join was the passion from my colleagues. It’s always difficult for an individual to get something done, but the synergy that Abhi brought into one team was definitely a great inspiration.

That’s awesome! Let’s dive further into the event: Which of the 4 challenges did you choose to tackle and how did you decide?

Abhishek: We chose the first challenge, which was to reduce isolation and loneliness for elderly people. It was quite a deliberation process — we spent about 60% of our workday just on choosing the challenge! We created a matrix with parameters and every single team member scored the challenges from 1 to 5 based on these parameters. We used a weighted average to select the challenge we were going to work on. We realized later on that everyone on our team is very empathetic, when we all understood pain points for the elderly and how our solution can really help them.

Tommy: I really love the fact that we were able to share our thoughts and visions for each challenge. It’s fantastic that Abhi proposed the matrix we used, because at the end, we were very objective in how we selected a challenge.

Could you describe your experience using Design Thinking to develop your solution?

Abhishek: Design Thinking is a different way of thinking when creating a product, and as a team, we understood how important it was. I’d say Calvin and Salman did an incredible job creating a customer journey map that detailed each point in the journey. Salman shared with us that his mother’s age is similar to our Persona, and his understanding of her experience really helped us.

Calvin: We really focused on being empathetic to what the customer journey would look like. On the other hand, we also focused on practicality and how the company could benefit from a product like ours. We made sure to empathize with both sides when designing this product.

Joanna: Design Thinking is the way to go. You simply can’t develop a solution without empathizing with your customer, and building on that is key. Design Thinking flows in that direction. It’s logical and efficient.

Salman: My mother is a single parent who is a similar age and I’ve seen her struggles and how she feels about technology at this age, and it was really helpful in drafting our journey map. We wanted to address those needs and bring the human touch to our solution, because at the end of the day, technology cannot replace the human touch.   

What do you believe contributed to your success at WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: The biggest factor behind our success was bringing together amazing people. Joanna brought her marketing perspective to create a credible product offering. Calvin and Salman had a streamlined approach to empathizing with the customer and creating the journey map. Tommy brought his actuarial skills, and he was very focused on the commercialization aspect and feasibility of our idea. It was all about bringing together the synergies of different talented people.

Calvin: We all tried to see things from each other’s point of view. We took the time to listen to and understand everyone’s ideas. I think that also contributed hugely to our success.

Salman: I agree completely — all the credit goes to the team. This is one of the best team experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone brought in their skillsets while remaining open-minded and respectful towards others’ ideas. If there was a difference in opinion, we used thoughtful discussions to sort through the pros and cons of each idea and to decide on the best way forward.

Tommy: What worked well was the synergy based on trust and open-mindedness. I also have to upsell the support we got from Cookhouse Labs: the templates guided us in the right direction on how to develop and present our solution in the end, so thank you!

How would you describe your overall WinterHack 2020 experience?

Abhishek: It’s been fabulous! Previously, we had an opportunity to participate in the SummerHack, which was again a wonderful experience. WinterHack, I would say, was a notch higher for us because when everyone came together, we fit like a glove. Even though we all came from different experiences and backgrounds, everyone was respectful and open-minded. I also have to say that the event was amazingly organized by Cookhouse Labs. You gave us all the design templates and guidance we needed, and I really want to thank the whole team for helping us along the way.

Calvin: It was a lot of fun for me, because we were on the same page and everyone was very encouraging. I would say, though, that at the end it got a little stressful, because we raced to get everything done on time. Cookhouse Labs did a great job making this a very seamless and smooth process, and even when we got to the Final Pitch Event, I had a great time listening to everyone’s pitches. I noticed some pitches applied cultural aspects from the region the team was in, and this international aspect was cool to see.

Salman: Spending two days together almost felt like a family! It was a wonderful experience, and we had a lot of fun. When signing up for WinterHack, I was curious about the entirely virtual experience and how it would be managed. Cookhouse Labs did an amazing job with sharing resources and guiding teams through all the steps, so thank you!

Tommy: Having judges with a lot of professional expertise and knowledge was great. Also, the event format was virtual, which was a nice experience to be part of. Before COVID-19, I would have never thought of being part of a virtual competition because I would have wanted to feel the synergy and energy within the same room and in-person. However, virtual collaboration was not a barrier for our team, which was a wonderful experience.

How do you think your solution and events like this help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

Abhishek: Using methodologies like Design Thinking promotes lateral thinking, and the time crunch fosters and accelerates the kind of thinking needed to create a viable product. At the end of the day, something we create here has the potential to become a real insurance product. We observed the judges’ interest and our organization’s enthusiasm for this idea, which means this idea could very soon become a real product offering.

Calvin: Insurance products, with respect to P&C or personal lines, are generally similar across the industry. How can companies set themselves apart from the rest? Usually, this is through value-adds that they can provide to policyholders. When companies want to compete for customers, they need to think of these creative value-adds to provide to policyholders. The product we came up with is a nice example of a value-add that a home or life insurer can provide, and this can set them apart from other insurers. This is what makes the difference between one company and another.

Joanna: Events like this open the floor for thinking outside the box and innovating, and when you combine innovation with Design Thinking and its focus on empathy, you make insurance better.

Salman: I’m a strong advocate for using technology to push the envelope further. What we see is that the insurance industry is late to adopt technological trends. An event like this helps to change this perception and helps companies in the ecosystem realize the importance of technology in improving their products for the end-user. Even further, it helps adopt these technological solutions and advance the industry as a whole.

Tommy: The perspective towards the insurance industry is that it is very reactive, not proactive. These events encourage the industry to become proactive and offering meaningful services to customers, which is progress.

Team Munich Re, thank you so much for sharing your insights with our readers and congratulations once again on your big win at WinterHack 2020. We wish you the best going forward and hope to see your solution come to life as a real product offering in the near 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!

Everything You Need to Know About WinterHack 2020

On November 3rd, we’re kicking off our first WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon

We’re excited to partner with InsurLab Germany and msg to bring innovators across the world this exciting insurance innovation event. Over the course of 2 days, our teams of insurers, startups, and students will race against the clock to develop impactful solutions to the challenges of “Digital Ecosystems in Insurance”! 

With less than a month to go, we’ve put together this blog to give you an overview of the event and answer a few frequently asked questions — so let’s get started! 

What is the event about? 

The insurance industry has already begun to experience the beginnings of digital disruption — but how can insurance organizations adopt digital ecosystems to accelerate this disruption and capture the most value quickly? 

At WinterHack 2020, we’re challenging teams to develop solutions around this theme, covering commercial and personal lines, health/life, and P&C insurance. Over the course of 2 days, our facilitators will guide you through the Ideathon process and will provide valuable information, templates, and support on how to apply the Design Thinking methodology to drive the best results for your solution. 

Who can get involved? 

Employees from re/insurance organizations, brokers, startups, vendors and students from all over the world!  

WinterHack 2020 teams will be formed by re/insurance organizations, brokers, and MGAs. During the matching process, corporate teams will invite startups, vendors, and student innovators to join their teams to provide ideas, expertise, and skills, such as UX/UI Design. Our Innovation Team is here to help facilitate this matching process!

What’s in it for me? 

Regardless of your role, WinterHack 2020 is the perfect opportunity to: 

  • Connect with global talent to exchange ideas and perspectives 
  • Network with insurers, startups, and vendors to form new business connections 
  • Learn about Design Thinking and experience how it can create real business value for you 
  • Gain access to the knowledge and expertise of our Certified Innovation Experts 
  • Engage in friendly competition as you conquer our 2-day Ideathon 
  • Blow our global panel of judges away as you pitch your idea to win the big prize

When is the event? 

The event kicks off at 9 AM on November 3rd, 2020 in 3 different time zones — Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central European Time (CET), and Singapore Time (SGT). Here’s the official schedule: 

  • Kickoff: Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 at 9 AM 
  • Ideathon Start: Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 at 10 AM 
  • End: Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 at 6 PM 
  • Final Pitch Event: Thursday, November 5th, 2020 at 9 AM EST  
    (Sign up to attend here!) 

That means on November 3rd and 4th, our Innovation Team will be running the Ideathon from 9 AM – 6 PM and providing guidance during these hours. On November 5th, we will host a combined Final Pitch Event from 9 AM to 12 PM EST, where all our teams will pitch their solutions to our esteemed panel of judges and global audience.  

What do I have to create? 

Our Innovation Team will announce the challenges during the kickoff event, after which teams will have 2 days to develop their solutions using the Design Thinking methodology. By the end of the event, teams must present an innovative Minimum Viable Product (MVP) based on their chosen challenge. A team can choose their preferred presentation method including, but not limited to a concept, design, blueprint, prototype, product, application, software, hardware, etc. 

At the end of the Ideathon, each team will submit a pre-recorded video of their final presentation along with their submission portfolio. Teams will be present for live Q&A event, where judges have a chance to ask final questions about each solution before announcing the winners. 

How can I prepare for the ideathon? 

You will receive prep material around the Design Thinking methodology. This will include a guide on how to structure your time based on the 5 stages in the methodology. We will also share Design Thinking Masterclasses, hosted by our Innovation Experts, to walk you through the methodology beforehand. When you join our Slack community, our team will share helpful resources daily about the methodology as well as the theme to help you prepare for WinterHack 2020. 

Don’t worry — we’re here for you during the event, too! Our Innovation Team will host live workshops on each stage, followed by a Q&A session to answer any specific questions you may have. 

Interested? Check out our official event platform for more information and to register your team! 

Got questions? Reach out to our Community Manager, Insiya Meherally, at insiya.meherally.ext@msg-global.com — she’s always happy to help! 

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!