Member Stories: Meet Tommy from Munich Re

Member Stories Tommy Kim

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the first part of our Member Stories series, meet Tommy Kim, Senior Actuarial Analyst at Munich Re Company of Canada. Tommy is an active member of our global community and is a two-time winner of our Design Thinking ideathons in 2020!

Read about Tommy’s unique experience below!

Tommy, thank you for joining us today! We’d love to know how your journey began; what was the first Cookhouse Labs event that you attended?

That’s a great question! In early 2019, our Senior Executive members asked for volunteers to participate in a Design Thinking training. Even though I saw myself as a non-ordinary individual (I personally enjoy my thinking time, too), I wanted to be more structured. I thought, “How can I improve my thinking process?” Everyone has ideas, but there has to be a way for us to narrow down these ideas so that we can get close to executing them. That was my first session at Cookhouse Labs and I really enjoyed it. Not only did I enjoy working with the experts at Cookhouse Labs, but I also enjoyed working with representatives from other insurance organizations, who were awesome too. We were all there for one single reason — to make insurance better — and we just wanted to tailor it better by leveraging the Design Thinking process.

Thank you for sharing that! On the topic of collaboration, I imagine you’ve worked with many teams at the Lab since 2019. What was your best team experience?

I’m going to answer your question by saying that working with Ibeth (the Lead Innovation Coach) was the best team ever, and I guess that would be every session I’ve ever attended. The reason is that I am an introverted person, which means there are a lot of thoughts going around in my head. Introverts need a comfort zone to be more open to collaboration and for their ideas to be rolled out. I think building that trust is the most difficult part. Ibeth encouraged everyone to open up by making everyone laugh and sharing her life story. It helped everyone engage, and that was the most important component of my experience with Cookhouse Labs.  

What is your favorite memory from this past year of collaborating with us?

All the components were great, but it is really tough to pick just one. In my first hackathon (SummerHack 2020), I participated as a mentor and the 24-hour journey was awesome. But working with the folks at HSB Canada as a collaborative WinterHack 2020 team was awesome and one of my favorite memories, too. Of course, any help from you, Ibeth, and Sven is great. Not just the idea aspect of it, but also the content and patience. I can tell, from one human to another, that the team really does want to make insurance better and doesn’t treat it as “work”. All of these are my favorite memories from Cookhouse Labs.

That’s wonderful to hear, Tommy! Speaking of winning the ideathons, what have you been able to achieve since you started attending Cookhouse Labs innovation events? In other words, how has it helped you?

It might sound weird to say that, even though I have participated in the ideathons, I think the word “achievement” does not fit me. This is just me learning and going to different sessions. Maybe it’s just not the best timing for me to answer this question, because I think there is more to learn from Cookhouse Labs’ sessions and events. One day, if I actually contribute to making insurance better, only then will I be able to say that I achieved this. Right now, it’s too early for me to say anything!

Final question: Would you recommend Cookhouse Labs’ events to others, and if yes, which events would you recommend?

I would definitely recommend Cookhouse Labs training sessions, but if I had to pick one out of the many great trainings, I would pick Design Thinking. This is not only a matter of innovation itself; it can be applied to any sort of work and even your thinking process in your daily life, too. I thought about how you could make the best out of it. No one wants to make a mistake, right? Even when we get groceries, we do a price check and see where it’s from. There is caution with that thinking process, but there is no harm in learning an even better approach to apply to real life. So, I would definitely recommend the Design Thinking trainings.

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

The Human Side of Innovation

The Human side

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

— Steve Jobs

Innovation is a word that has been used over and over in the last years. Everyone wants to be innovative; everyone wants to launch an innovative solution, and everyone wants innovation all around. The interesting part about these wants is that most people expecting innovation expect it fast, easy and comfortable, when really it requires patience, patience and patience! Innovation requires patience to move through the interviews and research phase; patience to embrace the failings during testing phases and learning how to accept feedback; and patience to step out of the comfort zone.

I have spoken to many people who visit our innovation lab and many mention the disappointment they have experienced when it comes to innovation, the frustration with the design methodologies and working with teams, and the pain of seeing ideas change over and over through testing phases. Yes! Not so pleasant descriptions. And these descriptions come from top down. It is no coincidence they first questions they ask are, “Can you help us get to an innovative place and help us understand what we are doing wrong?” and “Can you help our team understand why we are not coming up with innovative ideas?”.

Of course we can!

What is innovation about?

What does innovation mean to you? The most popular answers are new, fun, useful, building from something old and make it new. No matter which way we look at them, all the above require a set of fundamental steps like:

  • Research (to understand the problem and what already exists)
  • Listen with human-centric mindset (to understand the need)
  • Test (to understand usefulness) and
  • Remain open to change (to either create something new or shift on something that already exists)

In a nutshell, innovation is about being open to change based on research, testing, etc. And let’s be honest, that word “change” is not something that people are always excited to do, especially when there is uncertainty, which you know exists when working in innovation. Being open leads to accepting the fact that to create this amazing product, service, or idea, one must be prepared to change rapidly and often. And experiencing change leads, in most cases and at some point, to hitting a wall of (as most people relate to innovation) frustration and pain. But why the frustration and pain? And why, many times, giving up? Well, because we forget about the most important element in innovation. YOU!

What is the most forgotten and overlooked element in innovation?

The most forgotten element in the journey of creativity and creating something new is the HUMAN and all that comes with it. Let’s break it down:  we know that to be able to create something ground-breaking, we have to be open to uncertainty and change. We already know that for most of us humans, those words most often lead to fear. Then how can we expect to create anything revolutionary when we forget the human side of innovation? That involves you, the team member and/or you, the team leader and/or you, the decision maker. No matter what your role is in an innovative journey, you must be aware of your human side, which includes mindset, attitude, behaviors, and patterns. In summary, it asks that we remember that we are human and, based on our day and how we are feeling in the moment when we are working on our solutions, innovation and creativity will be impacted. Therefore, it is vital to remember this important fact – the human side.

How can one unlock and embrace the human side of innovation? Empathy and Courage

Empathy! Not only is it important to have empathy for customers when using creative methodologies, it is also vital to practice empathy with your team members and yourself. Empathy will organically create a safe place for creativity to show up and live.

Courage! Have the courage to trust the process; time and time again, we hear stories of creative minds solving problems and creating pioneering solutions. These creations happen when the team trust a process that is proven, even though the path to the answer is not clear, and when the team move past fear and doubt and into an uncomfortable place of trust.

In summary …

Accept that sometimes you and/or your team will have bad days, not because of the project or because of the team, but because you or one of the team members may be going through a challenging time on a personal level, or perhaps there are limiting beliefs that are blocking the flow of creativity. Perhaps it is the first time you allow yourself to trust a new process. Regardless of the reason why – the answer is patience.

 “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” 

— Arnold Bennett

Want more insights from our Lead Innovation Coach?

Join our upcoming free 1-hour Introduction to Design Thinking session, where Coach Ibeth will walk you through the first 2 key steps to get you moving to an innovative idea. Check out this session and other global opportunities on our 2021 Events Calendar here!

Startup Bites: Meet The Young Chefs (Part 4)

Startup bites: AskBrian

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

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Pavol Sikula, Founder and CEO of AskBrian. Check out the full interview below!

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Welcome to our first interview of 2021! Pavol, we met recently through a mutual contact and found your new venture very interesting. Before we begin, tell us about yourself, your startup, and how you came up with the name AskBrian!

I’ve been in top management consulting in Munich, Germany for 15 years. My founding story is related to management consulting, where I saw some annoying recurring tasks that were a waste of talent and time. As technology became better and better, I started to automate many tasks in management consulting, but many of them are relevant to businesspeople in general.

Brian is a digital assistant for businesspeople, especially management consultants, who performs tasks 24/7. We called him Brian because it’s short, it’s easily recognizable because of the movie Life of Brian, it includes the letters used in AI, and it rhymes with “Brian the Brain”, which is what we call him internally.

Behind every story of a startup, there is a moment when someone says, “Okay, I’m going to quit my job, leave my life behind, and I’m going to start my own journey”. When was this moment for you?

One evening in 2017, some colleagues and I had to translate slides for a proposal we were working on. It was already late, and nobody had time or fun translating documents. This was the moment when I realized that AI translation has become so good that there must be a way to integrate the state-of-the-art translation service and enable full document translation. The technology was out there and all we had to do was make it accessible. We chose to do this via natural language, where Brian uses human communication channels (like email) to perform tasks. This evening and this journey have driven my path in the last three years.

For the first two years, I worked on Brian in parallel to my regular job, thanks to the support of Stern Stewart & Co. where I participated in their startup program. But I realized working at nights and on weekends is not enough if you really want to become successful. In January 2020, I left my amazing job in consultancy to follow this dream because I kept thinking, “I have to do it, I can’t think about anything else”. It has started to pay out in the form of impressed users of Brian!

What challenges did you face while growing your business?

As I started to experiment the backbone technology, there were basic challenges such as how to get the Chrome browser on a notebook, which was not allowed for data protection reasons. There have been technical challenges, such as finding a way to make multiple data sources and digital services available via human language. We wondered if it was possible for a machine to understand what a user wants and to deliver presentations and to adjust documents.

We don’t only have technical challenges: the biggest one is managing human expectations. What is real? What is fake? Sometimes people think that Brian is a program that can answer any question and complete any task, but that’s not the case. We are managing expectations, making them real, and showing what the technology can do.

Along with challenges come highlights, so what are some moments that really stood out to you? What was the moment when you thought you made the right decision to launch AskBrian?

One highlight I celebrated hugely was when Brian translated his first PowerPoint presentation without mistakes. This was on a Wednesday at 1 o’clock in the morning. After many months, we finally did it and I was so happy that I drank champagne at breakfast!

Another moment came at the end of 2019. I googled “AI Forbes” and wrote to the first author to ask if they would write about us, and it worked out! They wrote a case study about AskBrian and it was cool to have reached a point where Forbes would write about us.

One more highlight was in May 2020, where despite COVID-19 we managed to close our first financing round. Even though DAX was down by 40% at the time we asked our angels to invest, I think it was one of our biggest achievements. To achieve that, we showed really positive traction in the usage of our service.

It looks like your company is doing well and you’re making great progress in your journey! Where do you see your business in 2-3 years? What’s your vision?

Of course, we want to impress our users! I hope hundreds of thousands of users will use Brian’s services, and that we will teach Brian cool new skills to perform. I hope he will be capable of tasks we cannot even imagine today. I’m very excited to see what Brian will be capable of in 3 years, because we always take state-of-the-art technology and build it into Brian. In 2025, we want to have one million users. It’s an ambitious target, but we believe we can do it!

Starting a new venture is all about partnerships, so we’d love to know about your experience with collaborating with larger organizations!

Our current target market is consultants, from one-man shops up to the Big 4 with 250,000 employees approximately. What we see is that there is no real correlation in the speed of processing in these organizations. Sometimes, consultancies with 20 people are as difficult to approach as a Big 4 company. This is in the area of consultancy, where the companies by nature are entrepreneurial, dynamic, and open for innovation, because they must deliver what they teach their clients. In the area of corporates, it’s kind of difficult to get through to the purchasing department and to get all the approvals you need. Therefore, we prefer to start with in-house consultancies and bring them on as friends and supporters. Then, we get into corporates through this channel and become available for employees in large corporations. We have to get 2.5% of the early adopters, and from there on, I believe we will succeed step-by-step in convincing more and more companies to work with us.

Moving to the insurance market, how can Brian benefit insurers?

Where we see potential is in the area of Claims Management, which is an area that requires high capacity, high intensity of human work, and costs a lot of human time and resources. In the area of document handling, Brian can help with translation and conversion of documents or reports from different languages into your targeted language using PDF or other formats. Brian can significantly accelerate the process, reduce the cost, and improve the quality of the assessment of claims of individual companies.

As a startup from outside the insurance industry, how can collaborating with organizations or ecosystems like Cookhouse Labs bring value to your journey?

What I find amazing about your Lab is that you are a platform where innovators from the industry meet young and wild companies with crazy ideas. It’s a great place for innovators to meet the market and the market can meet the newest ideas, and I believe that both parties can benefit a lot.

For a startup, it is quite difficult to find the innovators within companies. People working with innovation labs like Cookhouse Labs are people who want to find ideas, further develop, learn and get inspired, and want to get things done. You meet people who are searching for new ideas and that’s why I find it so interesting to work with you!

Final question: What advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?

I find a lot of people have great ideas, but I think 95% of them don’t move forward with their ideas. My recommendation would be this: if you are crazy about an idea, if the idea doesn’t let you sleep, then just do it! Beware that it is extremely hard to progress, but if you are crazy about an idea, then just do it. It is connected with certain risks, especially if you have been in your profession for multiple years or you have a lot to lose financially. However, the learning will be extremely rewarding and will turn into something. So, if you are crazy about an idea, then just start working on it!

That’s valuable advice, Pavol! Thank you for sharing some great insights about AskBrian. We’ll definitely stay connected to you and your journey and definitely celebrate your first million users with a bottle of champagne!

Want to learn more about how you can leverage Brian’s 24 skills in the New Year?

Join our upcoming free webinar “Food for Thought: AI-Powered Brian Rocks Consulting. What About Insurance?” on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. In the webinar, Pavol will share more details about Brian’s relevance to the insurance industry, with a deep dive into claims management.

Click here to secure your spot!

The Most Innovative Gifts of 2020

Most Innovative Gifts 2020

‘Tis the season for gift-giving, and as we approach the deadline for shipping, we thought we’d share some of the best gifts that made our list.

To help you with your holiday shopping, we’ve created a list of 5 innovative gifts to send your loved ones this season. All of these gifts are available online, making them safe and easy to deliver to your friends and family members.

So go ahead — end the year on a festive note with our top gift picks!

1. Must-Have WFH Technology

In March, organizations around the world shifted to virtual workspaces, creating a shortage of basic work-from-home (WFH) technology. It’s not too late to send the busy professionals in your life the newest versions of necessary WFH tech to improve their virtual game, such as a Video Conference Lighting Kit or a Smart Wi-Fi Router for Wi-Fi dead spots around the house. Even further, many of us have struggled with discomfort from poor posture in the home office. Why not send your giftee an innovative Massage Roller to relax those tense muscles this holiday season?

2. Virtual Travelling Experience (VR Tourism)

Gift your favorite traveler their own VR Headset to complement a virtual travelling experience! Whether they choose to take a breathtaking helicopter ride over tourist spots around the world or visit NASA research facilities across the U.S., you can rest assured that you will have given them the gift of travel in the safest way possible this year.

3. A Gift Card from Your Favorite Small Business

Earlier this year, we ran a 6-month project to support heavily impacted community businesses during these challenging times. We invite you to play your part by sending your loved ones a gift card or purchase a gift online from your favorite local business. Some cool ideas from independent businesses include customized self-care kits, handcrafted home décor and clothing, and virtual group classes for activities such as painting, yoga, and cooking.

4. Phone Screen Magnifier

This special gift will double the size of your phone screen while maintaining the HD quality, making it the perfect gift for anyone with a smartphone. Give your loved ones a break from focusing on tiny pixels — they’ll love you for it!

5. Silk Pillowcases

Recent developments in the industry have led to pillowcases with cooling capabilities that prevent bedhead and reduce damage to skin. This holiday season, give your friends and family the gift of luxurious sleep with must-have silk pillowcases!

We hope our list has helped you create your own holiday list. From all of us at Cookhouse Labs, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful and safe holiday this year — and we can’t wait to see you in the New Year!

Wondering what we have planned for 2021? Our Events Calendar is live and full of innovative projects, Masterclasses, and global events. Check it out here!

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!

Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs (Part 3)

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

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Paul Greenhalgh, Director of The Americas at EasySend. Check out the full interview below!

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Hi Paul, it’s great to see you! We met EasySend through some innovation activities in Israel, and what EasySend can provide to the insurance industry is very exciting. We’re happy to get more insight into the startup and the story behind it, so tell us about yourself and about EasySend!

I’ve been in the insurance industry for about 9 years and spent 4 years working at SAP. I also spent a couple of years in the payment processing space at One Inc., a year at Good Technology (which became Blackberry), and a year at iPipeline, which is an eForms firm and is now owned by Roper Technologies, an SAP company — so it’s all come full circle!

EasySend is the no-code, full-front office onboarding and claims settlement solution for insurance that was needed years ago, and now it exists. We’re now taking things that used to take days or weeks and doing them in minutes and hours with digitization of forms and all office activities across the board.

Thank you for sharing that! About EasySend — it was clearly born out of a process that was very time-consuming and not-so-easy, but what was the idea behind it and what motivated you to launch it?

EasySend was founded 4 years ago by two brothers, Omer and Eran Shirazi, and Tal Daskal, and all three Co-Founders are still with the company. They served in the Israeli military, and when they got out, they had this great idea. They put it down on paper for one customer originally and bootstrapped the company for over 2 years before we took any investments. We took on a $5 million USD investment at the end of 2018 from Vortex Ventures, who previously invested in the Waze app. Over the past few weeks, we have now secured $11 million USD in funding from Hanaco and Intel Capital.

That’s really great news, especially in these challenging times. When we think about growing the company, let’s talk about how big the company is, where you currently do business, and what challenges EasySend overcame along the way.

The biggest challenge we had was making a footprint in the market. We had sold to all of the major insurance companies and banks in Israel, so we launched in Europe nearly 2 years ago, and the U.S., Canada, and South America last year. Getting those initial customers is definitely a challenge, especially the ones that are well-known. I reached out to my contacts at Tier 1 and 2 insurance companies, brokerages, and agencies, and really focused on bigger names. They are not the easiest to sign, but we managed to sign some of them. Having references and case studies has made it easier for people to know who we are and what we do.

Could you give us an example of how EasySend helped streamline an insurance company’s processes?

You may have heard that the pet insurance industry is really growing. All the major Tier 1 and 2 firms are looking into it and some have already launched offerings, including groups like Nationwide. We went in and signed the #1 provider in pet insurance, called Petplan. They are now settling 30,000 to 40,000 claims per month with EasySend, and have cut their cost of settling claims by 15 to 20% by taking what was originally a manual process and going fully digital with our claims settlement solution.

And what about an example outside the insurance industry?

We’ve also signed up PSCU, a large facilitator in St. Petersburg that represents 1500 credit unions around the United States. They are also using EasySend for onboarding.

What would you say is the unique selling point in your solution?

Particularly with what’s going on in the world today, folks need to find processes and technologies that enable them to do things without having to physically meet people. Now, you can complete a full process, such as onboarding, cross-selling life insurance to existing P&C customers, settling claims in pet insurance, or reporting first notice of loss within auto insurance. Interestingly enough, we are now breaking into the e-signature marketing, and we’ve actually displaced DocuSign in a couple of accounts. We’re definitely being seen as a direct competitor of DocuSign and Adobe. This opens a whole new market for us — we do it faster, cheaper, and more nimbly with the insurance, finance, banking, and credit union expertise.

I’ve seen your solution in action, and it is definitely very easy to use and implement!

What we’re providing is essentially a TurboTax and Amazon-like experience for insurance, where we’re creating digital documents (as one carrier called them) and creating a full digital process for people to fill out documents on their own, either with a co-browsing session with an agent or own their own as a self-service function. It automatically populates the PDF, provides a signature, and it becomes a legally bound document that both the customer and brokerage or agency get a copy of. The carrier, agency, or broker retains the digital auto trail, signatures, and time stamps.

With the next funding just recently secured, it sounds like you’re growing quickly now. Where do you see EasySend in the next 2 or 3 years?

I think we can reasonably grow revenue by 3 to 5 times. We’d like to see the 40 to 50 client mark in the U.S., Canada, and South America within the next few years. That represents the growth and exposure that makes us attractive for Series B, which I’m sure is down the road.

When we talk to startups, we often hear about challenges arising in partnerships between the insurance organization and the agile, lean startup. How do you see this collaboration and what advice would you offer startups trying to enter this market?

A lot of the older insurance companies have employees that have been with them for 30 to 40 years. They do things a certain way, operate in silos, and use legacy systems. The agile and lean way of thinking is something that takes getting used to, but in our generation, it’s something we know and practice. Going from the waterfall to agile philosophy in terms of project management and doing things in general has created a lot of opportunities in insurance that they may not have thought was possible. We always start with the folks that are in Innovation and Digital Strategies, because they are usually involved in some level, in addition to IT.

Last question — where do you see the industry headed in the next 5 years, especially with the recent COVID-19 impact?

I see digital transformation continuing to evolve. Providing an offering that can encompass as many things as possible on the front end is really important. From an onboarding perspective, we do everything we can, from grabbing onto the initial requirements all the way to the e-signature and facilitating payment. We recently signed a partnership with Stripe, and we can work with any payment processor because as a facilitator, we don’t process payments. Underwriting is also becoming more automatic through algorithms for certain types of policies, so we can certainly get involved with that.

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your insights about EasySend! It was great to hear your story and about what you’re providing. Congratulations on the recent investment, and we wish you all the best going forward!

Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs (Part 2)

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

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Laura McKay, Co-Founder of PolicyMe. Read the full interview below! 

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Hi Laura, thank you for joining us today! Our audience would love to hear a little bit about yourself, your history, and in a nutshell, an overview about your startup and when you found it. 

I started my journey in life insurance back at the University of Waterloo, where I studied Actuarial Science, but instead I went into Management Consulting. After school, I joined Oliver Wyman, which is a management consulting firm, to work on strategic initiatives, operational efficiency initiatives, and even regulatory initiatives. It went well; I spent a lot of my time with insurance companies, exploring the strategy side. I noticed there was progress being made in the insurance space, but it was very, very slow.  

At Oliver Wyman, I met my Co-Founder, Andrew Ostro, and we decided to take a stab at this problem ourselves. Life insurance is archaic in the way that we distribute products, how long it takes to get an approval, and the settlements of a life insurance policy. There is probably a quicker, more efficient way to serve customers, and that was how we decided to start PolicyMe. We started in March of 2018, just the two of us with our jobs, and immediately came into contact with Cookhouse Labs. You were very supportive of us in those early days, helping us with office space, making an introduction to various Canadian life insurance companies, and helping us brainstorm the future of this company. We were able to do a soft launch in September of 2018 and a more formal launch by the end of the year, and have really seen a lot of traction since then.  

It feels like not long ago, and now you’re already two years into the market. I was an entrepreneur a long time ago and I know there are quite a few sleepless nights before really making a final decision. What motivated you to quit your job and go ahead with PolicyMe?  

We started talking about the idea non-stop in December, working on it on the side. At some point, I realized that I needed to either pursue this full-time, or I needed to let it go. I am very passionate about the idea, but there was no way I could pull this off while having a separate career at Oliver Wyman. We looked at the Canadian market and didn’t see a ton of competition or innovation in this market specifically, and it just felt like the perfect place to start a company. I had a lot of support from mentors and even colleagues at Oliver Wyman, and that was the final bit of encouragement that I needed to take this on.  

 So now, a little over 2 years later, what are the biggest challenges that you faced while growing your business?  

We initially set up the business as a brokerage, which was by far the quickest way to launch the company and allowed us to get started and sell life insurance policies. What that meant is that we relied on insurance companies to help with the customer’s journey, because right now we work with insurance companies to get our applicants underwritten through them. We rely on their processes to get to an approval, and we’re held to their constraints around what applications and processes they’d like to use. What surprised us was how few enabled a smooth seamless journey starting with, believe it or not, e-signatures. In an era of COVID, it’s crazy that you wouldn’t be able to have that. In 2018, I remember calling every Canadian life insurance company that I could possibly contract with as a life insurance advisor and it was slim pickings to find insurance companies that would allow something as simple as e-signatures. Other processes and improvements like non-face-to-face sales had a lot of constraints around them, such as requiring clients to verify their IDs by sending a copy via mail.  

It took a while to get down to a list of partners who we thought would meet our demands of the online digital application process that we really wanted for our clients, but it was worth it. Since then, we’ve become pretty good partners with all these insurance companies, and they have been interested in our journey. They keep close connections with us and, in some cases, even make exceptions for us as a digital company, knowing that our clients aren’t the typical clients that are meeting their advisor face-to-face. 

As you mentioned, we met at Cookhouse Labs a little over 2 years ago and I remember it well. How did the collaboration between Cookhouse Labs and PolicyMe add value to your business? 

First and foremost, it was an entryway into meeting a lot of parties within the Canadian insurance industry. We were introduced to senior leaders at MGAs and other insurance companies. We also got to participate in some interesting workshops with people that we deal with every day, like a workshop with underwriters to talk about the future of underwriting. It was interesting to get their point of view on how far we could push the envelope, where some of the constraints are, and why those constraints exist. It was very beneficial for us early on to have those sounding boards for some of our ideas to tell us how feasible they would be! 

I’m glad we could contribute to your business, which seems to be very successful right now! If we look back on your journey, what highlights and moments of success stand out to you? Do you have moments where you say “Wow!” — where you immediately wanted to go and open a bottle of champagne? 
 
There’s so many to recount! I think the first highlight was the day we launched. We sold our first policy seamlessly without having to talk to someone; they filled out all the information online and got through it. I remember we were at Cookhouse Labs and my husband came by with a champagne bottle. It was just one policy, but it proved to us that everything functioned well on the first day that we launched, which was great. 

Since then, there’s been a tremendous number of wins. At this point, we have 190 5-star reviews, but even hitting that hundredth 5-star review was so exciting. It just shocked me that strangers felt so fondly about their experience working with us that they were willing to take a few moments to write us a review. And finally, when in January of this year we raised our seed-round, because sales is a lot of work, certainly a lot of work for my Co-Founder Andrew. It just proved to us that there was interest in this space and that there were a lot of opportunities to work with investors in the future. 

Speaking of the future, where do you see your business in the next 2-3 years? 

We are very focused on growing our presence in the Canadian market. We are in the process of doubling down on branding and becoming a household name for life insurance in the Canadian market. Another focus is products — we really want to take control of the end-to-end customer journey.  We’re trying to get accelerated underwriting experiences for our customers so that, if they qualify, they don’t need to go through an excessive wait time and then an underwriting cycle. I would love to get to a place where we can give decisions after they answer a few eligibility questions. After that, we’ll focus on launching new products that our customers ask about all the time, such as critical illness. We’re excited to expand the number of products that we can offer our clients! 

Exciting time ahead of you! You mentioned your business currently involves collaborating with insurance companies. On a personal level, how has your experience been with this collaboration? 

 To be honest, it depends on the insurance company. One thing that I’ve always struggled with in the life insurance space is just how many people are involved in getting an application from ‘created’ to ‘settled’. We’re pretty convinced an application goes through around 16 different pairs of hands before it gets approved. And I’m talking about a very healthy individual — it takes that many pairs of hands. If you think about it that way, we’re dealing with improving the process with 16 different people. That’s been our biggest challenge in working with insurance companies: they’ve become very solid in terms of how they work and how they structure themselves. There’s no one overseeing the end-to-end customer journey to see if there’s improvements that can be made along the whole process. As we come in and suggest changes, there are a lot of different people that we need to get buy-in from to make a single change.  

I think that that should be one of the biggest goals of this industry in the future. Do there need to be 16 different pairs of hands to approve and settle the application of a 30-year-old buying a $500,000 term life insurance policy? Is there a way we can really streamline that process for them? Because every time you introduce a new pair of hands, that hand-off can take 2-3 days. If you have 16 transition points, 2-3 days quickly turns into a very long time to settle this. So, if a customer could skip through those processes, it would be helpful to them. 

There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement in the insurance industry. Based on your experience, where do you think the industry is headed in the next 5 years? 

There’s a good amount of focus on underwriting recently, probably prompted by the current pandemic and the limitations we had for several months. I think that was the fire that we all needed to rethink whether all these requirements are necessary and whether there’s a way that we could get comfortable with a little less information from the applicant. Looking at other markets, especially the U.S. market, they have been able to get more comfortable with accelerated underwriting than what we’ve seen in the Canadian market. I think it’s time we push the envelope to see if there’s a way we can get there.  

I think another direction is to get a focus lens on the process, versus just the broker focus lens. You can even see the way some of the health questions are asked — they’re very confusing and probably written by a legal and compliance team. I think it’s worthwhile to look at the customer journey from a consumer perspective. A move to digital brokerages and digital channels is inevitable and we’ve seen it happen in every other financial services vertical. It’s typically how millennials like to do business; they’re focused on self-service. If it’s not a priority for insurance companies today, it really should be. Focusing on good customer experience could lead to their market share going up quite a bit. 

Customer experience is key, and we do our part by using a human-centric approach at Cookhouse Labs. We’re starting to see improvement and there’s definitely a lot more work that needs to be done, but we’re very happy to have organizations like PolicyMe supporting the Canadian industry and achieving this goal! Laura, thank you very much for sharing insights on your organization with us today. We wish you all the best! 

Thank you, it’s great that we’ve stayed connected even though we’ve moved out of the Lab space. It’s been just wonderful to continue to participate in your events! 
 

Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs (Part 1)

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

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Trevor Gary, Founder of Micruity. Read the full interview below!

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Trevor, thank you for joining us today! It’s been a while since we meet at Cookhouse Labs. You had reached out to us because you were thinking about quitting your job and starting your own business. We said, ‘Let’s see what how we can support you,’ and here you are a couple years later, running a successful company! We’re very interested in hearing more about your business, so let’s start with a quick introduction about yourself and your startup.

Thank you for having me! I remember that very, very clearly — it’s ingrained in my brain.

About me; I worked at Deloitte before I started Micruity. Myself, I’m an active person. I love snowboarding and running. I’m a big fan of manga and Japanese animation and I have 2 sisters that are my good friends.

About Micruity; At Micruity’s core, it’s a data-clearing house that can easily be easily spun up on different environments, different cloud platforms. It can take information in several different forms and standards. Currently, we focus on the U.S. 401K market — that’s a $6 trillion market — and on enabling lifetime income products to exists in that market, so annuities. We connect the key three stakeholders that would be associated with that transaction: a life insurer, a fund manager and a 401K record-keeper. We enable them to communicate regardless of their standard and form. A life-insurer may want to communicate via an API, and a record-keeper may want to communicate using the ACORD standard through an SFTP connection. These two can still communicate with each other because Micruity is sitting in the middle, translating the information and sending and receiving it in whichever form a stakeholder wants it to. We are essentially their data conduit.

Behind every great idea is a moment where you say, “Okay, I’m going to do it, I’m going to start my own business”. What was that moment for you and how did you come up with the idea?

I came up with the idea while I was still at Deloitte. I saw that we were closing pension plans, so individuals no longer had access to that lifetime income which was provided by their past-employer. Huge companies were closing these plans because they were worried about people outliving their projections and the companies being on the hook for that liability, but what they were doing was transferring that risk over to unsophisticated investors. I also saw that, while we were closing these pension plans, we were able to sell that liability to life insurers who had a big appetite for that group annuity type business, and we’re talking billions of dollars in transactions. I thought, “Okay, we need to somehow fill this gap and to make lifetime income more accessible to the mid-market individual, and Micruity is the way to do it”.

Back then, I didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but I thought we somehow need to enable these transactions to happen much more seamlessly. The purchase of annuities needs to be much easier. And so, the eureka moment was really associated with Cookhouse Labs. I reached out and you responded. You said, “Yeah, come on in, let’s talk about it”. I remember clear as day the conversation, and Cookhouse Labs was really supportive. You told me that if I chose to leave Deloitte and start Micruity, you would help me out with office space and get it up and running. And so, I did and that big moment was December 2017. I’m actually quite attached to Cookhouse Labs!

That’s great to hear! It’s been a while since December 2017, so tell us, what challenges did you face growing Micruity?

The biggest challenge is when startups enter a market, they’re creating a new solution to an existing problem and saying, “I can do this better than you’re doing it today”. Micruity is a bit different because annuities don’t really exist in defined contribution plans. It’s an idea, it’s been out there, but people haven’t figured how to do it. And so, the difficulty of that is the problem statement is not as tangible to many investors. We when we come to market, when we go to raise capital, we must find very strategic investors that really understand what we’re doing. In the traditional 1 minute, 2 minute, 5 minute pitch context, we don’t have much of a chance because there really is a deep background story that needs to be understood to explain how massive of an opportunity putting annuities into 401K plans really is. I would say that has been the biggest challenge for us, on the communication side. One of the largest obstacles we face is how do we communicate the value proposition of Micruity when it comes to raising money to build a capital-intensive infrastructure that the Micruity platform is.

It sounds like a solid challenge you have to overcome there, but it also sounds like you’re making a big impact. So you’re all working in the U.S. right now, only, not in Canada?

Only the U.S. right now, however we are still a Canadian firm. We own our U.S. subsidiary, but our tech development is in Toronto and will continue to stay there.

Are you planning at any time to provide the same service in Canada?

We are. For us, it would be really easy to just change the data storage to Canada and then we have the Micruity platform become a full Canadian version in its own environment. What we’re still trying to figure out is where Micruity will fit in the Canadian market. We know BlackRock has a new product with a lifetime income component that they have presented to Canadian defined contribution plan sponsors; is there a similar opportunity to do what we’re doing in Canada in the defined contribution plan space, or is the opportunity in Canada more on the retail side? Is the opportunity to create that infrastructure to make annuities more accessible on your mobile/local advisor platforms? This is just to get an easier way to start building a lifetime income over time, rather than a hundred thousand dollar annuity when you retire, which is not accessible to all your mid-market individuals.

Along your journey, I know you spent quite some time in the Lab with us. How did collaborating with Cookhouse Labs add value to your journey?

You ran a sprint towards the end of 2017 that involved collaborating with some insurance companies and consultants. The reason I was gung-ho to be a part of it was, as an entrepreneur, I’m so close to the problem. I live with the problem, I’m married to it, it sleeps with me every night. My solution would be narrowly focused.

What the Cookhouse Labs sprint enabled for us was this: let’s just create a 10,000-foot problem statement and then work with a group to see what solution we come up with. If that solution resembles at all what we’re doing at Micruity, that’s a traction point and you’re on the right track. If it doesn’t, that’s a pivot point. Being a part of that session gave us a little bit more confidence as a very, very early stage company and confirmed that we were on the right track. Bringing together folks with different expertise and having them come up with a similar solution was very valuable.

We’re happy to hear that! Looking back on your journey, what highlights and moments of success stand out to you?

There’s been a lot of little wins and ups and downs along the way. So it was myself and Chris, my business partner at the start, two Canadians on this path. At one point in 2018, we said, “We need to check out the U.S. and see what’s going on there”. We went to this conference and met the Managing Director at the time of a global insurance accelerator in Des Moines, Iowa, which is the insurance capital. He said, “You should apply to our accelerator, I think our team will be interested”. At the start of 2019, we got in and we moved down to Des Moines, Iowa for a few months, the coldest four months, I think, on record. We learned a ton about the U.S. insurance industry. It really was the start to Micruity becoming what it is today, building our business case and how we become the data conduit for the 401K space. There were ten startups all in the insurance space, all really early stage like us, from all over the country. It was a big win for us, and it continues to be. A lot of those relationships continue to guide us today.

Then we joined the Franklin Templeton/EvoNexus incubator in Silicon Valley. They’re doing large acquisitions, and you can feel it when you’re on a Franklin Templeton campus. Franklin Templeton is a fund manager. We’re so used to working with insurers closely, it’s exciting getting to see the other side of the house, because our key clients are life insurers and fund managers. That was really big for us and came with a nice investment from Franklin Templeton.

Sounds like an exciting time! Startups are all about growth — where do you see your organization in the next 2-3 years?

We will be leaders in the 401K market for data-clearing associated with annuity products. It really is a winner-take all business because it doesn’t make sense to have more than one middleware. The other side of it is that we’re looking to power apps on our platform so other companies can build an app using our data-clearing house. Looking at a lot more of those conversations with startups and around what they’re looking to do once this market’s more mature; secondary markets for annuities, annuity broker house, all those things, so looking at those conversations and start powering those products as well.

There’s a lot of collaboration involved in your business. We’re very interested in knowing from your point as a startup, how has your experience been with collaborating with insurance organizations?

Everyone knows collaborating with insurance companies is a battle. No one really moves quick in insurance. On top of that, you’re never going to see a real contract if you don’t have your security and your administration down, so as a startup, you have to endure this long sales cycle. You have to be able to operate a startup with some maturity, and somehow along the way show traction through POC’s, so that you can raise the money to build the team, to build the product so you can finally sell the product. So, a lot of chicken and egg, but what happens is if you are successful in doing this, you build really strong relationships because there is this massively long sale cycle with many points of contact with many people. If you do it successfully, you now have strong relationship with that company, and you’re probably going to get a fighting chance if you’re actually solving a problem. That will help you to grow, and then it’s now on the startup to be successful. On one side, it’s a battle; the other side is that through that battle, you build a really strong relationship with the company that is then interested in seeing you succeed and has your back.

And is it better to focus on a very limited amount of organizations then, or spread out and reach out to as many organizations as possible?

My career might be in a unique place because we’re a data-clearing house, so success in our market depends on our adoption across multiple insurers. Because ours requires more of a group adoption, we are probably on the longer end of the sales cycle, so we have to reach out to as many decision makers as possible. At the same time, our ecosystem is very small, maybe 50 companies between life insurers and fund managers. Maybe 25 life insurers have the capacity for this market. Our experience is unique, maybe even different from the majority of the insurance startups.

Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5 years?

Certainly, the pandemic had triggered this massive need for digital distribution, so anyone on the digital distribution side can have a fun couple of years. Looking at the bigger picture, what’s always on the top of my mind is product commoditization. I think the idea of being connected to a brand is not really realistic anymore. I think the insurers that will thrive will be the insurers that will figure out how to leverage readily available information to expedite the closing of the sale. Whoever can figure out how to do those can be successful, in my opinion.

Trevor, it was a pleasure to connect with you and reflect on the success you’ve had since we met in 2017. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and we wish you the best of luck for the future!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 4)

In the final part of our series, I sat down with Manisha Dias, a SummerHack 2020 Judge and Assistant Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at SCOR (a Global Life and P&C Reinsurer). We discussed the highlights of our global 24-hour hackathon, the ingredients to a great pitch, and what teams at WinterHack 2020 can do to win our big prize!

Manisha, thank you for joining us, not only for the interview but as a Judge at SummerHack 2020! We’re curious to know, what inspired you to join the judging panel?

For starters, I wanted to support Cookhouse Labs. I’ve crossed paths with the Lab several times in the past, and I think they actually foster innovation (versus those that just talk about it). Besides that, joining the event was a way to give back and help others who are trying to ideate and become entrepreneurs. I also love hearing ideas from their inception — you never know what the next ‘big thing’ might be and how you may be able to help shape it!

We’re happy you joined us! What did you enjoy most about attending an event like SummerHack?

It was impressive to see what a handful of individuals could come up with in a short amount of time, given a certain problem statement on a topic that they may not have had a lot of working experience or background knowledge in. They used their resources to the full extent to put something together in a creative way. I love seeing the diverse solutions that people come up with and how they respond to the time pressures and judges’ questions.

On that note, what pitch did you find memorable at the Live Pitch Event?

My favorite was the solution that actually ended up winning 1st Place, called Byte. It spoke to me the most in terms of impact, especially given prevalence of Obesity in the United States.

Coincidentally, this solution is one I’ve personally thought about creating for a while, so I was overjoyed when I saw it getting tackled by Byte! People do not know what they are consuming, how much they are really eating, what effect it has on the body, and how much they actually need for sustenance. The Smart tooth removes the manual work needed to find that information and had features I didn’t know were possible to have, and that’s why I thought it was fantastic.

What would you say are key ingredients to creating a successful pitch?

Whether it’s an elevator pitch or a larger pitch, I have found that there are 3 core ingredients that make a pitch successful. The first of these ingredients is charisma. If you have 3 minutes to sell your life’s work, or even work you’ve done over 24 hours, having a charismatic speaker is one way to get the audience engaged. Every word you say is crucial, and charisma gets the audience to listen.

The second ingredient is creativity, which can be interpreted in several ways. It could mean creativity of the solution, where your solution has never been done before. Then there’s creativity in how you present your solution, such as using a prototype, visual, or soundbite, which makes it memorable.

The third and final ingredient is context, which is key because pitches are often to audiences from diverse backgrounds. You cannot go into a pitch assuming the audience is familiar with the problem statement. Tying your solution to the problem and therefore explaining the impact it will have on a larger scale will help wrap your entire solution up for the audience and the Judges.

Looking back, how would you describe your overall SummerHack 2020 experience?

I found the event to be extremely well-organized — major kudos to Cookhouse Labs. They had a lot of stakeholders to manage, including the participants, Judges, and Mentors, and they never once dropped the ball. I was told every step of the way what I needed to do, and on the day of the event, who to contact in case of technical issues. It was even more impressive that this was done in a virtual environment, so really well done overall.

Since WinterHack 2020 is just around the corner in November, we’d love some advice for incoming participants! What would you like to say to them?

You want to connect your audience to the larger value that your solution is going to bring, and this is key in setting up your pitch. You also want to be able to show how you can execute, implement, and distribute said product. After you’ve figured out your solution, be prepared in your delivery and what you will communicate to the audience, and you will do great!

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

Specifically, these types of events generate new ideas that have legs to stand on. If you go back 5 or 6 years, the digital world of insurance was bleak with respect to IoT, compared to how it is today. Hackathons, innovation labs, and incubators created a dedicated space to foster and promote these ideas, which can then be pitched to those working in sectors in need of disruption. Alone, you may not have the support you need to develop your idea, but these types of events help creative and diverse ideas move forward.

Manisha, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our readers, and we hope to see you soon at upcoming Cookhouse Labs events!

Don’t miss your chance to join our upcoming WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideation from November 3-5, 2020 — click here to learn more and sign up!