Accelerating Innovation by Collaborating with InsurTech Startups

Innovation Project Summary Cookhouse LabS

Accelerating Innovation by Collaborating with InsurTech Startups

While an increasing number of organizations are investing in these collaborations, the success of these initiatives is fairly low. We aimed to create a long-term win-win solution for both groups.

4

Days

ONLINE

2020

3

Organizations

1

MVP

Challenge

How might we accelerate and increase competitiveness through collaboration with startups, while learning from their agility and expertise?

WHY?

Understanding Betty’s experiences during the collaboration process

PAINS

GAINS

DISCOVERY

Founders often spoke of time wastage when communicating or scheduling meetings with insurance organizations.

How can we reduce the amount of time lost during the communications process?

How can we create an environment that supports and encourages collaboration between insurers and startups?

How can we ensure the right decision makers are present at meetings with startups?

SOLUTION

Within 5 minutes, the project team produced 26 potential solutions to this challenge and settled on the winning solution – a dedicated committee of decision makers.

How might we identify the right decision makers to speed up the process of collaboration, improving Betty’s experience?

DEDICATED COMMITTEE OF DECISION MAKERS

The insurance organization will establish a dedicated committee of the right decision makers with business objectives and incentives. The committee will work within a well-defined project cycle to collaborate with InsurTech startups, and will meet regularly to hear startup pitches. The culture will be agile and fail-fast, and the committee will receive training from an Innovation Coachs.

RESULTS

At the end of the project, the team presented their solution to the community and invited the audience to share their insights through a poll after the presentation.

16

Hours

1

Empathy Map

1

Startup Founder Persona

1

Focus Group

25+

Ideas in 5 minutes

4

Masterminds interviewed

1

Lo-Fi Prototype

1

Final Presentation

PARTICIPANTS

We also offer intro sessions that provide insurance professionals with the opportunity to experience our Cookhouse Labs methodology and a sneak peek at what it’s like to co-create and collaborate with our global community. If you are not a Cookhouse Labs member and are interested in finding out more, check out our membership benefits!

Startup Pitch Specials: Germany and Beyond [Jun 17]

Startup Pitch Specials is a new event series where insurance leaders virtually connect with innovative startups and up-and-comers from around the world. Our next event puts the lens on up-and-coming startups from Europe in partnership with InsurLab Germany, providing them with an opportunity to showcase their exciting solutions to the global insurance industry, connect with industry leaders, and build strategic partnerships. ​ 

Date: June 17, 2021 

Time: 8.00 AM to 9.30 AM EDT | 2.00 PM to 3.30 PM CEST 

Location: Virtual, Worldwide 

The Recipe for a Successful Startup Collaboration

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

1. Shared Vision 

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

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

2. Speed 

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

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

3. Strong Communication 

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

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

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

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

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!

#MakeInsuranceBetter with InsurTech Startups

How can insurance organizations successfully collaborate with InsurTech Startups to accelerate innovation?

While an increasing number of organizations are investing in these collaborations, the success of these initiatives is fairly low. We know that there are many insights large organizations can gain from InsurTech startups, and our most recent Sprint aimed to create a long-term win-win solution for both groups.

Over the first two days of the project, the team focused on empathizing with both sides. The team interviewed a corporate Mastermind and 3 InsurTech Startups, and each innovator brought their own experience of working with Startups to the project. Through these interviews, the team discovered many pain points for Startups, as shown below.

During the interview analysis, the team realized that all of the Startups frequently spoke about one pain point – the issue of time wastage. As one Founder shared, “It can often take 1 month between the first email request for a meeting and the actual in-person meeting”. Some of the reasons cited for this issue were

1) Not being connected to the right person

2) Delayed responses

3) Bureaucracy, which required booking a meeting room instead of a phone call to communicate

On the third day, the team used the Design Thinking methodology to establish an empathy map, which helped them visualize the thoughts and feelings of these Startups. Equipped with this deeper understanding, they defined a persona – Betty, a recent graduate and InsurTech Startup Founder. The team mapped out Betty’s journey, where she attempted to connect and collaborate with large insurance organizations. Next, they created a “How Might We” statement: “How might we identify the right decision makers to speed up the process of collaboration, improving Betty’s experience?”

Within 5 minutes, the innovators produced 26 ideas for solutions to this challenge. Together, they decided on the winning solution – a dedicated committee of decision makers. This solution was further developed on the fourth day and presented to the community via an interactive presentation. The team invited the audience to share their insights through a poll after the presentation, which opened the floor for a discussion around the future of collaboration between InsurTech Startups and large insurance organizations.

A big thank-you to the participants, Masterminds, and community members for sharing their time with us during this exciting project!

As we continue our Virtual Events calendar into June, we would like to invite you to check out our upcoming trainings and events. These events are free for members of the re/insurance community, as part of our gift during these challenging times.

We look forward to seeing the community at our upcoming events as we continue to collaborate to #MakeInsuranceBetter!

Co-Creating the Future with InsurTech Startups

Co-creation with startups

Chances are, you’ve heard about InsurTech startups.

It’s hard to miss them especially during these times, where words like Innovation, Creativity, Inspiration have become so popular. These startups are the trendy contrast to sluggish corporate giants, fast-paced and full of “positive vibes”. They’re exciting, unpredictable, and sometimes even hard to keep up with. The lucrative amounts of raised capital and young founders behind the ideas often make headlines, and these startups have now become a picture of the modern-day collaborative workplace and inspiration for young generations.

But these startups are more than open concept desks, bottomless beverages, and dog-friendly offices that they’re known for. InsurTech startups possess the agility and vision to adapt in the face of difficulties, and as recent events have shown, they have incredible survival skills.

Here are 3 insights we can gain from InsurTech startups:

1. These startups are champions of transformational technology

It’s no secret that larger companies deal with cultures that resist change. Traditional mindsets dedicate less of their tight budgets to innovation and more to maintaining legacy systems, pulling corporate giants even further into the past. A single change must be approved by countless decision-makers before it can be implemented, and it is likely that the idea will be snuffed out long before it makes it to the end of the list.

Compare this to the startup model. These smaller companies are entirely focused on innovation and creating their own futures, making them willing adapters of new technologies. They concentrate on the main purpose – creating a solution for their customer, a solution they know takes away pain. A common goal means less resistance to change. And so, these companies develop a unique decision-making and decision-implementing agility that is unmatched by corporate giants.

2. These startups know the secret to retaining employees despite lean budgets

Startups are continuously adapting, learning, and growing. They focus on sustainable scalability and possess a growth mindset that larger organizations often lose sight of. Startups focus on creating an environment to promote the growth of their employees, allowing for meaningful, high impact work that centers around shared core values. Their team is their family.

In comparison, corporate giants have many obstacles to overcome in order to transition out of a performance-based culture. Employees in these companies are offered raises and promotions in order to retain them, but the lack of connection or fulfillment causes these companies to lose employees anyway.

Startups recognize that there is more to motivation than money and have successfully harnessed this to win their employees’ loyalty and commitment.

3. Startups have knocked over organizational silos for good

Traditional silos are one of the biggest pain points for large companies. Employees prefer to stay within their departments and keep valuable knowledge to themselves, often due to competition.

Startup culture is all about collaboration and knowledge-sharing. A single employee wears many hats within the company and can offer a multi-dimensional skillset. All members of the team are united by the common goal they work towards.

When the startup wins, everyone wins. It’s a family celebration.

Organizations must adapt the startup mindset so that they may thrive. As many companies recognize the need to become agile and accelerate innovation, they have turned to startups to help them with this transformation.

In our co-creation Sprint next week, we will explore ways organizations can use to collaborate with InsurTech startups. What is the delicate balance between accelerating competition while encouraging learning and collaboration? How can you find the right collaboration partner? How can you eliminate conflicts of interest during the partnership? And most important – ask InsurTech startups what collaboration means to them.

We invite you to join our team of innovators as we find a collaborative solution during this innovation project, beginning on Tuesday, May 26th. Join the project here!

4x Afternoon Innovation Sprint: Collaborating with InsurTech Startups

Our gift to you in these challenging times: Open and Free for Insurers, Reinsurers, Brokers, Insurance-Related Startups, and Academia.

Most insurance organizations are like ocean liners, difficult to steer and slow to change directions when it comes to innovation – especially at the pace that the market requires nowadays. Internal processes, over-regulation, outdated IT systems, risk aversion and lack of openness for change are only a few of the reasons why insurance organizations lack struggle to become an innovation anticipator.

In order to keep pace with the accelerating rate of innovation, an increasing number of organizations are investing in or collaborating with startups. Although the corporate investment in startups has tripled, the success of these initiatives is fairly low. According to HRB who conducted research with chief innovation officers, three quarters of corporate innovation initiatives fail to deliver the desired results.

But what are the advantages and what are the pitfalls to be avoided, as a corporation? Are there proven ways to decrease the problems and issues that may arise from these collaboration attempts?

Creating a long-term win-win situation is not easy for groups with such diverse DNAs. The rewards for those who manage it are: entering new markets, increasing the innovative character of a brand, optimizing assets, outsourcing development of innovative solutions and increasing competitiveness.

This 5 Afternoon Sprint sprint will focus on the core question : “How might we accelerate and increase competitiveness through collaboration with startups while learning from their agility and expertise?” The answers to this question will help every insurance organization how to successfully collaborate with InsurTech startups and accelerate innovation.

Some of the questions we are looking into are:

  • How can we identify and prioritize strategic objectives to be solved?
  • How can we identify the ‘right’ insurtech to partner with?
  • How can we define a partnership with startups?
  • How can we eliminate conflict of interests in a partnership wi startups?

Location:
Toronto, ON, Canada

Project Details

  • Each innovation project will begin by establishing a Lean Startup mindset, followed by the phases of Design Thinking as supported by a variety tools
  • The ultimate goal of this 1-week sprint is to analyze the problem, generate ideas and create solutions
  • The project team will consist of members from different (insurance) organizations

Duration

  • Sprint: 5 days
  • Dates:
    • (Part 1) Tue – May 26 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
    • (Part 2) Wed – May 27 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
    • (Part 3) Thu – May 28 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
    • (Part 4) Fri – May 29 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM

      Apply by: May 23, 2020

Target Group

  • Business
  • Marketing & Sales
  • IT