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

SummerHack 2021 Winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SummerHack 2021: Developing New Insurance Solutions in Just 2 Days

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

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

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

Before We Begin 

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

How to Use Design Thinking at SummerHack 2021 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2:00 PM – Define 

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

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

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

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

4:30 PM – Design 

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

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

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

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

5 PM – Networking

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

 
3:30 PM – Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

5 PM – Networking

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


 

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

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

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

To receive an invite, please register here. 

SummerHack 2021: Final Pitch Event

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

After the success of last year’s event, Cookhouse Labs is proud to present SummerHack 2021: Global Design Thinking Ideathon! Join some of the world’s best insurance organizations, startups, and student innovators for 2 days of exciting insurance innovation, ideation, and competition!  
 

SummerHack 2021: Global Design Thinking Ideathon [May 18-20]

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

After the success of last year’s event, Cookhouse Labs is proud to present SummerHack 2021: Global Design Thinking Ideathon! Join some of the world’s best insurance organizations, startups, and student innovators for 2 days of exciting insurance innovation, ideation, and competition!  
 

Why should I join?  

  • Re/insurers and Brokers: This is your chance to connect with your internal teams and global talent to put your agility and creativity to work while creating real business solutions to digitize insurance  
  • Startups and Vendors: Take this opportunity to network and work alongside insurance organizations looking for fresh ideas and new business connections  
  • Students: Show current and future business leaders why you should be their #1 pick for a career in InsurTech!    
      

Event Format  

  • 2 day virtual global event + 3 hour final pitch  
  • Facilitated ideathon following Design Thinking methodology in breakout sessions   
  • Ideathon period: Tuesday, May 18th and Wednesday, May 19th, 2021  
  • The 2-day ideathon period will be held in 3 different time zones — Eastern Standard Time, Central European Time, and Singapore Time — from 9 AM to 6 PM  
  • Final Pitch Event: Thursday, May 20th at 8 AM EST  
      

How does it work?  

  • During the matching process, Re/insurance organizations can invite startups, vendors, and student innovators to join their corporate teams to provide ideas, expertise, and skills, such as UX/UI Design  
  • Guided hackathon — our innovation experts will provide the right guidance on methodologies and tools to achieve best results following the Design Thinking Methodology  
  • We will provide prep material, including Design Thinking Masterclasses and a guide on how to structure your time according to the stages defined in the methodology  

Challenges  

  • 4 different challenges related to the theme (to be announced!), covering commercial and personal lines, health/life, and P&C insurance   
  • Challenge statements will be released during the kickoff event  

Language  

  • Event language is English, including facilitation, support, and final pitch (including submission documentation)   
  • Teams can work in their preferred language  

Questions? 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Insiya Meherally, our Community Manager, at insiya.meherally@cookhouselabs.com

How do I join?  

  • Enter your email address below to join our mailing list — we will send you updates on our upcoming events and how to join the excitement! 

This Ideathon is the perfect platform to connect with experienced innovators, both local and international. As you show your skills and impress our judges with your team’s extraordinary results, don’t forget to network and have fun! 

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!

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

SummerHack2020 Quantummy

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

Team Quantummy’s winning solution: RELIOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy: Well, thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your overall experience at the hackathon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe the overall experience at the event? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summerhack Mentor interview

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

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

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

David Schraub and Insiya Meherally during the virtual interview.

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

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

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

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

What process did your team undergo to develop the solution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure!

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