Over the last 12 months Insurtech has become one of the most overused words in the British startup universe. It seems everyone wants a slice of the action in an industry which looks ripe for disruption. More recently, the bigger companies have been getting their act together and embracing all kinds of technology from AI to Blockchain.
For the time being, it is the startups leading the way. A host of companies have emerged on both sides of the Atlantic that are looking to harness technology to make insurance easier to manage and predict on one hand, and simpler for consumers on the other. Here are five innovators worth keeping an eye on:
One of the most hyped of all the new Insurtech startups, Lemonade bills itself as offering insurance the way it is supposed to be. Put simply, it takes a fee from the insurance premium consumers pay – not the whole premium – and at the end of the period invests some of that cash back into the community. It also prides itself in being super quick in assessing and paying claims.
It is an intriguing proposition and one that has apparently chimed in the US with young city dwellers. Shai Wininger, Lemonade co-founder, in a blog posted on Medium recently spoke about the company’s growth.
“Looking at our members, we continue to grow among our primary demographic, with 78% of our customers between the ages of 25-45, and mostly urban dwellers. Btw [by the way], 2% of our customers are 65 or older.”
The company has grown to a 14,315 customer base since its launch in just eight months in California, New York, and Illinois. And further growth is expected, according to Wininger, as the company targets new cities.
Another way to innovate in insurance is to bring like-minded people together and get them to apply for premiums as a group. This way, in theory, you can secure cheaper deals. It’s an idea that developed in the UK by a company called Bought By Many. Founded a few years back, the company majors on pet insurance, with all kinds of groups for even the most unusual breeds of dogs. It does, however, work in niches and is even trying to bring together enough deep sea divers, yoga instructors and stage hypnotists to offer to offer them cut-rate premiums.
Founder and CEO Steven Mendel told the Telegraph “Traditionally, [companies in] the insurance industry would say: ‘oh, we know this consumer and what they want’. But we don’t go in with any preconceived ideas; we listen to how people describe themselves and their needs.”
Like a lot of the new wave of Insurtech startups, Bought By Many’s strength is rooted in social media. It is this data, which is used to create new groups and tailor the insurance terms, that it takes to market.
Car insurance has, up until now, been expensive and inflexible, especially if you are a younger driver. Bidding to change all that is Cuvva which has since 2014 been pioneering a new kind of motoring insurance. Users download its app and then pay a monthly subscription fee to join. They then only pay for cover when they actually drive a car, usually by the hour. It is a great system for people with cars they barely use, or youngsters borrowing parents or friends cars.
It is simple and easy to use and the company has been backed to the tune of around £2 million.
There’s a generation of freelance or self-employed people who don’t have a permanent base and work in numerous spaces from their own homes through to coffee shops. However carrying their work laptops, smartphones and tablets around with them does expose them to greater chances of theft and damage.
Aiming to offer this group peace of mind is InMyBag, a UK startup which has developed special premiums for the self-employed. The company promises to replace stolen and damaged laptops and smartphones very quickly, enabling the users to carry on working. As part of its service it also offers automated data backup in the cloud so even if the hardware does go AWOL the files and projects customers were working on are still easily accessible.
Not all of the innovation in Insurtech is consumer facing. There are a host of companies behind the scenes working hard to improve the way that existing and emerging companies can rationalise the way they work. Cytora is a leading data analytics provider which works ostensibly in the commercial insurance world. Its key technology, the Cytora Risk Engine, harnesses hundreds of data points and uses these to take a quantified view of commercial risk. The idea is that this enables insurers to enter new lines without loss history and get more business in existing lines as they have more intelligent and accurate risk differentiation information. The company received £2.4 million in Series A funding in January.