Though Insurtech starts with ‘I’, it will only succeed with ‘We’


Throughout a number of the recent conferences I have attended and conversations I have had with my clients, colleagues and incumbents in the space, the question of ‘what makes an Insurtech/innovation initiative a success?’ keeps coming up. This week, I explore the critical success factor to this question.

If you haven’t figured out by now through my writing, I like the softer side of our business.  A lot.

Perhaps it is the ‘salesman’ in me and the fact that I have always been more relationship-focused than details-focused.  

In my most recent management roles, I always tried to delegate the detail-oriented tasks to the people on my team that were good at it, provide me a summary of their findings, so then I could go ‘manage’ the relationship/conversation with our various stakeholders.

When looking at Insurtech solutions, I tend to focus on customer outcomes more so than the actual tech behind it.  Yes, the tech is cool and interesting for me. The application of it is even more impressive.

I’ve explored this concept a few times – here, here and here.

This week, I’m going to take a slightly different look at it.  

That’s because there is one answer that keeps coming up to the question of ‘what makes an Insurtech initiative a success?’, regardless of if I speak to incumbents, investors, startups/technology providers and/or consultants.

That answer – the team.

The team is what is ultimately going to make an Insurtech initiative a success.  

There are some key factors that should be common, regardless of where you sit.  

In addition, there may be specific nuances to take a look at depending on what role you play in the initiative being undertaken.  

This week, I take a look at the common factors that should be in place, the different perspectives one may look at, as well as a revised formula for my ‘Insurtech formula for success’.  

What are the common factors one should look at when partnering?

To set the stage for what’s to follow, I would like you all to imagine the different types of partnering that can be out there for any Insurtech initiative (for initiative, I mean an implementation, investment and/or building of a company).  I will name a few (though, this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Incumbents (reinsurers, carriers, brokers, agencies, etc) partnering with startups/technology providers
  • Startups/technology providers getting funding from investors (on the flip side, investors investing in a startup)
  • Technology providers partnering with each other to offer a more robust solution to incumbents
  • Consultants being used by incumbents, investors and technology providers to help implement, assess and/or ’strategize’

Regardless of the type of partnership, there are a few key factores that should existent if you are going to partner with another party for an Insurtech initiative.

  1. Knowledge – Does this person/company have the knowledge to understand what pain point they are trying to tackle?  Do they have knowledge of the industry? Etc
  2. Trust – Do I actually trust this person/company?  I recently read this article from Inc. which outlined Google’s study on trust and how to demonstrate it.  It’s quite fascinating and I encourage you to have a read.
  3. Likeability – Do I like this person/company?  Even if I don’t necessarily like them, am I going to be able to tolerate them for the years to come?  Many partnerships are long(ish) term. If you don’t like someone that you are going to have to work with for a while, that could pose a big problem down the road.  

These 3 factors, knowledge, trust and likeability form the foundation for the types of relationships that I will describe below and must be inherent if you are to partner with someone (regardless of where you sit).  

What the factors are to look for, depending on where you sit

Now that we’ve established a foundation, let’s look at the different types of relationships from a startup/technology vendor, incumbent and investor perspective.

Startup/technology providers

The 3 relationships I will look at here are; their incumbent partners (primarily for B2B), their team and their investors.

The types of questions they should be asking for each of these parties are:

  • For their incumbent partners (some of this is covered in the Insurtech startup guide):
    1. What is their approach to innovation?
    2. How much has management bought into it?  Are there KPIs assigned to initiatives and what are they?
    3. Do they have a dedicated budget, resource, need and timeline to the proposed initiative?
    4. What other initiatives have they done and who have they partnered with?
    5. How do they ‘treat’ the startup/technology provider (does it feel as if they are a partner or just another vendor?)
  • For their team:
    1. Do they have the right mindset to work in a startup (in the case of an early stage company)?
    2. How flexible are they in working style?
    3. How do they handle pressure?
    4. What are their expectations?
    5. Do they want to build/grow something or are they OK with the status quo?
  • For their investors:
    1. How much ‘control’ (other than just % of equity) is the investor going to want after the investment is made?
    2. How much is the investor willing to mentor/coach them?  
    3. What resources will they put in place to help grow their business, while still letting them (the founders) run it?


Using the term incumbents, I mean any reinsurer, carrier, MGA, broker, etc that may be looking to partner with an Insurtech startup/technology provider.  

The 2 relationships I will at here are; their technology partners and their internal teams.

The types of questions they should be asking for each of these parties are:

  • For their Insurtech startup/technology providers (some of this is covered in the carrier guide):
    1. How much do they understand the Insurance industry/specific line of business(es) we operate in?
    2. How much do they understand our specific company and nuances? (incumbents – while it is nice that they do their research beforehand about you, you also need to bring them on this journey of understanding too if you really want them to help)
    3. What has been their current experience with other partners?  Not just from an ROI perspective, but also an implementation perspective.
    4. How patient are they to work within the confines of corporate governance?
    5. What is their approach to security and handling data?
  • For their internal teams running an innovation initiative:
    1. For the person/team that is leading an initiative, do they have they have the right balance of understanding of governance plus the agility/flexibility to push an agenda that starts with ‘change’?
    2. Is this person/team going to seek to overcome internal pushback or see it as a wall that can not be scaled over?
    3. Is this person/team going to have the leadership ability (and swagger) to be the ‘voice of change’ for our organization?


I haven’t worked for an investment firm yet, so, it would be difficult for me to assess what sort of internal requirements they should have in place for their teams.  

As such, I will only take a look at the types of questions they should be asking for the companies they invest in.  These are similar to the questions above that incumbents should be asking to their Insurtech startup/technology partners.

  1. How much do they understand the Insurance industry/specific line of business(es) they operate in?
  2. How open are they to ceding some ownership of their company?
  3. How ‘coachable’ are they?  Are they willing to have changes made/suggested to their business model or do they feel like they ‘know it all’ and are not willing to change?
  4. How diverse is their team (from a variety of perspective)?
  5. How have they come up with their solution?
  6. What sort of drive to they have and how have they handled adversity?

I’m sure for all three of these parties, there are more questions to ask.  What questions do you think of (depending on where you sit)?  Please comment below, I’m interested to hear!

With all this, the ‘Insurtech formula for success’ needs an update

Back in early May, I posted the Insurtech formula for success as:

Insurtech Success = customer experience + dollars and cents + compliance + applicable technology


  • Customer experience = what part of the customer experience are you trying to make better?  Is it quoting/purchasing? Is it claims? Is it servicing?
    • ‘Customer’ may not always mean policyholder.  Customer may also mean the employees and/or partners (like auto body shop) that are part of the value chain process.  Think about which ‘customer’ you are trying to solve a pain point for.
  • Dollars and cents = Does the solution help to increase sales and/or reduce costs?  Our industry is a business and that means we get measured by dollars and cents. Ultimately, a solution that is being put in place should do one of these things – increase sales and/or reduce costs.  
  • Compliance = is the solution in line with regulation?  Is it compliant with existing internal guidelines? Is it fair to customers?  Is it secure?
  • Applicable technology = what is the right technology that should be used to meet this need?  This should be the easiest part of the equation once the other 3 are determined.

This week, I’m making a slight change to this, which has also been reflected in the original article.

Insurtech Success = (customer experience + dollars and cents + compliance + applicable technology)^team

I love the circumflex/hat symbol (^) so much in this formula.  It fits so aptly here.

For those not as familiar, it literally reads out as ‘to the power of’.

Customer experience, dollars and cents, compliance and applicable technology are extremely important.  

They will only succeed by the power of the team that is driving it.  

Because after all, it’s not ‘you’ nor ‘I’, it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’.  

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Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.

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