Innovation from the Customers’ Needs Backwards- InsurTech Startups that Found Service Nails that Needed Hammers

In the interest of full disclosure this column was not the planned piece for this week, but as the original plan became an exercise in distilling a wonderful volume of great information down into 1200 or so words, I was thankful for a discussion with an insurance startup I had where this observation was reiterated by a founder:

“We did not want to be a hammer looking for a nail.”

That phrase reminded me why the research for a following week was conducted- there are InsurTech companies that have made great efforts in seeing customer or service needs- that exist- and devising innovative ways to deal with the respective issues’ pain points and taking the innovations to market.  So why not wait to publish that theme?  Well, because the industry needs constant reminders that innovation needs a purpose, and that there are startups who are purposing real service needs.  So I took my own advice with the topic- be the finder of the nail, first.

There are many InsurTech startups across the global market, and one can’t place the spotlight on all.  The approach for this column is discussion of four companies that in their own unique way have found an unmet purpose (nail) by research or accident, have dug into the issue, and produced a solution (hammer) that is tech-based and somewhat unique.

Empowering Patients for Provider Choice

The unexpected needs of parents Cole Sirucek and Grace Park prompted the sequence of events that resulted in the patient empowerment firm, DocDoc .  Now founders as well as parents, Cole and Grace identified a need for medical patients to have better control over who provides them services than which was traditional for the profession.  A medical concern within their family highlighted that the medical profession (including hospitals) held full sway over who provided service, even if the provider was not the most apt choice.  Working to ensure others would have relevant information and necessary options when medical needs arose, the company worked with a team of medical and tech professionals to develop the largest, most comprehensive network of medical professionals in Asia, a network that identifies professionals by characterizing what each does extremely well.  Need knee surgery?  The network identifies a patient’s best option, not only for an orthopedist, but a knee expert.  And why would this be important within the medical services value chain?  Having the best expert results in more positive outcomes, which results in less unexpected cost and patient issues post op.  In the bigger picture, DocDoc has created a Knowledge Model that can be leveraged to provide customized provider recommendations based on each patient’s unique medical needs (not ‘here are the providers in your network,” but ‘here are the best fit providers’).  Options for the patient, relevant patients for the providers, and less after-effects and reduced costs for the insurers.  (contact:  Madhurima Dutta )

Highest and Best Use of an Entrepreneur’s Time is not Getting Insurance Quotes

There are more than 7.5 million self-employeds in the UK.  That’s a lot of hard-working individuals (and the number is growing), says Sherpa ‘s CEO, Chris Kaye .  And if averages are extended, each of these folks shop for up to seven insurance policies annually, time spent chasing what carriers provide, and not necessarily what the self-employeds need.   Chris Kaye (along with Sherpa founders Lachlan Gillies and Greg McCafferty) identified the need for these customers to have an insurance service that covers them for all risks, can be tailored to their lifestyle and keeps up-to-date as their life changes.  Not rocket science (seems intuitively like what a good agent could do), unless one can promptly assess each customer and then provide an AI-driven personal insurance solution. Here’s the firm’s tech innovation- Sherpa’s “Brain,” a proprietary AI risk assessment engine, takes data given by members and makes personalized recommendation for what cover they need.  But- Sherpa is not an insurance plan, it’s a subscription based membership organization, has a fully-digital process, wherein a Member can be underwritten and get ‘on risk’ in about seven minutes, and Sherpa charges a transparent, flat fee that gives members access to a personal insurance solution that matches their advice.  Of course the members benefit from cover provided by an affiliated global insurance company, and have the comfort that as life changes occur their personal choice for insurance cover remain.  The firm’s intention is to not only broaden UK available lines from Life and Critical Illness covers, but to other markets and other personal lines covers.

Digitizing Life Insurance Claim Processes, No, Making Life Policies about the Beneficiaries

Benekiva founder Brent Williams had a successful financial advisory business in which he continuously found issue- life insurance settlements were an administrative nightmare for beneficiaries, typically driving settlement periods to three months from the respective carriers’ notice of policyholder death.  Brent served as apologist for the carriers, and also found in addition to delays in benefits, recipients of policy proceeds were reluctant to take that next step- financial care of proceeds- because the claim processes were so convoluted.  In collaboration with the current Benekiva team members and co-founders, Bobbie Shrivastav and Soven Shrivastav, (and after more than two years’ research) Brent, et al, introduced a digital approach to claim process that focused on beneficiaries’ needs backwards through the admin of the policy.  In this case, an industry expert collaborated with tech and innovation experts, jointly identified a customer issue, developed universally applicable methods that carriers could implement, and the end result is prompt payment of policy proceeds.  Sure, unclaimed property laws helped facilitate the end result, but the digital answer to customer needs is the key.  Benekiva now works with carriers to streamline what in great part are legacy process wrought with workarounds, and to the benefit of the industry cut through the Gordian Knot of the paper chase.  Oh, and the firm is helping carriers with Blockchain options for claim and beneficiary management.

Helping Leverage Customers’ Ownership of Data  

Customers don’t know what they don’t know, and for data collection and use (particularly telematics), that knowledge is lower in great part due to who has taken control of telematics- companies (including insurance carriers.)  If data are the next oil boom, then those who own the wells are not the current beneficiaries of the wells’ output.  That’s the identified service opportunity for RevdApp , best described by its founder, Filipe Pinto, thusly:

“to offer consumers a way to own and manage their mobility records and to leverage them in a trustworthy marketplace where service providers bid to offer them services without compromising their privacy. We eliminate data silos and unleash value.”

What, you say, what has that got to do with InsurTech and insurance service?  Well, picture customer possession of an open ledger of performance within a digital ecosystem, data that can be provided by the customer to support value-based access to services?  Customer owns driving data, can leverage that data for insurance purchases, or perhaps more favorable lease pricing based on positive performance than someone who has a history of more risky behavior.  Telematics have to date been the bailiwick of companies who collect those data, and have been leveraged to the benefit of the companies in terms of user-based insurance (UBI), e.g., Metromile, Progressive (Snapshot), and Allstate (DriveWise), along with most other larger carriers.  RevdApp is developing a digital ecosystem where beyond UBI customers can benefit from the service value of trust- companies may extend favorable terms to those with relative good performance data ledgers, and surcharge those without.  Customers control their data, how it’s applied to services, and how it’s applied to pricing.  At this time the firm’s IoT data ledger service access is applied for exotic auto use, but customer focus can bridge to almost any partnered service.

Are there many solution ‘hammers’ in the InsurTech orb looking for nails?  Sure are.  But there are many customer service ‘nails’ just waiting for observant entrepreneurs that can be open to understanding what solution is being called for.  The four examples noted above have unique starting points, and certainly unique solutions, but each developed from the kernel of an idea-  the need to #innovatefromthecustomerbackwards, and in spotlighting those I could keep my journalistic hammer tucked in my work bag- for another week.



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Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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