The Jarvish smart helmet IOT Insurtech from Taiwan is another First the Rest then the West story

Jarvish

Jarvish is a Taiwanese company that is doing a lot more than making it easier to buy insurance. They are using hard technology innovation to reduce accidents and therefore reduce the cost of insurance, using smart helmets that can monitor your driving.

We are seeing the same thing in the West with sensors embedded into cars. Jarvish is doing this in the Rest of the World where a motorbike is the first automated transport that a family can afford. Rather than selling into a motorbike market in the West with tens of millions of hobby bikers (they also have a car but just love to bike for fun), Jarvish is selling to the hundreds of millions of bikers in the Rest who use motorbikes as their primary means of transport.

Rather than having to negotiate with car manufacturers, Jarvish simply make the helmet and sell it to consumers.

That is why Jarvish illustrates a megatrend we have been tracking for a while that we call “first the Rest then the West”.

In doing so they are solving a Catch 22 for motorbike insurance. If driving a motorbike is so dangerous then claims will be high so premiums will be high, so the poor people who rely on motorbikes as their primary means of transport cannot afford insurance.

First the Rest then the West

This is one of the big stories of our time. It is the end of what historians have called the Great Divergence, when the Western economies rose to dominance.

For most of the 20th century, technology was limited to the West. Countries in the Rest (formerly known as developing, then emerging, then rapid growth economies) were “tech deserts” until those economies started to open up (first China, then India, then Africa). Then technology adoption started to flow from the West to the Rest; the last decade has been a boom time for Western tech firms selling to the Rest.

Now the flow is reversing as technology adoption starts in the Rest and then goes to the West. For example, look at Xiaomi to see the future of mobile phones and Alibaba for the future of e-commerce or Paytm for the future of mobile wallets.

This megatrend is not limited to Fintech. Within Fintech, mobile payments and mobile e-commerce is the big disruption and that is happening first in the Rest and then will flow to the West.

Technology adoption starting in the Rest rather than the West is one of the big 21st century megatrends.

Note that I am referring to technology adoption. Where something is invented matters a lot less than where and how it is adopted, as Steve Jobs taught us after wandering around Xerox Parc and seeing the first graphical user interface and using that to create a PC with a much better UX. What really matter is innovative customers and customer innovation is driven by blue ocean markets with big unmet needs and lack of legacy technology constraining innovation.

If you need a smart helmet to keep your family safe, you have a big and so far unmet need. That is why we think Jarvish is a company to watch.

The Asia Inurtech story 

We have already tracked Insurtech innovation coming from India, Korea, Singapore, China. This is the first we have seen from Taiwan. Asia has all the ingredients to become the locus of Insurtech innovation:

  • Big blue ocean markets with lots of unmet needs
  • Lack of legacy technology constraining innovation
  • Hard core technology skills linked to manufacturing expertise (so they can build physical products and are not limited to digital innovation).

Technology innovation not just UX layer digital innovation

The idea of a smart helmet is not new, but like so many Taiwanese companies, Jarvish competes through technology innovation. This is not just another digital UX layer startup. Jarvish has invested years and lots of Ph.D level resources to create a smart helmet that does not require Bluetooth. Even more critical from a safety POV, the Jarvish helmet does not use lithium batteries (which can overheat and explode) and they use “military-grade ceramic anti-explosive batteries”. First do no harm – the helmet has to be safe.

The best way to think about the Jarvish smart helmet is like the black box system that crash investigators extract from commercial aircraft, except that this black box is tiny, cheap and cloud-connected.

Like Apple, this is innovation from technology to consumer marketing and Jarvish is not shy about making the comparison:

“Much like smart phones, at first they were only cool high-tech gadgets, but quickly became an essential part of everyone’s daily life. In the near future, smart safety helmets will definitely be as common as smart phones.”

Illustrating the “first the Rest then the West” megatrend,  the Jarvish roadmap includes products we can envisage also getting traction in the West:

“all types of smart headgear, with such applications such as smart helmets for skiing, diving, firefighting, cycling, drones, extreme sports, and entertainment. All of which will include smart functions and module designs, as well as all the incorporated software needed. We also provide a cloud platform, and international-level third-party value adding services to users.”

The Art of the Chef – combining ingredients

You don’t need to look too hard to see a revenue model. Jarvish sell helmets to consumers with their smart helmet technology embedded. This is simple but powerful.  It illustrates what I call the Art of the Chef business model in my book Mindshare to Marketshare. The chapter entitled Turn Secret Sauce Into Unfair Advantage describes how Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies grew to dominance by avoiding commoditization by combining commodity ingredients into a differentiated package. The book uses companies like Coca Cola selling sugared water at high prices or Gillette charging a premium for razor blades that cost very little to illustrate how to combine commodity ingredients into a product that is highly differentiated. The book then goes on to show how companies such as Apple and Visa used this in technology. Jarvish is on the same path.

I liken this art of combining to cooking. You have lots of components that go into a dish. You might even have a secret ingredient that defines it. Yet the whole is obviously more than the parts.

It gets more interesting when you move from FMCG to technology driven businesses:

”Consider the greatest entrepreneur the tech world has ever seen – Steve Jobs. 

Steve Jobs innovated by combining multiple commodity ingredients into a very tasty dish. He was a technology chef.

At one level he combined multiple commodity ingredients to create unique devices such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He combined lots of commodity components sourced from all over the world into a uniquely beautiful and useful product by adding a touch of design magic. However, if he had only created “insanely great devices”, Apple’s business would be more vulnerable to competitors like Samsung and Xiaomi. The reason that Apple is so valuable is that Steve Jobs combined great physical devices with digital services like iTunes and AppStore into a combination that still mints money long after he died. That is why Apple has massive amounts of Unfair Advantage (aka moat, aka competitive advantage). 

You  also see this art of combining in payment network such as Visa, Mastercard and Amex. Yes, these payment networks have software at the core. Yes, they own the hardware servers that the software runs on. Yet they don’t license that as a SAAS product to banks. They wrap it into other services to deliver transactions to consumers via Banks. That is how Visa, Mastercard and Amex turn their secret sauce into Unfair Advantage. 

What Coca Cola, Apple, Visa, Mastecard and Amex have in common is the art of the chef – to combine commodity ingredients into value.”

I see this same art of combining in Jarvish. At one level they combine their proprietary smart helmet technology with the commodity components and manufacturing process of making helmets to create their own differentiated helmet. They combine their own yeast with water, flour and salt to make bread. The next step, akin to Apple moving from iPods/iPhones devices to device hooked to iTunes is to create a digital product that reduces accidents and thus reduces insurance costs.

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Bernard Lunn is a Fintech deal-maker, author, investor and thought-leader. 

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

Aigang brings ICO gold rush to Insurtech with a plausible blockchain concept

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Call it double disruption. Real time claim to cash using blockchain could disrupt Insurance. That is disruption number one. ICOs could replace large parts of the traditional innovation capital business – early stage VC and IPOs.  That is disruption number two.

That makes Aigang an interesting concept to study. The fact that it is only concept – not a product, let alone a profitable business – is part of the second disruption story.

Tigger is all excited about how all this innovation will create a better world. Eeyore says this will all end in tears. ICO speculators shovel in cash to make a quick buck while retweeting  Tigger. Eeyore sits on the sidelines waiting to be able to say “I told you so” and buy later for pennies on the dollar.

Who is right here?

To help initiate a conversation, this post looks at the:

  • Concept
  • Technology
  • Team
  • Jurisdiction
  • The deal for “investors”

The concept – real time claim to cash for small claims

Conceptually this makes sense. This post explains why claim to cash time is so critical and why blockchain based smart contracts is the enabler. The post was written in May 2016 and Aigang was formed in 2017 so they may have read it or simply tuned into the same innovation radio waves. This bit explains the basics:

“Auto Payout Based on a Trustless Smart Contract

This holds out a win/win promise. Customers know that payout is automatic and immediate (no more hassling for payout during the most stressful times when the bad event has actually happened). Insurance companies get two benefits:

Elimination of fraud. The Insurance company does not rely on the customer’s version of truth. There is independently verified data.

Elimination of claims processing cost. This is a consequence of elimination of fraud.

For this to work, it has to be binary simplicity. An algo has to make a yes/no decision instantly. Something with complexity (such as who is at fault in an accident or whether a medical procedure is covered) needs human intervention.

One example of where we see that binary result is flight insurance. The flight was either cancelled or it was not. Blockchain systems use external data sources (e.g via the Oraclize service ) to get this proof of what happened. A Proof Of Concept for this flight insurance use case was coded during a weekend at a hackathon using Ethereum – proving that technical risk is not the prime concern.

We expect to see lots of use cases where this binary rule applies where really low cost insurance can be offered (thanks to elimination of fraud and claims processing). This is classic disruption at the edge – where disruption usually gets traction. For example, there are lots of use cases within the sharing economy. These are on demand or just-in-time insurance use cases.”

Aigang is going after a sensible early market in the “really low cost insurance” segment – mobile phone batteries. It is small enough to enable real time settlement and” human real time” (less than a few seconds) changes user behaviour.

It looks like Aigang can get the battery data automatically from your mobile device. Yes this is also an IOT play. Eeyore was heard muttering about random buzzword generators – ICO, Blockchain, IOT, Insurtech, but Tigger responded by saying that the concept makes sense.

The investors will be P2P. The crowd will be the new Lloyds Names. Hmm, how does that fit with Solvency 2? Will the crowd take unlimited liability like Lloyds Names? This can only work outside the regulatory framework.

The technology

Ethereum – brilliant plaform, still with bleeding edge risk. As Aigang put it:

“Built on Ethereum testnet, the application is not fully functional yet, and there are chances that the users attempting to send funds from their Ethereum wallet could lose their funds.”

On the plus side, they do have a fairly active GitHub as per Token Market.

What is your risk appetite? This has technology risk at the platform level and at the application level. If you don’t really understand Ethereum or trust somebody who does, this is not for you.

The team

They look good on pixel. But they have not got a product in the market, so that is all one can say. One assumes they are all getting paid in equity and tokens. If the ICO succeeds they will become a real team.

They also offer “bounties” to contributors. No, I did not ask for or want a bounty for writing this post.  This is like 1999 when landlords would take equity for rent.

The jurisdiction

Singapore. One assumes Aigang will block IP addresses from America and make big bold signs saying “no Americans please” in order to stay out of SEC clutches.

This is far outside the regulated world. This is not a sandbox experiment. Aigang  plan to offer a product outside the regulated world. This post by a VC in 2014 explains why this strategy makes sense drawing on lessons from Skype.

The deal

This is not being revealed yet. In ye olde innovation capital game, a concept stage venture with  MVP still in development like Aigamg would raise $50k to $500k. $50k would be for a first time entrepreneur. $500k would a proven entrepreneur wired to top Angels and VCs. Two years later, 10%  of these would do a $5m Series A and a year later about 50% during loose money times would do a a $50m Series B. Aigang will probably raise $50m out of the gate.

Will it be a great deal for token  investors? I doubt it. Maybe for equity investors who have a lot of appetite for risk and if the price is right.

Will it change the world and unleash a new wave of Insurance claim to cash innovation using Blockchain? I think so.

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Bernard Lunn is a Fintech deal-maker, investor, author and thought-leader.

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

No matter who wins UK election today, homeowners get a small break thanks to Neos Insurtech with AI + IOT

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UK Insurtech Neos was in the news last week for raising a £5M Series A round, led by Aviva Ventures with strategic partner Munich Re.

In this post we dig below the news headlines to understand the trends illustrated by what they are doing.

More than a random buzzword generator

At one level, one could view Neos as combining all the hottest buzzwords to unlock VC funding:

  • Insurtech
  • IOT and connected home.
  • AI via Chatbot.

Our belief is that the hype cycle and the reality cycle are disconnected. Yes, all the above are hot, hot, hot. Yes, all will fall into the slough of despond, because that is what happens to all overhyped trends. Yet all three have huge value – if applied properly to solve a real pain point. That is what we now turn our attention to.

A win/win/win proposition

Neos is creating a win/win/win proposition for:

  • Homeowners. Brits love the expression “a stitch in time saves nine” meaning that paying attention to something small now – like a plumbing leak – will prevent an expensive disaster later.

 

  • Service contractors. They will benefit from a flow of work to fix those things – like the plumber coming in to fix a leak.

 

  • Insurance companies. They save on preventable expensive disaster claims and re-establish themselves as being central to their customer’s lives (not just a premium bill to be paid each month).

 

Look at this chatbot conversation to see something that will resonate with almost every homewner:

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That makes IOT and connected home useful in a way that the oft-hyped milk buying fridge does not do. It also shows the use of AI Chatbots to deliver something useful; we believe that AI Chatbots will become as ubiquitous as websites and mobile apps, no longer a source of advantage, simply a must have item.

Now if only somebody could apply that same thinking to something even more precious than a home – the human body. Prevention is the back to the future of healthcare and health insurance and IOT sensors and AI Chatbot will be the key to this market as well.

UK innovation is alive and well

My home country has been down in the dumps since Brexit and goes to the polls today to decide who will lead the future of the country.  Whatever direction the country goes in, innovation will be the key to jobs and prosperity. Neos shows that UK innovation is alive and well.

Join the debate;

On this election day, do you think UK can reclaim tbe fintech capital of the world title?

Bernard Lunn is a Fintech thought-leader and deal-maker. 

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

IOT Meets DLT and Blockchain meets M-Pesa in Africa

 

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Editor’s Note: Last week, Aunkumar Krishnakumar (Arun for short) wrote a great post about the effects of Demonetization on Microfinance in India. We liked it so much that we asked for more and this week Arun has found two amazing stories from Africa. Both are practical uses of leading edge technology to change the lives of millions (for example to enable crop insurance for farmers). The technology used forces one to think again about some conventional wisdom. One uses a mix of Internet Of Things (IOT) and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), without using any Blockchain. Another uses Blockchain but with M-Pesa (not with Bitcoin or any Altcoin). Following our theme of “first the Rest then the West” we would not be surprised to see innovation like this coming to the West soon.

From next week, Arun will join our other Authors as a regular. Please see our announcement later today.

In the last few years, every time I visited India, I have got excited looking at the number of frictions and inefficiencies in day to day transactions. There were problems that could be solved to create huge impact to large communities of people. Of course, when executed with a good business model, those could be great stories creating social and monetary value. When I was talking about this to my friend from Nigeria a few days back, he mentioned that he had the similar thoughts about Africa, the continent with 54 countries, truly a land of infinite possibilities. Over the last few years, financial services driven by mobile penetration have created a few “leap frog” initiatives in Africa.

M-Pesa completed its 10th anniversary this month. It is the firm that revolutionised financial services by providing a simple way of transferring money, and has crossed 30 Million users across 10 African nations (only 10). But the impact it has created has already highlighted it as a model to be used for the emerging world.  In 2016, according to Vodafone, M-Pesa was used in six billion transactions. Research by Digital Frontiers found a 22% drop in female-headed households living in poverty in areas with access to M-Pesa. The same study noted that the source of income for almost 200,000 women in rural areas shifted from the low-income, labour intensive agricultural sector to more prosperous small business creation. However, there is a lot more to be done through financial inclusion and I believe Blockchain will be a key catalyst in unlocking the potential of this great continent.

Micro-Insurance for Farmers:

In my previous post, I discussed the challenges Microfinance had in improving farmers’ lifes in India. While researching for that, I came across instances where farmers who had insured their crops and lost them to drought had serious challenges in claiming money from their insurance providers. This was primarily due to lack of understanding of complexities around what triggered their insurance claims and also due to the bureaucracy and corruption that existed in the system. Crop insurance is one of the most underserved industries in the developing world.

Typically Blockchain firms have two different exploratory routes to address pain points in the Insurance value chain. The first set of firms which are the more common one try to add efficiencies around instant reconciliation using distributed ledgers. The second set of Blockchain firms, re-imagine the whole structure of the business from scratch, and in some cases intend to create a new structure altogether. A Blockchain company Etherisc is working on crop insurance in Africa and across the developing world. They are trying to solve the problem using a methodology called “Parametric Insurance”. In this model, the insurance pay-out is triggered by pre-agreed set of simple triggers, which do not involve any middle men. The data that triggers the pay-out would be sourced automatically by the system which will disburse payments according to pre-programmed rules. The other advantage is that this model offers crop insurance for one or two dollars a month, which is typically not economically viable for a traditional insurance provider.

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For instance, a farmer can insure his crops against lack of rainfall for a particular year. Etherisc would have a rule that if the rainfall for that region in Africa doesn’t cross a particular threshold, the pay-out to the farmer would happen automatically. From that point, Etherisc would source rainfall information automatically from the weather data base, and if the threshold is breached, the pay-out happens. There is no need for human intervention to assess claims or damages, there by keeping the process simple, transparent and efficient. More importantly, the farmer receives timely help, without having to go through the trauma of dealing with corrupt bureaucrats to get the payment. Etherisc are also working at integrating their product with M-Pesa to plug into the existing payments infrastructure in Africa.

Micropayments Ecosystem:

In most developing nations penetration of mobile phones and internet has been better than penetration of traditional financial services and the underlying infrastructure. The main reason that there is so little private or public effort to extend financial services infrastructure into these remote and often impoverished areas is that the cost and benefits don’t add up positively. This leads to hundreds of millions of people scattered across Africa with almost no infrastructure and thus little opportunity of changing their circumstances. The solution is to take a decentralised approach that the traditional financial services infrastructure hasn’t managed to achieve.

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IOTA is a lightweight crypto-token that is designed to facilitate micropayments. IOTA is derived from the acronym IoT which means Internet-of-Things. IOTA could be connected to millions of devices and could facilitate micro transactions between the devices by paying miniscule amounts to each other in a frictionless manner. IOTA is a completely new distributed ledger innovated from scratch. Unlike the Blockchain, it contains no blocks. They instead have developed something called a Tangle, which is a form of directed acyclic graph. Here a user sending a transaction verifies previous transactions through a small amount of proof-of-Work. This means that the verification of the network is not decoupled from the network’s users, as is the case in blockchains. Hence there are no external parties to be compensated, which means that IOTA got absolutely zero fees on transactions. I have painfully resisted the temptation to get too technical about IOTA’s tangle, but for those who like a good technical read, their whitepaper is here.

Due to this architecture, IOTA can be used for most business models that require a scalable ledger with no-fees. And this is especially interesting for micro payments that flow through an ecosystem of connected devices. The IOTA-Tangle infrastructure doesn’t need internet and can operate on Bluetooth as well.

A simple example highlighted by IOTA:  Business A set up a solar electricity instalment and sell it per watt in real time to business B, which is a company that saw the potential in selling sensor data to be used to optimize agriculture, so now business B is selling soil and weather data to business C which is an analytics company that turn the data into useful information that it sells to business D which is a farming company that use the info to optimize their crops. Of course, all of these companies buy their bandwidth from business E which saw the need for connectivity between these other businesses. A completely self-sustaining and scaling business ecosystem that might previously have been impossible because the profit margin was non-existent due to fees. A micro insurance model could work like a dream on such an ecosystem, a friction-free economy of things.

Unfortunately, expansion of such business models in Africa, is not going to be as friction free. Between 2010 and 2017 internet penetration in Africa grew from 10% to a mind boggling 27%. And in model countries like Kenya, this has reflected in the GDP growing as a result. However, there are challenges around how security of these Blockchain infrastructures are going to hold and how regulations would evolve around these disruptive initiatives. The other key challenge is awareness, where most people still struggle to understand what the value of a Blockchain based financial eco system is. However all is not doom and gloom, as there are quite a few initiatives across the continent educating people about bitcoin and Blockchain, and the demand for such programmes has never been higher. Onwards and Upwards!!

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Arun is a thought-leader specializing in how technology is changing consumer financial services around the world.

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.