Beyond the Pitch

Insurtech Startup? Three Lessons from Insuretech Connect

Team Rev1 was among the 3,500+ Insurance leaders, startups, and VCs who flocked to Vegas this week to network and talk about the future of the industry at Insuretech Connect 2017.  While the mood was solemn due to the tragic event that took place the night before the conference kicked off, we focused on the topic at hand.

Hundreds of startups attended the event, with an eye on contracts and funding. My team and I met with dozens of these founders, in search of real solutions to address the evolving needs of our corporate partners and to identify high-potential deal flow for our new fund, launched last week in partnership with State Auto Labs.

As I look back on what I heard and the conversations I had throughout the week, a few fundamental startup lessons rose above the din. While these could apply to any industry – not just insurance – I’ll share them here in context because the real world examples are more memorable.

1. Lead with the customer, not the technology.

From the opening session by the Oliver Wyman team to the many fireside chats throughout the week, the insurance industry is rightly re-focused on the customer. Incumbents are driving their innovation teams around deeper relationships with customers and looking for real solutions to reduce friction and increase engagement with their base. Whether it be data, blockchain, AI, or drones – new products are of interest to insurers only if they either a) attract new customers or b) increase “stickiness” and engagement with existing customers.

I believe Ring founder James Siminoff said it best in his advice to startups, “Do something that makes people’s lives better, don’t focus on the technology.”  Ring’s focus on reducing neighborhood crime and keeping families safe has enabled the company to grow to a $1B valuation.

2. Understand the solution AND how it would be implemented.

It’s not enough to just know where your product would fit to solve an insurer’s customer needs. You need to think through how it would be implemented. For example, providing an insurer access to a new data source is interesting only if leveraging that new data can be directly attributed to a specific outcome for the customer, like a percentage reduction in risk.

Rob Schimek, President & CEO of AIG Commercial, underlined this theme in his advice to startups, “You must first fall in love with the problem to find a great solution. We’re looking for the RIGHT solution for the problem.”

Georg Schwegler, managing director of TransAmerica Ventures, added to the topic, saying the “heavy lift is integrating it into the process of the company for better outcomes.”

3. Don’t get lost in the hype.

If you’re chasing the hype of a certain technology and not the impact it will have on real people’s lives, your product and company will be a tough sell – at least in the near term. Blockchain was a frequent topic throughout this conference. While it is driving a lot of interesting activity and future speculation, very little has yet been done beyond the proof of concept stage, especially here in the U.S.

Chris Sandilands, Partner at Oxbow Partners shared a great chart to this end on the hype vs. impact of technologies.

I look forward to your thoughts on this topic and the event.

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