Spot­light on women’s in­no­va­tion

Go inside the pitch event for the in­au­gu­ral Fe­male Founders in In­surtech ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram, which fol­lowed a weeks-long men­tor­ing and re­fine­ment process that broad­ened par­tic­i­pants' reach and net­works.

Digital Insurance - - WOMEN IN INSURTECH - By Nathan Go­lia

In­no­va­tion con­sul­tancy Ques­nay ran a com­pe­ti­tion for women in­surtech founders this year. It was an off­shoot of a more hor­i­zon­tal event for fin­tech com­pa­nies of all times that the com­pany ran in 2017. Co-founder and CEO Jenn Byrne says that with nearly 100 en­trants to that con­test, “we de­cided to do sep­a­rate in­surtech and fin­tech events this year so we could sup­port more women.” More than 100 in­surtechs started the ap­pli­ca­tion process for this year's event. “A lot of ap­pli­cants, in par­tic­u­lar women feel as though they aren't ready” for a com­pe­ti­tion, no mat­ter what the level of their com­pany, Byrne adds. “But we wanted to com­mu­ni­cate that you have noth­ing to lose by just com­plet­ing the sub­mis­sion process.” In to­tal, five com­pa­nies were se­lected to go through the in­no­va­tion pro­gram, which in­cluded a month of men­tor­ing and guid­ance to re­fine their prod­uct. At the In­sureTech Con­nect con­fer­ence in early Oc­to­ber, a fi­nal pitch event for six judges yielded a top three. Fol­low­ing are short pro­files of each of these com­pa­nies, as well as their tips for other women founders who are in­ter­ested in en­ter­ing the in­surtech fray.

Vi­va­met­rica (1st place, $35,000 prize)

Founder: Dr. Christy Lane How it works: Uses data from mo­bile and wear­able de­vices to pre­dict and pre­vent mor­tal­ity and dis­ease, in par­tic­u­lar the num­ber of steps taken each day. “Other than age, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is the most ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tor of mor­tal­ity,” Lane ex­plains. What do life in­sur­ance com­pa­nies think about your de­vel­op­ment? “On the whole they're ex­cited, but prob­a­bly a lit­tle ner­vous. How­ever, they're rec­og­niz­ing that the data is there – it's been ver­i­fied by Mu­nich Re and SCOR. The big­gest chal­lenge is work­ing to im­ple­ment it. It's not the ac­tu­ar­ial part, that's al­ready fig­ured out.” What ad­vice would you give other fe­male in­surtech founders? “What I learned through this process was to re­ally seek out and lever­age other women in the in­dus­try. I met women here and there but never in a men­tor­ship po­si­tion. I meant three amaz­ing men­tors here and built a great net­work.”

Flood­mapp (2nd place, $25,000 prize)

Founder: Juli­ette Mur­phy How it works: Pro­vides real-time data on po­ten­tial floods and floods in process to help in­sur­ance com­pa­nies an­tic­i­pate po­ten­tial claims and alert pol­i­cy­hold­ers to move to higher ground. What ad­vice would you give other women look­ing to get into in­surtech? “Talk to as many peo­ple as you can. My back­ground is in flood en­gi­neer­ing and not in­sur­ance so this in­dus­try was to­tally new to me. The thing that was most help­ful was peo­ple help­ing us un­der­stand the trends, the ter­mi­nol­ogy and chal­lenges, what are they look­ing to do.”

What were some of the most im­por­tant lessons you learned as you went through the process? “I was able to un­der­stand that cus­tomer en­gage­ment and the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence was ac­tu­ally huge value to them, maybe even more than the claims re­duc­tion it­self.”

Dreyev (3rd place, $15,000 prize)

Founder: Dr. Mag­gie Stys How it works: Com­bines in­ward- and out­ward-fac­ing cam­eras and sen­sors to mon­i­tor driver be­hav­ior rel­a­tive to road con­di­tions. “One eye looks at the driver, an­other looks at the road,” Stys ex­plains. What ad­vice would you give other women in­surtech founders? “Be per­sis­tent. When you get into the startup world whether com­ing straight from school or a big com­pany, it's a very dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment and you have to adapt very quickly and not get dis­cour­aged. Sur­round your­self with peo­ple who be­lieve in you and the idea and can make things hap­pen.” You've gone through a cou­ple in­surtech com­pe­ti­tions. What stood out about this one? ”This one was the only one where I could mo­nop­o­lize the mic. Usu­ally we [Stys and co-founder Dr. Roberto Sic­coni] fight for it (Laughs). Hav­ing the fo­cus on fe­male founders and sup­port and see­ing other strong women com­pete was ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing to me.”


Founder: Shruthi Rao How it works: A risk in­tel­li­gence plat­form for com­mer­cial in­sur­ers that ag­gre­gates a wide swath of pub­lic data to un­earth po­ten­tial risks that don't come in the tra­di­tional un­der­writ­ing process. “We found out that a plant [that ex­ploded dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey] had paid a fine for a com­pli­ance vi­o­la­tion as re­cently as May of that year – which would've been of use to their in­surer,” she notes. What ad­vice would you give women in­surtech founders? “What I would tell a woman – or man, re­ally — look­ing to build a busi­ness is to never lose fo­cus on what mat­ters. There's a lot of lev­els to pull, it can be very easy to go off on one track without think­ing through the foun­da­tion for your com­pany.” How im­por­tant are events like this that are fo­cused on women founders? “Women are not al­ways as con­fi­dent in go­ing for­ward com­pared to men. When they come across a po­ten­tial bias it can dis­cour­age them. So it's im­por­tant to have that net­work of women help­ing other women, and these events have a huge im­pact on that.”


Founder: Jan­thana Kaen­prakham­roy How it works: Part­ners with gig econ­omy web­sites to pro­vide short-term com­mer­cial in­sur­ance cover for free­lancers. What ad­vice would you give other women look­ing to get into in­surtech? “Some women un­der­value them­selves and don't want to ask for too much money or a higher val­u­a­tion when they clearly de­serve it. They should do due dili­gence on their peers and ask for ex­actly what they're worth.” What are some of the dif­fer­ences be­tween U.S. and UK in­surtech in­vestors? “I love the U.S. in­vestor's ways of see­ing risk. In­vestors here in­vest in the fu­ture. They put in a lot of money and the busi­ness grows into it. In the UK, they want com­pa­nies that they have al­ready reached a cer­tain level. But com­pa­nies have to raise money to get that level of trac­tion.”

Re­han Ashroff of the Farm­ers In­no­va­tion Lab spoke about his com­pany's spon­sor­ship of the FFIT com­pe­ti­tion at its pitch event.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.