The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) in Des Moines, Iowa has launched its second program for insurance technology startups. This year’s program attracted twice as many applications as last year’s.
The GIA chose six startups across auto, property and health insurance to participate 100-day program which offers each team $40,000 of seed capital, office space, one-on-one mentorship, business development training and access to the GIA’s extensive and diverse network of insurance executives and carriers, investors and industry leaders. In exchange, the GIA receives a six percent equity stake in each company.
The companies are:
- Smart Drivinc (St. Louis, Missouri): Distracted driving and crash prevention app disables drivers’ cell phones while driving.
- Fluttrbox (Montreal, Canada): On-demand aerial imaging and mapping application that provides detailed property assessments via aerial drone images.
- WeSavvy (Dublin, Ireland): Health insurance app that rewards customers with cash off their insurance premium based on physical activity.
- Telematic (Madison, Wisconsin): Connected car app that offers auto insurance companies the ability to price insurance by monitoring driving and mobile usage.
- Serious Social Media (Orange, California): Automated social media marketing software for insurance agents.
- Isaac RE: Peer-to-peer online insurance marketplace, where investors back policyholders in exchange for underwriting profit.
“We were thrilled by the amount of interest we received from a strong and diverse group of applicants across industry segments,” said Brian Hemesath, managing director for the GIA. “One of last year’s participants has achieved a small seed funding round, another is about to announce $700,000 and a third is also expected to receive significant funding, he said.
“Des Moines is the insurance capital of the United States, which is why it’s only natural for these insurance startups to accelerate their presence here with us,” said Jeff Russell, board chair for the GIA. “One of the biggest challenges early-stage startups face is identifying and gaining access to the right partners and mentors to jumpstart their businesses and to create the foundation to drive future growth. That’s why, above all else, our program focuses on helping these companies generate revenues by selling their products to real customers versus focusing solely on investment.”
Insurance technology lags behind fintech, said Hemesath.
“Insuretech is where fintech was 10 years ago.” The GIA has proven popular with its backers, he said.
“They all get different benefits. For some this is part of their innovation plan to see what these startups can do for them. For others it is a way to get their employees involved in innovation and expose them to new ways of thinking. We are kind of like this shiny object; there are not a lot of people doing what we are doing.”
While internal labs have been around for a while at carriers, bringing several insurance carriers together under one roof hasn’t been done before, he added. Des Moines is partnered with ACORD, the insurance standards body, which launched its own program to encourage startups last year led by Bill Hartnett, former head of the financial services group at Microsoft.
The program runs until May 19, but culminates in April with the annual Global Insurance Symposium where each team will pitch its innovative insurance solution to more than 350 prominent industry executives from around the world.
Investors backing the GIA (all returning from 2015) include the following insurance carriers: American Equity Investment Life, Delta Dental of Iowa, Farmers Mutual Hail, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance, IMT Insurance Company and Principal Financial Group.
Hemesath said the trends among the program’s applicants are around sales and distribution, especially innovations in moible and social; data and predictive analytics; and telematics, both in cars and in wearables. They tie together, he added, because data is useless if carriers can’t develop it into information that supports actuarial requirements.
The accelerator’s mentors are industry leaders and executives who have a deep understanding of the industry and come from insurance carriers and brokerages including all seven GIA investors, AIG, Nationwide, EMC, Transamerica, Merchants Bonding and more.
Created in 2014 as an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Global Insurance Accelerator is the world’s first startup accelerator focused on the global insurance industry. The mentor-driven program is backed by major carriers and brokerages and its mentors consist of current and former industry leaders and executives.