Working with insurtech startups – Navigating the language barrier
Having been involved in both startup and corporate innovation, I’ve found that the two can feel worlds apart and very similar at the same time.
The language barrier:
Both are trying to create new value, both have teams looking to seek out user problems and build solutions that people care about. Often even the methodology can feel similar, with Lean Startup and Design Thinking approaches being applied. They are, however, also very different. Company size, team structure, roles, motivation and processes all can stand out as distinct between the two.
It’s no surprise then, that when the two try to work together it can feel like messages get lost in translation and teams speaking different languages. One of the most painful moments is often the onboarding phase, with a lack of clarity around what each party requires and can provide. In many cases this is a side effect of the corporate’s detailed process being unknown to the startup, and also commonly unknown to the corporate stakeholder who is leading the relationship.
Given the great opportunity that lies within startups and corporates working together, I’ve asked three startups to share their tips on how to make the journey a little bit smoother.
Tips from startups:
Mike, from 360Globalnet has been on both sides of the table, as a corporate stakeholder and an insurtech founder. He says that “all too often [startups] have not understood what my problems were [as a corporate stakeholder], they need to think about me not them“. Sometimes the passion and energy of startup founders can prevent them from seeing the competing priorities and issues that a corporate stakeholder might be facing. Sam, founder of Earthscope, echos this point “I would recommend trying to find ways to let founders know your pain… this gives founders a clear goal“.
Be transparent early on about competing priorities that exist within the business, and what problems you are facing.
Mike spoke about how he found it useful during engagements to ask: “what’s made it difficult to do this before?“. Sharing experiences on what has been challenging for your organisation in the past provides the startup with insight on how they can make the process easier this time. It also gives them the opportunity to share techniques that have helped them speed up the process previously.Sharing experiences on what has been challenging for your organisation in the past provides the startup with insight on how they can make the process easier this time. Click To Tweet
Communicate with the startup around what has made this process difficult before, and ask them about any difficulties they have had when onboarding with other Insurers – tackle these problems early.
I’ve worked on projects both as an innovation consultant and also when launching my own startup where timelines haven’t been clear. This can be a real problem from a startup perspective, as they might be relying on the engagement for funding or other activities, therefore if you’re on different timelines it’s best to discover this early on and avoid awkward conversations down the line.
Sam from Flock comments “From our experience, clearer timelines [would help], we don’t have 2 years for a project to chug along“.
The other side to this is that early-stage startups are often looking for validation that there is interest in their proposition. If they are not aware of the sales timelines within your business, they may interpret a delay in activity as disinterest and be unsure as to if they should continue. Mike comments: “startups have got to know even a compelling need is compromised by funding, prioritisation calls and resource inside the insurer“.
Set out the likely timelines for onboarding and approvals clearly, so you’re all on the same page.
Engaging the business
Finally, it’s not just yourself, as the corporate innovator, and the startup that needs to be involved. Consider the other areas of the business that you might need to pull in to get everything working smoothly. Mike (360Globalnet) comments: “[As a startup] you can be so on the same page as the business leader/key stakeholder, but forget to say ‘what do IT and compliance need?’ which will cause delays. Bring these people in early“.It's not just yourself, as the corporate innovator, and the startup that needs to be involved. Consider the other areas of the business that you might need to pull in to get everything working smoothly. Click To Tweet
There is also the possibility of bringing additional resources from the business to not only support onboarding, but in the development of the relationship or proposition you are working on together. Sam Flock asks “If not consultancy fees to support startups who are committing a lot of time to working with them, can they provide managers, developers, systems integrators to work with the startup instead? Insurers have a lot of financial and human resource – startups don’t“. Insurers are filled with smart people and, if priorities allow, it would be great to get more of them involved in the startup relationships.
Consider early on, who else in the business needs to be involved and make them aware.
I hope this has been useful and if you’re struggling in this space, Ninety are here to help & can be your corporate-startup translators!
Mike Daly – 360Globalnet [https://www.360globalnet.com/en]
About: We live in a digital, minimal friction, high expectation world. In contrast, many insurers offer clunky, outmoded legacy interactions into this world and show surprise when customers respond badly. 360Globalnet has invested 10 years of development and 30 years of experience at the hard end of claims into developing a no-code, end-to-end digital claims management platform that gives all parties what they want and expect.
Sam Murphy – EarthScope [https://www.earthscope.io/]
About: We map wildfire risk to increase resilience. The price of insurance depends on risk, however, existing wildfire risk products have too much uncertainty. This makes it difficult to settle on a price and creates a protection gap which is going to cause a lot of pain. We are here to provide certainty, close that gap and increase resilience.
Sam Golden – Flock [https://flockcover.com/]
About: We believe that insurance doesn’t have to be boring. It can be smart, and powered by real-time data. It can be fully digital. It can even help to make flying robots safer. We launched Europe’s first ‘pay-as-you-fly’ drone insurance product in 2018, and have skyrocketed since then. Our digital underwriting platform has unlocked a range of data-driven insurance and risk management products in the drone industry, from our on-demand insurance app for micro-SMEs, to our exposure based enterprise product for the world’s largest drone fleets. We now help thousands of customers to fly safer and smarter every single day.