Picking Winners Among 2017 Innovators to Watch

2017 Innovators to Watch Winners


With tens of thousands of early-stage tech startups focused on transforming risk and insurance, it’s understandable if many in the insurance industry struggle to identify potential partners to drive their innovation efforts.

We try to make that less of a struggle.

The core of ITL’s mission is to work with entrepreneurs and incumbent insurers to produce systematic innovation based on technology. Our Innovator’s Edge platform helps insurance industry members define their innovation growth strategies, discover opportunity and execute solutions that scale, while drawing on relevant startups from around the world.

Innovator’s Edge is, quite simply, a growth platform for early-stage companies as well as for industry incumbents, regardless of size.

To help with the vetting, we select six Innovators to Watch each month from the growing population of early-stage companies that take the extra step of completing our Market Maturity Review, or MMR. Starting in 2017, we have published a monthly list of companies with a compelling solution, business model and team. The MMR comprises five modules of information designed to provide a potential insurance partner or investor with additional detail on a company and its solution, beyond the sort of data you can get from those who just track startup funding.

In 2017, we recognized 54 companies as Innovators to Watch. As we prepare to recognize more companies in the year ahead, we looked back at those companies and are excited to report that the information from the MMRs, combined with algorithms running on IE and with our innovation system, leads to an ability to select scalable winners at a ratio that would defy credibility if we published the number.

With full recognition that 54 is a small data sample, we still found some of the data revealing:

As a group, 40 of the Innovators to Watch have generated $436 million in total funding to date, for an average of $10.9 million. (Fourteen of the 54 companies reported a range of funding, as NDAs limited their ability to disclose details.) Since the announcement, Vertafore paid an undisclosed amount to buy one of the companies, RiskMatch, which provides analytics, portfolio management and placement intelligence.

The largest number, nearly 30%, were founded in 2016, followed by 24% founded in 2012. The newest was founded in 2017, and the oldest was founded in 2005.


TechCrunch collaborated with Crunchbase in 2015, then again in 2017, to complete studies of gender diversity among startups in Silicon Valley. In both studies, approximately 17% of all startups included women among their founders. Insurance industry statistics mirror that number: Women hold less than 10% of "C-level" roles and an estimated 17% of the next tier of executive positions. By contrast, 48% of our Innovators to Watch from 2017 include female founders.

The companies are located around the world, though nearly 75% are based in the United States.


The 2017 Innovators to Watch focus on a wide swath of the insurance value chain. Slightly more than half—52%—provide solutions to broadly benefit insurance companies, from better data and analytics to risk information and enhanced process capabilities. The next largest areas of focus were agents and brokers, 15%, and healthcare/health insurance, 13%.


The innovative technologies deployed by these innovators is a long list, but analytics, big data and business intelligence are most frequently cited.


We followed up with the Innovators to Watch to learn what the recognition meant for them.

Of the honorees, 87% used the recognition in their marketing and promotional efforts, including social media, web site, email signatures and sending the news to current and prospective customers.

Also, 81% said being named an Innovator to Watch contributed to a positive outcome in their business development, with honorees noting it raised their credibility, added visibility and drove traffic to their web sites.


"Innovators Edge is a leading publication in the insurtech ecosystem. Being named one of the Innovators to Watch gave us a huge credibility boost," one founder said.

"Being identified and published as one of ITL’s 6 Innovators to Watch helped us gain exposure, be taken more seriously with our future technologies and strengthen our relationship with global reinsurers," another said.

We are glad that the recognition program helped. We hope that it is similarly useful to other early-stage tech companies that are wondering how to boost their visibility and relevance to potential insurance industry partners; being part of Innovator’s Edge and completing the MMR is a good start.

For those insurance industry incumbents that are struggling to find meaningful innovators and insurtechs, Innovators to Watch is our chance to share with you some of the more interesting and innovative startups, ones that we believe hold great promise for driving exponential growth. The global community of early-stage companies knows all too well that the best ideas never stand the test of markets, of adoption, without a solid team focused on execution, and we’ll help where we can.  

Stay tuned in 2018 for more Innovators to Watch.

View the complete list of all 54 companies recognized as Innovators to Watch in 2017.


Paul Carroll,
Editor in Chief

Paul Carroll

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Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership.

He is also co-author of A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the Future We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050 and Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993.

Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.


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