Six Startups to Watch - April 2017

These companies tackle some of the biggest issues facing insurers.


Here is our second monthly list of "Six Startups to Watch," drawn from the more than 1,000 insurtechs we're now tracking at our Innovator's Edge site. They tackle some of the biggest issues facing insurers, and, while we all know that most startups fail, are unusually well-positioned for success, we believe. In the interests of variety, to make sure we expose you to an intriguing variety of startups, we don't repeat any of those we put on last month's list

Without further ado, we suggest you keep a close eye on:

Windward. The short description of this Tel Aviv company is: telematics for ships. There is a lot of ocean out there, and a lot of traffic on it, but there isn't always great information about what goes where. Sometimes, that is by design—ships will turn off their GPS trackers as they pass troubled areas, becoming what are known as "ghost ships." Well, if a ship registered in Iran goes dark as it spends a few days off the coast of Libya, then heads to a major population center such as London, an insurer might want to know that. It certainly would like to be sure that all relevant authorities can track any suspicious activity in this day and age. So, Windward pulls together a moment-by-moment history for each vessel that operates at sea, for use in insurance and a number of other industries.

In many ways, I've been waiting for Windward for a decade, since I met Mike Mullen at a conference where we both were speaking. Mullen was the chief naval officer for the United States at that point, soon to be appointed to the first of two terms as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and we spent some time talking about a vision he had for a "1,000-ship navy." The U.S. has the world's biggest navy but doesn't come close to 1,000 ships—about 275 are in service—so Mullen was really talking about ways to coordinate the activities of most of the world's navies, to tackle problems like Somali pirates. More broadly, he was envisioning the sort of detailed mapping of ocean traffic that Windward is attempting. I wish it smooth sailing.

Ladder Life. The company has rethought life insurance from the ground up, to make the process simple and quick, to cut fees, etc.—basically to tackle all the problems that have made life insurance sales languish. It recently launched in its first market: California.

RiskGenius. The company uses artificial intelligence to analyze policies. It can spot coverage gaps, identify wording that has resulted in litigation and generally help insurers and brokers to find the best policy language to protect their interests.

Infinilytics. It provides analytics for handling claims, with two major benefits. Infinilytics fast tracks valid claims, removing frustration for customers during the process that insurers refer to as "the moment of truth." The analytics also spot questionable claims for more investigation.   

ViewSpection. This is a DIY digital inspection app that property owners can use to generate a complete tour as they apply for insurance, or that an agent can use. The app immediately gives underwriters the details they need, which removes the cost for an inspection and speeds the process, removing a frustration for the customer. (Yes, there is a theme here.)

RiskAdvisor. It provides a comprehensive risk profiling tool that brokers and insurers can use with corporate clients and prospects. The tool draws from a library of many thousands of possible questions to generate a list of risk issues, including enterprise risks, that are relevant to a company of that size, in that industry, in that geography, etc. 

I hope you find these insurtechs as intriguing as I do. If you are an insurance provider interested in what makes these companies worth noting, you should join Innovator's Edge for an in-depth look at these and other startups. We'll share more next month, from our ever-growing list.

Several of our startups to watch will be on hand at next week's Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, along with my ITL colleagues Dave Dias and Paul Winston. If you are able to attend, you can learn first-hand about their innovations.


Paul Carroll,

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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