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April 6, 2017

Startups Take a Seat at the Table

Summary:

The mix of new voices and seasoned experts proves that innovation doesn’t have to come exclusively from one generation.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

In an industry where experience matters, and where specific domain knowledge has traditionally been prized above all other things, startups are increasingly being included in strategic conversations, and given a seat at the insurance table. Insurtech startups are bringing important emerging technology innovations and smart business solutions to a stalwart industry, and interest and investment in insurtech is climbing steadily. With the pace of change and competition increasing, as well, leading industry incumbents are beginning to pursue collaboration with fresh partners and platforms.

Age Is Just a Number

There is no right age for launching a startup, or for undertaking an innovation initiative, but many naively assume that younger is always better. In fact, some mix of experience in the industry being targeted along with an innovative idea and entrepreneurial state of mind are likely the best combination.

The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) in Des Moines, for example, provides support to insurtech startups worldwide through a mentoring system that matches industry professionals with startups for a chance to better focus product-market fit. The average age of program participants working from Des Moines has increased each year since inception in 2015. The average age was 35 in the first year. It bumped one year to 36 in 2016, and jumped to 40 in 2017.

See also: Will Startups Win 20% of Business?  

This mix of new voices and seasoned experts proves that innovation doesn’t have to come exclusively from one generation. Leveraging industry knowledge and experience with ideas from newcomers can lead to great things when attacking problems worth solving.

Everyone Needs Mentors

Over the course of three cohorts at the GIA, a shift has occurred in the amount of insurance experience the entrepreneurs had coming into the program. In 2015, only a couple of participants had worked in the industry. Now, in 2017, the pendulum has swung to the other end of the spectrum, and almost every member of the cohort has worked in insurance at some point during his or her career.

However, this prior industry experience hasn’t diminished the impact the GIA’s mentors have on any given startup’s evolution. The amazing pool of mentors who have raised a hand and taken a front seat in helping these early-stage InsurTech startups navigate a complex industry remain critical to the program’s success. Although the mentor role is largely to guide and advise, almost all of the GIA’s more than 100 mentors have reported learning as much from the startups.

Collaboration Is Key

There are six companies currently participating in the 100-day GIA program from a combination of the United States, Canada, Germany, and Serbia. The ideas and products offered by these InsurTech startups differ, as do the technologies powering the innovation, but these startups are all entrepreneurs who understand the vast opportunities within the insurance sector.

Moving to the main stage, GIA’s InsurTech startup cohort members gain a seat at the table this Spring during the fourth annual Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines. Sitting alongside peers in one of the global hubs of the insurance industry, these startups will be able to both learn from seasoned industry experts and share wisdom as well.

See also: 5 Challenges Facing Startups (Part 5)  

The Global Insurance Accelerator experience will culminate in a panel discussion at the Global Insurance Symposium which will discuss lessons learned, and provide an opportunity to network with leaders from around the industry. This experience will allow GIA’s cohort to better understand the industry so transformation can continue from the inside out.

Collaborative efforts like these will not only allow insurance industry players to remain relevant and competitive, but to transform the insurance industry by meeting customers’ needs through new and improved methods.

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About the Author

Brian Hemesath is the managing director of the Global Insurance Accelerator.

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