InsureTech Connect — Walk away inspired

By Anna Game-Lopata – ANZIIF Writer | 24 May 2017
  • Claims
  • General Insurance
  • Insurance Broking
  • Life Health and Retirement Income
  • Risk Management
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In case you haven’t heard, InsureTech Connect (ITC) is the world’s largest insurtech event.

To be held under the sparkling lights of Las Vegas over October 2—4, the team, led by founder and CEO Jay Weintraub and chairman and co-founder Caribou Honig, have set their sights on attracting 3,000 industry execs, entrepreneurs and investors.

‘Our goal is to showcase the changing ways in which technology will impact the entire insurance ecosystem,’ Weintraub says.

‘For our inaugural year, we hoped for at least 1,000 with a stretch goal of 1,200. We never expected having upwards of 1,500.’

People. Perspective. Passion.

This year, Weintraub says InsureTech Connect will focus on three things.

‘First, ever-increasing international attendance — going from 30 countries to more than 40 represented,’ he says.

‘Second, we want to go beyond those typically associated with innovation, that is profit and loss (P&L) owners looking to make real change, not just those with a mandate to think five, ten or twenty years ahead.

‘We aim to become the place where new technologies, including new companies, are first shown publicly.’

Weintraub says the three most powerful experiences to gain from InsureTech Connect are people, perspective and passion.

‘While the content focus is insurtech, the priority is people; it is the very reason we have “Connect” in our name,’ he says.

‘Perspective because there is no larger, more comprehensive gathering to understand who is doing what and meet them face to face.

‘Passion is not just about our passion but walking away feeling inspired by the amazing talent and energy in the space.’

Mind of an entrepreneur

InsureTech Connect is part of Weintraub’s portfolio of B2B events currently being incubated by NextCustomer, the holding company he founded, which also includes Grow.co, Contact.io and the soon to be launched HR Tech.

NextCustomer was also Weintraub’s platform for the creation of LeadsCon, an internationally recognised event series serving vertical media and marketing professionals, which was sold to Access Intelligence in 2012.

 ‘When I first ventured into the B2B events space, I would have placed a healthy wager on my not being in the events field a decade later,’ Weintraub admits.

‘Today, it would not surprise me if I wound up being in events for another ten years.

‘For me, the motivation comes from thinking about who should be in the room together and seeing the magic that happens if we get the people part right.

‘To hear someone say that one of our events played a meaningful role for them personally or professionally is what drives us.’

Face to face trumps digital

While some businesses connect people digitally Weintraub’s philosophy is that the most meaningful connections come from face-to face interactions.

‘That is one of the many reasons why we both love and believe in the power of in-person events,’ he says.

‘In business, and in life, whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly evaluating those we meet, asking ourselves: Do we like this person? Can we trust them? Would we want to do business together?

‘And while friendships and business relationships can form digitally, to truly know a person means having spent time with them.

‘It means having shared experiences with them. That is what events offer, and to me that is why face to face won’t be easily replaced by digital but it will certainly enhance it.’

Leap into insurance

Despite his expertise — and 30 years’ experience as an investor —Weintraub says it was still a ‘leap’ into insurance.

‘If it weren’t for my time running LeadsCon, I may never have ultimately made the leap to insurance or insurtech,’ he says.

‘It was at LeadsCon that I became exposed to digital’s ever-increasing role in insurance, especially as it pertained to the LeadsCon ecosystem of customer acquisition.

‘And, it was via LeadsCon that I was invited to join and speak at an event organised by a group of large captive agency owners.

‘The experience with them planted a seed around wanting to do more in insurance.

‘In fact, the original vision was an event solely focused on insurance brokers. Thanks in large part to the input of my partner, Caribou Honig, the original vision morphed to look at digital’s role on the entire insurance ecosystem and value chain.’

US insurtech market

In the US, Weintraub says the insurtech market can be characterised by the two interwoven themes of consumerisation and capital.

‘With respect to the former, every-day consumers, whether they think they are or not, are technologists.

‘I say that because this on-demand, mobile, social world in which they (and we) live has created expectations around how interactions with tech and, by extension, businesses should work.

‘It isn’t just about millennials; it is everyone, and this “everyone is a techie” mentality means companies aren’t just compared to their peers. They are compared to every other company, and that is a big difference from earlier iterations of the digital revolution.’

From a capital perspective, the practically zero interest rate environment has meant that everyone must look outside the classic paradigms to see returns.

‘At this point I will wade dangerously close to areas outside my pay grade,’ Weintraub quips.

‘[The low interest rate environment] has had widespread impact on the innovation ecosystem.

This impact, Weintraub says, has included an explosion in venture dollars driving a direct increase in the number of companies funded and the amounts they've been funded, plus the ability for reinsurers to get closer to the premium by offloading new risks. 

'[Low interest rates] have also led to carriers looking to capture returns through operational efficiency not just investment ability,' Weintraub adds.

‘And, while cultural shifts matter, I do not know that they or consumerisation would have played nearly such a big role had we had a different financial environment.’

Still in adolescence

For Weintraub, the word that comes to mind for the insurtech space is ‘maturing’.

‘If we look at the earliest investments, perhaps not surprisingly, many focused on the changing distribution landscape,’ he says.

‘Today, it seems that most investors have made their bets on distribution, and two areas that seem to stand out are product innovation and value chain improvement.’

Product innovation encompasses everything from new ideas and business models — on-demand, parametric, new risk types—to taking a laser focus on large existing categories that many feel are underserved.

‘Commercial insurance comes to mind,’ Weintraub observes.

‘I use the value chain term loosely to encompass those helping improve underwriting, claims, user experience and engagement.

‘Insurtechs in this category range from those looking to replace current core systems to applying cutting edge technology — both hardware and software — to make existing systems better, for example drones and machine learning.

While there are still no shortage of unanswered questions about what the actual role of insurtechs will be, there is nevertheless no shortage of hype.

‘Now, however, we have started to see results. Not enough to be conclusive but enough to help say that what is happening in and around insurtech is real,’ Weintraub says.

‘We have enough results, too, to guide companies on what insurtech could and should mean for them. We have entered a hopefully virtuous cycle of tangible results leading to more and more tangible results.’

He adds that we will continue to see those looking to 'disrupt' insurance.

‘But I get far more excited about the opportunities for insurtech to enable insurance and help improve existing balance sheets while making for a better experience for consumers.’

Next on the agenda — HR

Jay Weintraub’s next venture delves into the human resources sector.

‘In building ITC and looking to create the most comprehensive gathering possible, the HR segment more than any other appears to straddle two worlds,’ he explains.

‘And, in many cases, while they make money from insurance, US companies like Zenefits, Gusto, Flock, Gravvy, Stride Health, Justworks and so on don’t necessarily think of themselves as insurtechs.

‘They on sell to businesses, but they sell into a very specific function —HR.

‘As a result, they are evaluated not as part of the insurance ecosystem but how they operate as part of the HR value chain.

‘We saw that as both a challenge and an opportunity. Thus, HR Tech was born.’

The inaugural HR Tech takes place April 4—5, 2018. Similar to ITC, Weintraub is looking for around 1,000 attendees first up and plans it as an annual event roughly six months apart from ITC. 

Pitch to Jay

So what do investors like Weintraub look for in tech concepts in terms of leadership ability and long-term financial viability? Here are some thoughts for budding insurtech entrepreneurs out there:

  • Your focus should be on how investors could add meaningful value
  • Understand the specific paradigm each investor has
  • Act like investors; that is, take the long view.
  • Unless you have a track record, don’t go in with the hard sell - we look to raise x by y.
  • Spend time seeing if you enjoy each other’s company.
  • Create a relationship where you start by asking for their input, and ideally, it leads to them opening their wallet. 

‘Having invested in upwards of 30 companies over the past five to six years, I have learned that I am a pretty crappy investor from the aspect of optimising for financial returns,’ Weintraub says.

‘I have also learned that if someone needs my money, that is a bad sign - as I don’t write game changing checks.

Ultimately, Weintraub would like to think his time is more valuable than his money.

‘For those pitching what I will call working investors, the focus should be on how we could add meaningful value to them,’ he advises.

‘We should almost qualify as advisers, where writing a cheque is a way to double down on being involved.’

Almost all investors have areas of interest, basically themes or buckets, and use them as the lens to gauge whether they like where the company operates.

With respect to investors who actually know what they are doing and do it for a living, the adage about investing in the team and not the idea continues to hold true.

‘If you are great and your team is great, that will open up so many doors,’ Weintraub says.

‘Your investors are going to be part of the holiday dinner table, so spend time seeing if you enjoy each other’s company. Create a relationship where you start by asking for their input, and ideally, it leads to them opening their wallet. 

‘Finally, if I have learned anything from being both an entrepreneur and an investor it is that great ideas endure, but they rarely are attached to those who thought of them first.

‘Great people tend to find a way to persevere, and often in that process, they get credit for the enduring idea.’ 




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