Peek at industry’s future revealed at crowded InsureTech Connect event

Not a suit in sight.

Jeans and sport coats were common; ties were non-existent. Yes, you could tell by the dress code that this was not your typical insurance conference.

Startup-logoed tees promoting new brands were the preferred choice of many panelists at sessions throughout the course of the inaugural InsureTech Connect conference in Las Vegas Oct. 5-6, where an estimated 1,500 insurance execs, tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists gathered to shake up the establishment.

More than 175 speakers were featured in the two-day program at the Las Vegas Convention Center – typically in front of standing room only crowds – talking about their concepts, strategies and products that have the power and potential to transform an industry not exactly known for being innovative.

Jay Weintraub, co-founder of InsureTech Connect, notes that the common thread for the event was not disruption, but more accurately the belief that “better” is most certainly on its way. And it’s coming from not only from tech-focused “disruptors” but also from forward-thinking “incumbents” who are embracing the value proposition insuretech startups can provide.

“Better could come from disruption, but it is just as likely to come through collaboration,” Weintraub said.

One speaker noted that carriers bring strength and stability. Innovators bring speed and focus. The challenge is how to marry the two. Speaker Kristen Valdes, founder and CEO of health insurance startup b.well, said during a session that it’s easier for incumbents to buy rather than build. We can either partner – or disrupt if they don’t want to play.”

“There is SO much that technology can bring to the space,” said Scott Walchek, CEO of Trov, speaking in a session titled “The Disruptor” from the main stage on the event’s first day. “If we don’t take advantage of this moment to reshape the narrative – then shame on us. We have that opportunity – all of us.”

Trov is an on-demand insurance platform aimed at Millennials that lets users buy insurance for specific products (smartphones and other electronics to start) for a specific amount of time – or what Walchek calls “micro-duration coverage.” It launched earlier this year in Australia and the UK, with plans to be in the U.S. in 2017.

It works by a user logging a certain product – a smartphone, for example – into the app. Using the make and model, the app generates all the metadata necessary to insure that specific item. Combined with information about the prospective insurance purchaser, Trov then generates a current price for the coverage. Once a product is logged into the system, the user can turn protection on and off through a simple “swipe” and can also file claims the same way.

Walchek said he’s looking to “change the narrative” between the insurer and the consumer. “The generation that is emerging has to be in control. They want unbundled flexibility,” Walchek said.

On-demand homeshare insurance

Tim Attia of Slice
Tim Attia of Slice

I don’t know exactly how they combat fraud, but the concept of “micro-duration insurance” is an interesting one with applications well beyond personal items.It’s a concept that also forms the basis for a product behind another startup, “Slice,” which at the InsureTech event Oct. 5 officially launched a beta version of what it calls “the first on-demand insurance product for homeshare hosts using platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.”

Slice built technology to support the purchase of insurance policies that last for the period of time one is acting as a business, whether it’s minutes, hours or days. A release announcing the launch says, “buying insurance in this manner allows the ultimate freedom for those working in the on-demand economy to choose how, when and where to work, while transferring the burden of risk conveniently and affordably.” A person pays for the insurance as they earn their income, choosing to purchase only when and how they need it.

“It’s a huge and growing economy and there’s a massive need,” Tim Attia, CEO of Slice, told attendees at InsureTech while announcing the beta launch of the product in Iowa with plans to quickly go national. To further support the “sharing economy,” Attia said Slice is also working to develop a rideshare insurance product.

Coverhound launches

Another launch announced at InsureTech Connect came from CoverHound, a company specializing in helping customers compare and purchase property and casualty insurance policies.

Coverhound is moving into the cybersecurity and cyber insurance industry with a new platform that offers comprehensive solutions to help businesses protect against cyber threats.

The Oct. 5 launch of,  will help small businesses protect their business from security breaches using a three-pronged approach: offering cybersecurity tools and cyber insurance policies in one bundled purchase, providing an online repository of educational content to help customers learn about cyber risks and guiding them through the process to create a cyber prevention plan.

While other websites offer one or two of these services, and are typically aimed at large businesses, CyberPolicy is billed as the only site to offer a comprehensive solution, combining planning advice, protection tools and cyber insurance, to small businesses of 15 or fewer employees.

With licensed advisors on hand to recommend the right cybersecurity and cyber insurance, CyberPolicy provides a curated choice of products at a cost as little as $150 a year (or $0.40 a day). Further, small businesses can typically find and purchase the bundled product on in less than four minutes. The site will eventually expand to cover larger businesses.

Social media automation platform launched

Denim Labs, Inc. (Denim) used InsureTech Connect to announce the launch of the company’s cloud-based, social media advertising automation platform for insurance and financial services companies.

“Denim makes you smarter,” said Gregory Bailey, co-founder and CEO of Denim, during his presentation at InsureTech Connect. “The Denim platform empowers corporate marketers to launch, manage and scale social media advertising for thousands of agents, advisors and brokers simultaneously. Denim builds profiles, allows customization by each insurer and enables micro-targeted advertising that delivers predictable outcomes.”

By displaying local ads at scale where consumers spend their time – in their favorite social media newsfeed on their smartphone – Bailey says the consumer is more likely to convert, allowing agents and insurers to successfully drive results from the mobile and social channel.

Denim, which is already being used by American National Insurance Company’s Multiple Line Division, streamlines social media advertising campaign management and effectiveness via a powerful user interface (UI) which empowers corporate marketing departments to automate functionality around launches, tracking, communication and conversion. By delivering the ability to scale local social media advertising on behalf of independent agents, advisors and brokers from a central dashboard, the startup said it achieves an almost instant ROI for traditionally lean marketing teams who can now keep agents free for more high-value selling activities and face-to-face meetings.

“We rolled out Denim and presented it as a service to several of our leading agents,” said Scott Campbell, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer – Multiple Line at American National Insurance Company. “So far, our results have been positive and dramatic. The platform is comfortable and easy for our team to use, and Denim has definitely made us more efficient. We are converting a very high level of traffic to the websites of our agents who are participating in Denim-driven ad campaigns.”

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More observations from InsureTech

• In addition to the relaxed dress code, the crowd skewed much younger and more international overall, if not still very much predominantly male. The program featured main platform speakers followed by morning breakouts, a two-hour lunch period with ample time for meetings, afternoon breakouts and networking receptions both days. The event wrapped up with a well-attended after-show party at the swank Intrigue nightclub at the Wynn, sponsored by Oilver Wyman, Majesco and AIG.

• Andrew Rose of auto insurance quote comparison site had lots of interesting insight during the “Lessons from the App Economy” breakout session Oct. 6. In a statement that sort of summarizes the InsureTech Connect event at large, Rose said: “What parts of our process aren’t adding value for the consumer anymore? Let’s get rid of them, and who can I partner with to solve the problem?”

Rose Also asked the audience if they would prefer access to a really good Amazon app, or a really good Amazon customer service rep. Predictably, nearly all preferred the app. He then asked the audience, “What is going to be more important to consumers in 5 years – a really good agent or a really good app? We want that instant gratification… We’re an impatient crew,” Rose said. “I just want it done. As long as it is done well, the app is where I see the future.”

• The Internet of Things (IoT) and its place in the insurance industry was a recurring topic of discussion at the event. One panelist described its potential in this way: Think of it in terms of a cargo ship about to go through a war zone or other dangerous (ie: heavy pirate activity) area. An IOT sensor on the ship would detect this and automatically notifies the carrier. The carrier contacts the ship’s owner and says, “Hey, one of your ships is entering a war/danger zone, and you’re not covered for this. Do you want to secure coverage while the ship is in this area?” This kind of on-demand offering can change the way carriers can offer value to their clients.

• Todd Humphrey of Canadian firm LEAGUE, billed as “the digital alternative to traditional health insurance,” had this to say of his company’s “go to market” strategy: “If I’ve got a product that I can explain to my 12-year-old daughter and my 72-year-old mother – and they both understand it – then we’ve got a product that will probably work for all of us in the middle.”

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