Being one an insurtech startup, they’re more likely to confront great challenges on building the business and be known to the industry. You may agree that there are 2 basics if you’re the CEO and Co-Founder – business and management hurdles but great stories and use cases behind emerges in planning and executions not only to prove the position but to give more innovative industry-wide benefits.
One of the core values of Digitalscouting scouting insurtech series was to provide a platform for insurtech startups to be known by not just company names, but also on their contributions to the insurance ecosystem.
In this interview, learn how this insurtech sprouted from a friendship and now serving the insurers both incumbents and co-insurtechs with product developments and digital innovations initiatives. Nikolaus Sühr, CEO and Co-Founder of KASKO enlightened us on how they began, about his insurance industry insights, his visions, and hints on their secret sauce for success.
How you will excite a 10-year-old enabling the insurance innovations with your products and services?
Soon, the ten-year-old of today will come of age and will have to consider buying Insurance. By then, we will enable “Insurance that fits like a glove”. He or She will never have to think about which type of insurance to buy, instead, they will agree on what data to share, securely of course, around who they are, what they do, where they are and how much “risk” they are willing to take on themselves. Our platform will connect the various touchpoints with the right Insurance providers to always suggest the most important coverage levels, offer the perfect Insurance, at the right time for the right price.
In essence, the ten-year-olds of today will not have to go through the trials and tribulations that people currently face when looking for insurance. It will just happen and be there, tailor-made for them. As is the way with these things, they will not actually understand how tough it once was…
In your journey from being a startup to a trusted partner of insurers, what were your biggest hurdles as a company and as a CEO? What is your secret sauce to your success?
As a company, even today, the biggest hurdle is gaining the trust of insurers and managing the complex sales cycle when we first speak to them and start working with them. Once we have had a chance to show what we do, the rest is relatively plain sailing.
As a CEO, it’s around establishing the right culture and work environment to give people meaningful work and meaningful relationships. In order to offer fair compensation, it’s about enabling sustainable growth by ensuring the right balance of investment and organic growth and placing measured bets on future growth and direction.
In your experience in providing services in the insurance companies, what is the biggest elephant in the room in this industry and how senior decision makers or even startups should react and learn from it?
The two biggest elephants in the room are:
The mentality of “Not invented here”
It is a lot of work for us to explain and prove that there is a new way of doing things, once we have broken down the barriers of ageing-mindsets, ones which have not moved or changed since the invention of the spreadsheet, we can really push on.
Collaboration over total-ownership
The old system of trying to own the entire value chain rather than creating value networks is still there. It plays into the above, a lot of our first client-tasks are the same, educating around a new world prior to executing.
Insurer and startups need to find a collaborative approach whereby partnerships can start small, and scale fast once established. We can enable this by minimizing the opportunity costs of starting out, whilst also provide enough breadth in terms of insurer buy-in (getting business units on board after a pilot succeeded to gain scale). Showing that we, as a startup, have the breadth of technology and professionalism to solve problems for insurers at scale, is key.
It’s about bridging the delta from a small pilot to large scale industrialized roll out.
How do you see your company in the next 3 to 5 years? What are your predictions on how you can be more relevant by your contributions to the insurance industry?
In the next three to five years we will position ourselves as a leading distribution and product platform.
One where insurers can design products that cater to the many needs of modern customers. They will be able to leverage the unique contextual data and access touch points per distribution channel, instantly. This speed of data awareness and availability will allow them to “publish” their products across a whole range of connected distributors, using analytics and AI to predict the currently unmet customer demands, recommending the most-likely-to-succeed product and service configuration.
As such, KASKO will be positioned to provide the backbone of a connected insurance ecosystem matching customers, distributors, insurers and other value-adding service providers, minimizing inefficiencies and maximizing customer value.
For all parties in the value chain, from incumbent to the all important end customer, time and effort will be minimized, making for more affordable, easier to access insurance products.
Insurtech and Fintech, can you please share your updates and predictions about digital transformations? Do you think they’ll have more connections in the future?
The way we look at it, InsurTech is a powerful sub-category of FinTech, so for the go-to FinTech’s like Monzo and Starling etc, to work more with the booming newer field of InsurTech is a no-brainer.
There are other fascinating FinTech subcategories too, I would say that a majority of PropTech startups fit the bill – we all know how much insurance and the property industry go hand-in-hand, so why shouldn’t their ‘Tech’ subsidiaries. These new players in old playing fields are all appealing to the same people in their respective markets, tech-savvy consumers on the hunt for simpler, cheaper, faster, ‘tech-first’ solutions to old problems. Collaboration is and always will be, the key to turning around the solutions for the new age.
What did you learn most about working with clients – such as Baloise?
It may seem simplistic, but the old learnings are still ever-present, these are our learnings but can be adapted to be considered advice for people looking to move on with their startups:
- Solve a problem that actually exists today
- Focus on building a relationship that lasts rather than maximizing an individual transactional engagement. A small win today can be so much bigger if nurtured for the future.
- Be transparent, the more you can do this, the more hope you have of building that successful relationship for the future. Do it with your own colleagues as well as the clients and partners you work with.
- Be professional – I don’t need to explain this.
- Be patient, good things do actually come to those who show grit (passion and perseverance).
Can you inspire with your 3 dos and don’ts young startups who want to grow their companies with Insurtech and Fintech?
Do – TEST!
Early on, there will be tests that come at you, that is inevitable – but as you go, test your team and products too. Matt and I knew we wanted to start a company together, as we were friends, but had a go with a trial run and built a celebrity quote app called Quotes of Glory. It actually got some traction, but the important bit was testing if these two great friends could be great business partners. In our case, we could, so only then did we approach real-world business plans together. One test period allowed us to set out the working dynamic for the next few years.
Do – Start selling from day one.
There is a huge amount to learn about customer needs and the sales cycle, and you won’t know all the ins and outs – even with an industry background. You need to understand the entire value chain and get feedback early. Create a deck and get outside the building from day one.
Do – Be prepared to pivot!
I don’t think I could say this any more often. Although your original idea might be brilliant, you never quite know where you, your company or your market will be in the coming weeks, months and years. Often, as was the case with KASKO, you might have developed something good, but accidentally unearthed something truly groundbreaking along the way. However proud you are of the first one, don’t let that blind you from the true value you have created to support it. We started as a B2B2C offering connecting digital businesses and with insurance capacity as a digital intermediary and quickly discovered that we had made a platform underneath that could power insurance product development for existing insurers far more efficiently than anything available today. My Co-Founder Matt, and I were fortunate enough to both be in agreement, so we pivoted (a couple of times), to create the KASKO’s “InsurTech as a Service” offering you see today.
Do – Stay away from exclusive deals and IP-transfers.
I can only go from what we have experienced at KASKO, but an exclusive deal is a major red flag. It is great that you are on the brink of signing a big project, but that is it, once executed, you have signed away your right to develop your newly created IP and sell to others that want your services. Exclusivity is only really a logical next step if investments have to be protected for both you and your new customer / partner.
Don’t – Run away with your ideas too much.
Make sure you identify your target customers and the willingness to pay, before scaling into the wrong directions. As I said already, pivots will / should happen. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
Don’t – Ignore your customers by thinking you know your business best.
Your customers might just surprise you. This aligns with being prepared to pivot. What if you could use your product to solve different problems than the one that you set up to work on? Conversations with customers open the doors to new applications and potentially new revenue streams from places you already have working relationships with. Don’t for all things mighty, ignore these – one new project can secure your revenue stream for months in B2B InsurTech / FinTech. Which leads on to your runway.
Don’t – Ignore your runway!
Runway, without trying to scare people, is pretty much the most important part of early stage startup survival 101. A solitary delayed payment can spark your demise. It is all well and good getting a slice of the action early on, but you have to get paid for that slice, on time. Identify potential added value and protect your downsides, know where revenue will be burned and make sure you have a solid business plan.
Being a startup in the insurtech and fintech can you share your top 3 books everyone should read and gadgets everyone should have?
- Lean Startup => Simply put, it shows you how to iterate your way to success (available in Germany, in the US, in the UK, in Italy, and in Spain)
- Why Nations Fail => This is a great historic review that shows how extractive and exclusive social systems cause the downfall of nations (which translates well to companies as well). (available in Germany, in the US, in the UK, in Italy, and in Spain)
- Homo Deus => Following the also brilliant Sapiens, Homo Deus is a fascinating outlook of social changes and what the intersection of BioTech and AI will have on humanity. It explores how psychological resilience will become the key asset of everyone bearing in mind the inbound seismic shifts to society and economies over the coming years. (available in Germany, in the US, in the UK, in Italy, and in Spain)
- MacBook Air (available in Germany, in the US, in the UK, in Italy, and in Spain)
- An iPhone with long battery life and a high data package (available in Germany, in the US, in the UK, in Italy, and in Spain)
- Google Maps might get overlooked by some, but I find that it is kinda useful to be able to find one’s way from A to B whilst traveling
KASKO offers “InsurTech as a Service“. Its cloud-based platform allows digital plug-and-play insurance products to be launched in 4-6 weeks, allowing for new product ideas to be tested and ‘already-existing-on-paper’ products to be digitalised, quickly. The various modules offered by KASKO include a white-labelled customer journey, a digital quote-offer-bind, issuing policy documents, the ability to take payments, policy administration, and capturing first notification of loss (FNOL). As the platform is open, it can also be used to test out third-party solutions in the market.
As a company, KASKO is growing fast. It currently has a 32-strong team, spread across four offices, in Hamburg, London, Riga and Singapore. The InsurTech startup founded in 2015, is currently working with more than 15 of the largest carriers, having launched in excess of 40 products with them.
Co-Founder and CEO Nick, has over ten years of experience in the insurance industry as a business development and product manager. His areas of expertise are insurer-startup collaborations, agile insurance product development, InsurTech trends, and entrepreneurship.
He co-founded InsurTech company KASKO in 2015 with his CTO and co-founder Matt who he met at university and hasn’t looked back since.
Thank you Nick for accommodating us again for this interview even with your busy schedules and we hope to see you again, soon.