There are two places, according to Wayne Slavin, where people come up with good ideas. One is the bathroom. The other is a flight to Las Vegas (not on the way back, however).
And it was on such a flight that Slavin had an idea.
“I said ‘We’re doing 100+ million mobile commerce transactions at my current company. I wonder if instead of selling food through an app, if we could sell insurance?” he said. “I ended up standing up on the plane and asking people three rows ahead of me and three rows behind me ‘Hey if you could buy insurance right now before we took off through an app, would you buy it?’ And everybody said ‘Yea, how could I not buy it?’”
And that was the first seed that eventually became Sure, an app that is making buying insurance easier than it’s ever been.
Benzinga caught up with Slavin to talk about Sure, how it's leading the insurance evolution, and what makes the insurance industry the best place for innovation.
Benzinga: Give us the elevator pitch for Sure?
Slavin: At Sure, we’re changing the way that every single type of insurance is distributed through consumers. We do that by partnering with the biggest insurance companies in the world, to take their experience and hundreds of years of knowledge about insurance, and our knowledge of technology, and making it so that everything from a very simple insurance policy to the most complicated insurance policy out there can be sold digitally.
And what we believe in, is there’s not going to be a disruption of the insurance industry with startups. There’s going to be an evolution. And we want to be the enabler of that.
Benzinga: What do you think that evolution of insurance will be?
Slavin: I think it’s going to get to the point where consumers who today have become trained to be able to buy anything from a baby monitor, to a car, to renting office space, they’re going to want to be able to do transactions for their insurance needs without talking to anybody. They’re going to want it to be transparent, they’re going to want it to be easy to purchase, and if you have to make any modifications, to be able to make modifications. And we think the only way to do that obviously is to have technology.
It would shock most people who spend their time working in startups to see some of the legacy things that have not been modernized, even really basic things, within insurance companies. We’re starting with really basic things in terms of technology, like digital overlays for signatures.
Not to mention, consumer behavior has changed. People really don’t want to go to retail stores anymore, so the analogy would be they don’t want to go to their local State Farm agent because it’s time consuming.
Benzinga: Sure offers what you call “Episodic Insurance.” Explain what that is.
Slavin: The concept behind episodic insurance is much like five years ago before you had Spotify, iTunes’ big innovation was you didn’t have to go buy the entire album when it was released, you could go purchase one song if that was what you wanted.
So we said for people who potentially have never purchased an insurance policy before, what is going to be their first insurance purchase? It may not be home insurance, because a lot of people can’t afford to buy homes. So how are we going to introduce people to the concept of buying insurance? We’re going to give it to them once piece at a time. That’s why we call it episodic insurance, because it gives you insurance for one episode of your exposure.
Our first entry into that is travel insurance. So somebody can insure just one flight, and we took that and applied it to several other types of episodic insurance where somebody isn't’ signing up for 20 years, they’re signing up for one thing.
Benzinga: When you think about the process of buying insurance, it seems like a pain in the butt. But your thesis seems to be it actually can be easy to get.
Slavin: That’s exactly right. There’s no inherent challenge with the process of buying it, it’s really just in the delivery. You have to traditionally go to talk to someone, or call into a call center. It’s considered annoying by the modern consumer. There’s nothing behind the scenes prohibiting it from being straightforward, we just identified that and are trying to make it really easy.
Benzinga: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from your customers?
Slavin: The biggest thing we’ve learned from them is they actually tend to fit across the spectrum of consumers. We see consumers buying their first insurance policy, and we see consumers who are experienced insurance buyers and they want to supplement something they have with one of our policies.
Really what we see is if people are mobile shoppers...they’re going to be a consumer of Sure.
Benzinga: Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
Slavin: We actually launched a new product not too long ago in certain places, which is a rental car insurance policy that people can buy whenever they’re renting a car, and save 75% vs. what they would get from the rental car agency.
After that, what we’re launching is related to pets, because a lot of people have pets and they want to take care of their pet as though they were family. So we’re going to be rolling out pet insurance.
I’ve got a two-year old puppy, and if I didn’t personally have pet insurance, he would have cost me over the last two years something like $6,000. So I’m a big proponent of that product.
Benzinga: Was that the result of direct user feedback? OR was it always in the cards?
Slavin: People asked for it. We obviously ask users what they’re looking for...and we said ‘Hey if we could make one of these things easier for you what would it be?’ and pets was a resounding yes.
Benzinga: Explain how exactly Sure makes money.
Slavin: We are compensated by the insurance companies when we sell a policy. So consumers are not paying us anymore than they would if they had gone and talked to an insurance agent. So we are charging the same price, and we get compensated by the insurance company just like the agency would.
And then we license our technology to a number of insurance companies who pay us for that usage.
Benzinga: The insurtech market has really exploded in the past few years. What is your overall view of the industry?
Slavin: I think it is one of the most exciting spaces to be innovating right now because it’s really tangible. Insurance covers everything from your smartphone to buildings and neighborhoods, so if we can bring technology to every part of people’s insurance lives, there’s a big industry to be built around it.
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