Insurance isn't the most glamorous of industries. In fact, that's what makes the seven trillion dollar industry so ready for a shake-up.
Founded just last year, in Erik Abrahamsson's room during his MBA at Oxford, the start-up already has “half a million funding, five employees and three clients,” the Swedish former Twitter employee says proudly. If that weren't a speedy enough ascent, the team has recently completed Accenture's accelerator scheme and have now moved back into Workspace.
It does what Airbnb did for travellers: it cuts out the middleman.
The company was accepted as one of the first InsurTech start-ups on a programme that usually supports more mature businesses. But what exactly do they do? “We align insurers with customers,” says head of sales James Clarke. “It does what Airbnb did for travellers: it cuts out the middleman,' Erik explains. 'We're helping insurers sell directly.”
“Social media is used in all industries. But only 10% of insurance policies are bought online.” Digital Fineprint started off integrating social media profiles into online insurance forms. It means customers don't have to bother filling out their details, the tech does it all for them. James says: “We help customers understand their insurance needs and we help insurers meet those needs.”
Erik and the Chief Technology Officer, Austin Wellbelove, met at university and, after graduating, recruited James who had worked in travel insurance for over a decade helping young travellers prepare for international adventures.
They initially set up at the Google Campus but the cramped working conditions meant that they had to meet investors around the main coffee bar. Despite the noisy conditions, all the investors eventually put money in. Sam Evans the Managing Director of Eos Venture Partners led the seed round.
Eos Venture Partners is building an impressive array of investments in insurance – their team has funded RightIndem that is tackling car insurance and Neos, a start-up that works with smart home technology to keep your home safe and then provides you with insurance.
We have developed the technology, but it may be a few years before the market is ready for this type of product.
Erik Abrahamsson, Digital Fineprint
Erik says Digital Fineprint turns “social data into insurance data.” This immediately flags up concerns over privacy, insurance and discrimination. Insurance firm Admiral hit the news recently because of their plans to analyse the personalities and habits of potential customers via their Facebook posts, using the data to determine the price of the policy. Apparently, if you use short sentences; like making lists; and plan to meet friends at a set time and place you're more sensible and less likely to have a crash. James says this is a different process from the one used at Digital Fineprint: “We make objective decisions on the basis of the data… Rather than making inferences about their risk level.”
“We take privacy seriously,” Erik stresses. “Everything is opt-in.” Either way General Data Protection Regulation, that's coming into effect, will soon make that kind of data collection illegal. Digital Fineprint was part of the FCA innovation lab, which discussed those policies. But regulations are far behind the tech that is making restrictions necessary.
Otherwise, there's not much in their way. The accelerator programme has “exploded our schedule,” Erik grins. They've had introductions to Lloyds, RSA Insurance Group and others. They're looking forward to getting more clients on board in addition to Allianz and Hiscox and planning to set up tech partnerships with companies such as LinkedIn and Microsoft.
They assumed we were a Silicon Valley start-up. It's a good sign!
Erik Abrahamsson, Digital Fineprint
The team is also looking at integrating more social media platforms including WeChat, a messaging, networking and payment app used across Asia. Erik – who used to work at Twitter in the SE Asian markets – says Asian insurance is more similar to UK system than the US or Europe.
Things are moving fast. Erik got a call from Plug & Play the global innovation platform for start-ups, corporations, and investors based in San Francisco. They wanted a face-to-face meeting two days from then. “They assumed we were a Silicon Valley start-up,” Erik laughs. “It's a good sign!” He's going out to meet them in two months after the accelerator programme is over. And what then? They’re moving into an office in the Metal Box in Southwark.
Erik and James offer to let me test out a selfie app that calculates your real age (as opposed to your birth date) and can adapt life and health insurance accordingly. “We have developed the technology, but it may be a few years before the market is ready for this type of product.” Sounds frightening, certainly, but if it lowers your premiums, it's attractive.
Technology continues to disrupt the insurance industry - and blockchain could be the biggest game-changer. The security and efficiency of of blockchain - a constantly growing list of ordered records and data - means that insurance administration, which is costly and contributes to the premium, could be reduced. For example, your plane could be late and blockchain technology means you could get paid automatically, without having to claim, and without having to pay a premium.
For now though, Digital Fineprint is launching their new tech Reckn, which provides consumers with an accurate estimation of various insurance requirements, like life, home contents and travel, according to data from your social media profile.
It’s part of being at the forefront of trends in micro insurance, providing specific policies for specific circumstances, and reflecting the circumstances of young people.
Insurers don't have to be the enemy. In fact if you think about it, insurers are there to make your life safer and easier. About time they started acting like it. And start-ups like Digital Fineprint are here to show them how.
Find out more about the home of Digital Fineprint, Metal Box Factory and click here to arrange a viewing of our available spaces.