If the word ‘insurance’ brings to mind lengthy policy forms and extensive fine print, then you’re not alone. The paper trail is enough to put anyone off – particularly if you’re young. But a new generation of insurance companies are on a mission to change all that. One such company is Urban Jungle, which wants to refocus the insurance business around smartphones and customer experience.
Based at Club Workspace Kennington, Urban Jungle is, in the words of its CEO and co-founder Jimmy Williams, a ‘mobile-first insurance broker for young people’. Unlike many insurers, the start-up is marketed at new renters and homeowners aged 22-25.
“We think that the group that's underserved the most right now is young people,” he says, as insurance companies tend to favour the lower-risk, higher-claim older demographic. But Urban Jungle is turning this approach on its head. And technology is paving the way to a new kind of insurance provider – dynamic, tech-savvy and user-friendly enterprises.
Jimmy founded Urban Jungle with his business partner Greg Smyth last September. “At this point, it was just the two of us funding the business with our own money - bootstrapping everything!” says Jimmy. But with visions of something greater, the pair decided to move beyond meetings in coffee shops and set off in search of a cost-effective space to expand into.
Club Workspace Kennington, a hotbed for tech start-ups and creative entrepreneurs, appealed to Urban Jungle and their desire for a flexible, co-working space. Jimmy says, “We just rocked up with our laptops – that was all. There was no sorting out rates and we got a little introductory offer so it was a cheap way for us to get going.”
Once Urban Jungle had established their base, they set about looking for investment. In January this year they raised a funding round from UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA). As well as providing financial support, the trade association was instrumental in connecting them to key people within the industry.
As part of Club Workspace, the company was able to immerse itself in an environment of likeminded professionals. And Jimmy claims that the co-working environment has opened up new ways of thinking and doing. “I think what's interesting here is that you get a whole mixture of people,” he says. “It's been helpful to see how different businesses work as we can learn a lot from that.”
“The co-working environment has opened up new ways of thinking and doing.”
The location is another advantage. “We can jump on the Northern line and in just 12 minutes we're right in the heart of the city,” adds Jimmy. “This means we get the benefit of being in the city while also getting that chilled factor.”
Because the business is tech-fuelled, Urban Jungle isn’t restricted to a physical building as most paper-based insurers are. They can access all they need with a touch of a finger – and a WiFi connection, of course.
“If I'm in town meeting someone and I want to pop into another Workspace and work there for the afternoon, I can do exactly that. I don't even need to have my laptop; I can do most things off my smartphone. We can work on the go,” Jimmy explains.
Now the company is five-strong and is keen to expand as a team and as a business. Its ultimate goal is to harness technology and social media to become the UK’s leading home insurance provider.
“No one has really worked out how to sell insurance on social media and that’s somewhere we are building our capability,” says Jimmy. “Facebook allows you to add videos and pictures that enable you to engage and educate people.” He’s optimistic that this niche way of marketing insurance will appeal to the younger generation and, in turn, grow their venture.
In general, the UK insurance industry has a reputation for being a slow moving one, and has overlooked the power of technology for years. Spotting the opportunity to shake things up, Urban Jungle is setting a new pace. They can’t make insurance glamorous, but they can make it easy.
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