FIRESIDE CHAT WITH NABY MARIYAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND CO-FOUNDER OF COVERHERO
Could you explain what is Coverhero and how you came up with the idea?
Naby Mariyam (N.B.): Well I am not from an insurance background but I have been with start-ups and worked in academia on consumer behaviour for the past few years. I saw first-hand there is a market of huge opportunity when I had a very bad insurance experience, which made me realize how difficult it is to understand, buy or manage insurance in any way. Then Coverhero was born. Coverhero is a mobile-first one-stop platform that allows consumers to:
- underwrite insurance;
- manage it in a place where all policies can sit: the smart wallet, which is quite unique on the market;
- and our ultimate vision is for the smart wallet to be world’s number one platform that manages the whole insurance portfolio for an individual
In short, it is one destination where you can find the whole insurance value chain from the customer perspective. We are using machine learning to build a recommendation engine to customize the insurance policies according to your behaviour, which is going to be one of the most disruptive things in the insurance industry.
As individuals, we don’t understand our risk profile. In Australia, people have around 10 insurance products – which represents a lot of money - and the majority of the time they don’t even have the right ones. Therefore, helping people understanding their risk profile is also where we see value in the app. We want to make it simple and sexy: you connect the app to your emails, snap a few photos of your paper policies, upload them and in 60 seconds it’s ready and visual. For such a boring product as insurance UI1and UX2are really key. Ultimately, we want to be the insurance cover app of every person between the age of 21 to 35.
How do you identify the potential cover needs of an individual?
(N.B.): We will be leveraging data from users through a combination of questions directly asked to them with the collection of behavioural data. There is a huge amount of data that we could tap into, going to strategic partners. In addition, we have to be mindful of how we approach and segment the market. For example, the younger generations - Gen Y, millennials etc. - do not want to answer too many questions as they consider sharing access to their social network information as sufficient. Having a smart wallet fixes this problem.
We understand that Australia is your primary market – do you have international ambition?
(N.B.): Australia is a good starting ground for us as it is a small market3, suitable to test the model and iterate. As a very early stage start-up we have to hit our milestones before we try to scale up but our ambition is indeed to be the worldwide number 1 all-in-one platform to buy and manage insurance products in real time. We will launch in Asia this year: China, Singapore, Malaysia and some other countries. And then, Europe is huge with lots happening in insurtech, in Berlin for example.
To achieve this ambition, what is the greatest challenge for you?
(N.B.): The biggest challenge is getting access to APIs4 within the insurance companies. We can get the funding, develop the technology, move quickly, but for being able to sell and manage insurance products in real time on the platform, we have to work with insurance companies. We found strategic partnerships in the last few weeks that will allow us to gain visibility and generate traction. Branding and getting the brand out there is also extremely important and from that perspective, there are very cool things happening in Australia. For example:
- We got into TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Australia last November and Coverhero was the only Insurtech among all the Australian and New Zealand start-ups.
- We also applied to Australia's biggest accelerator program called Qantas AVRO Accelerator for which we competed against 500 start-ups in Australia and we made it to the top 6.
- We are also among the founding startups of Insurtech Australia which launched last year in October.
Given your business model and your ambitions, what would you say are your crown jewels i.e. what will be hard for competitors to replicate?
(N.B.): At our current stage, the recommendation engine and the smart wallet are our golden nuggets and with the partners that we have identified, we will be able to create barriers of entry that will be very hard to replicate. Because you can have the most amazing technology but if you have no distributors it is not going to mean anything. Finally, as soon as we will be able to sell insurance on our platform it will be a key differentiator as well as there is no mobile solution out there that allows people to tap into the whole portfolio of insurance.
In the insurance app jungle, what is your marketing strategy to promote Coverhero?
(N.B.): We live in a world that is hyper-connected where nobody wants to download another freaking app, right? We realize that is why we are going for the B to B to C model. In Australian, the brokerage market is substantial: about 20- 30% of the local A$110bn market. Therefore, we are going after brokers who handle both business and personal insurance. We want to collaboratively work with insurance industry.
You mentioned the claims process – which is a very critical touchpoint for customer experience – how do you plug into manual processes that some of your insurance partners may still have?
(N.B.): Claims are more challenging than selling insurance, purely because the claim handling agencies don’t have a system that we can plug into, unlike Health5, so we are under the process of assessing what can be done. Claims handling would probably be towards the end of 2018. Some of the cool things we will do is introducing AI to process a lot quicker through image recognition. We have very exciting announcements to make in the second quarter of the year. So watch this space.
As Coverhero growth is now accelerating, how do you envisage your internal HR piece?
(N.B.): We have a number of staff that we can onboard on and off depending on how we go and on a daily basis. We just closed funding round before Christmas which enables us to build our team.
Any last thought?
(N.B.): Go and download the app form the app store and use the smart wallet! Because it does not matter where you are located you will still be able to use the wallet.
324 million people
4Application programming interface
5Medicare is a publicly funded universal health care system in Australia.