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Thrive is set up by Funding London, a venture capital company bridging the finance gap for early stage businesses based in London. With over a decade’s experience in supporting the startups of London through a variety of funding vehicles, Funding London sensed a need to illuminate the ever-evolving scenario of London’s early stage businesses.

Thrive features interviews with and opinion from budding entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. A mix of contributors from all areas of the industry is desired in order to spark genuine discussion about ongoing critical issues. While it showcases the effectiveness of successful ventures, it also encourages sharing lessons learned from missteps and unsuccessful projects.

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Be prepared to pivot, you will learn as you go

About

Nikolaus Suhr completed his Management Studies in 2007 at Nottingham Business School, and completed an MSc in Insurance and Risk Management at the Cass Business School in London in 2008. Worked for commercial broker, Funk Gruppe, within product and business development in Hamburg. Later joined the family business as head of business and product development at Oldie Car Cover. One year later, joined Zeb, a boutique strategy consultancy firm for banks and insurance companies in Germany, working on several strategy, restructuring and digitisation initiatives for large banks and insurance companies.

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Kasko

26 March 2019

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and why Kasko began?

Who would have thought that the journey for KASKO as you see it today – a leading ‘InsurTech as a service’ startup – actually started when helping my sister build a sort of ‘localised Tinder’ back in 2014. From that project I caught ‘the bug’. I was adamant from that moment on I wanted my own ‘thing’.

I got to thinking about what was needed – and instantly picked up the phone to my now Co-Founder and CTO, Matt Wardle. We had read enough startup nightmare stories though, good friends falling out and families breaking up etc, so even though we were very close friends we decided to be careful – no business is worth losing your friends over right?

Matt and I agreed upon a trial run – we found something of interest to us both to see how we worked as business partners. ‘Quotes of Glory’ was born. So yes, I have built a dating app of sorts, and Matt and I have built a curated content feed for ‘stupid’ celebrity quotes.

That is how all booming InsurTech startups are founded right?

Of course there is a little more to it, I was brought up surrounded by insurance. My dad is the founder of a bespoke classic car insurance brokerage firm in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and not being much of a car person myself, the natural path for me was to explore the insurance world for my own project. Our first run was in fact KASKO Drive – a solution for short-term car insurance. Even though we won some great startup competitions and some funding for this, the high cost of customer acquisition meant we struggled for real traction.

A couple of slight pivots later, one of our prospective insurance partners at the time asked us what the chances were of building digital products to sell through their website. Legacy IT systems in the bigger corporations meant that it would be extremely hard to do themselves in good time, in need of inspiration and something to sink our teeth into, we accepted the challenge.

KASKO as you know it was born out of this. A provider of “InsurTech as a Service” where insurers can configure, distribute and manage insurance products and customers within weeks, compared to the months or even years that it would have taken previously. We are now doing just that with partners such as Allianz, AXA, Baloise, Swiss Re and Zurich. It has been quite the journey.

What are your dreams and ambitions for Kasko?

At KASKO our ambition is to enable accessible, affordable and transparent insurance product creation, worldwide, by removing the many points of friction across the insurance value chain that exists today. Currently, approximately 40% of insurance premiums are spent administering and distributing insurance products. By removing these costs for providers, we are enabling them to better service their end users, for less money – making things cheaper and faster for all.

With the advent of ecosystems in mobility, commerce, health and wealth, more and more customer data is being aggregated, which in turn enables insurance to become something closer to a utility, like an electric company for example – providing risk prevention and replacement instead of mere indemnification.

We envision a world where KASKO has become a central insurance distribution network. A network where customers get the best insurance exactly where and when they need it thanks to insurers being able to offer highly tailored and relevant products without incurring the multi-million-Pound costs of investment in technology and distribution that they are currently hit by.

Most importantly of all, however, Matt and I believe that values originate inside out. In order to enable to serve our insurance customers to better serve their end users, we need to make sure that we get the right people on the bus and keep them there. Thus, our first port of call revolved around creating one of the best places to work where everyone has the opportunity to become the best version of themselves – after that, we were in a position to take the business to new heights. For us this means a workplace consisting of meaningful work, meaningful relationships and fair compensation. It just so happens that insurance currently is so broken and so relevant that we feel it’s the right problem to tackle to incentivise the right people to solve this problem together.

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

In essence, we do not have direct competitors, there is nobody in the space that does quite what we do – we allow the established firms the flexibility to compete with the startups vying for a piece of the pie.

So, our target customers within insurance companies are the product and distribution managers tasked with developing and offering relevant insurance products in a profitable manner. KASKO delivers just as much technology as is needed to identify customers, customer value and willingness to pay before the expensive part of industrialising the value chain begins. By being independent of insurance legacy IT systems, we can deliver products 90% faster and cheaper than anyone else. Being a startup, working in new forward-thinking ways ourselves, we have the ability to be much more flexible than traditional IT solutions.

What is your view of InsurTech, especially in London?

It is a fascinating space to watch as it shows, in the same way that FinTech did over the last few years, the possibilities and importance of customer centred design and speed of execution. This is something that the insurance industry was traditionally lacking. Startups across the business landscape in London are showing how improved customer experiences and flexibility can change a sector. InsurTech is doing for the insurance industry what Monzo and Revolut did for FinTech, Bulb has done for utilities, and so many more are doing in PropTech, RegTech, and all the other Techs.

We believe however, that partnering rather than competing with insurers is the faster route to scale and thus impact the sector due to the excessive costs of customer acquisition – we can inject our traditional partners with startup flexibility and execution speed whilst they offer us decades of growth and access to huge markets and user bases.

A perfect marriage really.

What are some of the most exciting innovations you have come across in the Tech ecosystem?

I personally don’t like the word innovation because everyone understands something different. It can cover such a wide spectrum – from incremental process improvements to totally new business models. It might be a little long-winded, but I like ‘entrepreneurial decision making’ better.

How do I get to my customer quickly, understand what they value, find out what they are willing to pay and then create a sustainable business around delivering such value?

At the end of the day, it’s not about the next shiny thing but about finding out what works faster than your competition on an ongoing basis

But… If you are speaking more generally I just love Services :-). I am absolutely hooked into the Amazon ecosystem (Prime + Audible, and I even speak to Alexa from time to time), I let Netflix and Spotify decide what to watch and what music to listen to, Amy.ai schedules my meetings and I love, love, love Yesware’s remind me later function on my G Suite.

Finally, I love how I can check, right there in Slack, how many premiums and policies we sell daily.

What are the biggest challenges that tech start-ups and early-stage businesses should prepare themselves for post Brexit?

Nothing too major if you are a tech startup. I would say that the main challenge will evolve around GDPR and making sure that your organisational and technical measures are in place and that you comply with EU model clauses to be able to continue working with clients and future clients when and if the UK actually leaves.

How easy/difficult is it to raise finance in London in 2019

London is still very much the best hub for InsurTech due to strong insurance and financial institutions, VCs and very favourable business angle incentives (e.g. SEIS/EIS) right now.

Then again, if you have a model that works, funding usually is not an issue, if your product is top quality and you figured out your go-to-market, I wouldn’t think you have to look too far to find someone to support you and your dream.

What advice/lessons learned would you give to new start-ups?

Be prepared to pivot – I might be wrong but I would think that the path you set out on in the first place will highlight strengths and weaknesses – you will learn as you go. Don’t get stuck on an idea that isn’t quite there, see how that idea fits the marketplace and if there is something brilliant in it, the next pivot will be staring you in the face.

Test – both your products and your team. I am extremely fortunate to be successfully running a cash-flow positive startup with a very old friend, but it doesn’t work like that all the time. Do what we did, have a test project. What is a few months on something small – if it works – it will set out the working dynamic for the next five, ten, twenty years. If it doesn’t, you will find that out now and not waste the next three.

How do you see the InsurTech landscape developing over the next 5 years?

We will see an emergence of customer touchpoint aggregation through non-insurance specific ecosystems around mobility, health, wealth, travel, commerce developing over the next few years.

Insurance propositions utilising contextual customer information that is aggregated via these ecosystems and enriched via third-party data source will shift from current models of flat-rate insurance purchase towards “insurance as a utility”.

I think it likely that Insurance will move further towards risk prevention and replacement than indemnification too.

Of course, there is some personal drive for this one, but over the next few years, I genuinely do see the large insurance groups adapting and improving InsurTech propositions – driving them to wider market acceptance – increasingly powered by KASKO of course :-). Time will tell.