April 8, 2019
FOCUS: Startups & Entrepreneurs

Latest Hartford accelerator startups aim to transform insurance industry

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Entrepreneurs from 10 insurance-technologuy startups (shown above in a strategy session) are in Hartford participating in the second annual Hartford InsurTech Hub accelerator program, which lasts three months through April.
Dawn LeBlanc, Managing Director, Hartford InsurTech Hub

Before this year's crop of Hartford InsurTech Hub startups even got to town in February, meetings were already happening — entrepreneurs from across the world were pitching their products to local insurance executives.

The startups had their eyes on the prize: partnerships to develop technology with the potential to transform the city's insurance industry.

The 10 startups in the Hartford InsurTech Hub's second annual class hail from seven countries and were winnowed from 232 applicants. All are taking part in a three-month accelerator in Hartford run by London-based Startupbootcamp, in collaboration with major insurers, including Cigna, The Hartford and Aetna.

Working with feedback from the first year of the program, organizers made sure to fast-track paperwork to allow the 2019 class of startups to get early access to key players in the city's insurance industry.

"The speed at which the insurers are engaging has definitely accelerated this year over last year because of that proactive approach," said Dawn LeBlanc, Hartford InsurTech Hub's managing director.

This year's class of InsurTech startups also expands the scope of the program, with companies offering technology in the commercial property-insurance space for the first time, LeBlanc said. Hartford-area insurers are also more eager to engage with the startups after a successful first year of the program, she added.

"I think the community was hungry for this type of thing," LeBlanc said.

Here's a look at a few of the insurtech startups currently honing their technology in Hartford:

CareValidate

Is that nice person you hired to take care of your parent really doing the job? Sure, you could install cameras and spend hours reviewing footage, but InsurTech Hub startup CareValidate has a better solution — one you can simply screw into any light socket.

The company's SafeLight is a "smart light bulb" packed with ultra-wideband radar, sound and light sensors that can monitor a wide range of activities in a home or care facility. Software powered by machine learning analyzes the sensor data and sends alerts if an incident like a fall is detected — or if a caregiver is spending all day on the couch.

"You just screw in the light bulb and you'll be able to get continuous monitoring and predictive analytics," said Jay Pugliese, co-founder and vice president of business development at Atlanta-based CareValidate. Unlike wearable technology, the bulb is also always in service, even when lights are switched off.

Pugliese said he and the other CareValidate co-founders all had personal experience with the challenges of elder care and saw the potential of sensor technology. An earlier version of their product that mounted on a wall proved to be too costly for widespread adoption, so they "lit" on the idea of a smart light bulb. In addition to convenience and ease of installation, SafeLight offers a level of privacy as it doesn't capture video or images.

"We wanted something that grandma would be fine with having on all the time," Pugliese said.

For CareValidate, part of the value proposition for the Hartford InsurTech Hub program has been access to both major insurers and state and local officials, Pugliese said.

"Potentially, we want to be a fraud, waste and abuse tool for government," Pugliese said. "The experience so far has been fantastic, we've had a lot of connectivity to not only insurers but local government agencies."

He added: "Our intention is to stay in Hartford and build an arm of our business here."

See Your Box

When a Sicilian museum needed to send a prized painting dating from 1500 to Rome for restoration, they called on Hartford InsurTech Hub startup See Your Box for help. The fledgling company used tiny sensors and a cutting-edge software to monitor the painting in transit for changes in location, temperature and humidity — along with whether the masterpiece had been jolted or its box opened.

"If we can use those technologies to monitor all the products we consume and we transport every day, the amount of data we can collect will change … the way we do logistics and how we insure logistics," said See Your Box co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Federico Capello.

Based in Switzerland, See Your Box wants to transform the insurance industry with the latest technology in the realm of the "Internet of things," embedded devices that collect and analyze data using the cloud. The company's combination of sensors and software allows for real-time monitoring of goods in transit using 60 data points, from temperature to vibration to the processing of legal documentation.

See Your Box's technology continually scans for anomalies and alerts customers of any unusual changes. In addition, overall trends in logistics can be analyzed and predicted using real-time data, enabling insurers to more accurately analyze risk, design policies and process claims.

"We can see patterns, which cannot be seen otherwise — that makes a massive difference," said See Your Box CEO Marco Toja.

Winning a slot as part of the Hartford InsurTech Hub has allowed the company access to top executives in the U.S. commercial-property insurance market, Capello said. American insurance companies are more open to technological advances compared to European firms, he added.

Medyear

As a young tech executive, Panya Chheng has already lived in 18 cities in his adult life.

"One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur, chasing dreams, is that dreams move," Chheng said.

Chheng's frustrations in trying to keep track of his health records across multiple moves helped prompt him to found Medyear, one of the startups in this year's Hartford InsurTech Hub class.

"[Medyear] really came about because I had this general predicament that a lot of people have, I had health information scattered all over the place," Chheng said. "I wanted a user-friendly experience in health care."

Medyear's main product is an app available at both the Apple App Store and Google Play that allows users to download their medical records from over 300 health systems. In addition, a social media-like interface enables patients to document and track their treatments and add their doctors to a "Care Team" for secure chats.

Founded seven years ago, New York-based Medyear really took off in 2016 after the 21st Century Cures Act loosened restrictions on patients' access to their own medical history.

"It really puts the patient in charge of their health records," Chheng said. "We're the company bringing it to life, giving patients control and agency and portability. As a result, these newly empowered patients have all this helpful information."

Hartford InsurTech Hub has given Medyear valuable introductions to major insurers, Chheng added. "We have a concentrated opportunity window from this accelerator to say, 'We're here, we've got something really special for you, we want to work with you.'" Three deals are already in development, he added, with several more in preliminary stages.

His experience at the InsurTech Hub may even prompt the peripatetic Chheng to settle down in one city — or at least on the East Coast.

"We're learning so much from this community," he said. "Hartford's been really good to us."

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