Sebastian Pitzler is excited. Excited about how tech is changing the insurance industry around the world, especially in his home country of Germany. Pitzler is the Managing Director of InsurLab Germany, a leading digital laboratory in the country, which is designed to connect startups, tech companies, key service providers and academia to the insurance industry which has a very strong presence in Cologne where he is based.
Pitzler sat down with us recently to discuss the challenges and success stories he’s experienced since starting with InsurLab as well as the growing partnership with SOSA and FinTLV, which has yielded some excellent collaborations along the way. He believes the insurance industry needs to reinvent itself and that we are witnessing some of that change now.
“We need to change our grey suit image. We want to be seen as we really are, the people who help you avoid damage and risks. It is new technologies which are enabling the development of new types of products, services and cooperation models which are more in touch with our client base” Pitzler says.
The digital lab initiative in Germany is relatively new. Founded in 2017, InsurLab was formed with the intent to strengthen the digital competency of the insurance trade which still relies heavily on legacy systems. “Our primary goal is to transition from the old world to the new world and the word of our success is getting around. We have grown substantially – from the original twelve founding members, we are now seventy-eight – and growing.“
Perhaps because many in the insurance industry are still using antiquated methods, the new technology, aptly entitled Insurtech, is a booming business. Investors seem to think the industry is a prime target for disruption. Pitzler says there are now some fifteen hundred startups with around twenty-eight billion dollars in funding, which define themselves as Insurtech companies. That said, Pitzler claims “we work with startups that don’t necessarily define themselves as Insurtech. If they have developed technology which can be applied to the industry, there’s potential.”
The lab is doing its part in encouraging Insurtech. “Among our many projects, we provide a series of workshops, rent out nearly one hundred workspaces run a very successful international accelerator program which started with five startups and has now more than tripled to sixteen. The six-month program is intense. Each company is assigned both main and topical mentors who are all from our members.”
“Our collaboration with SOSA and FinTLV is our most meaningful international partnership” declares Pitzler. “From the beginning, it was of the utmost importance to us to be able to connect the German insurance ecosystem to the Israeli startup ecosystem. SOSA has been a great matchmaker and we are constantly helping each other out on many projects including; inviting startups for innovation workshops, getting great Israeli speakers to talk about the industry and bridge Israeli Insurtech firms with the German market.”
Insurlab has also shown the strength with its Demo Days programs, especially in Israel. “In 2018, we held a Demo Day in Tel Aviv with 18 startups and 7 insurance companies. The result was 15 potential POC’s in the making with many of the representatives holding follow up meetings with the business units in Germany.”
Pitzler believes face to face interaction is a key component in propelling innovation which is one of the reasons Insurlab deals in hosting workshops and renting out workspaces. “Personal relationships are very important as is the physical meeting of minds. Human beings are social animals and bringing people together to share ideas, opens doors. This is especially true with young talents who hold the key to solve customer needs of the new generation.”
Developing interpersonal relationships is also a driving force behind what might be Insurlab’s biggest project yet, the world’s largest Insurtech conference. “We are partnering once again with SOSA to organize “InsureNXT” which we hope will be the largest gathering of global insurance industry innovators ever seen.” Right now, the conference is planned for Spring 2020 and could end up being a game changer for the entire insurance industry.