Debbie Wosskow, who runs a sharing economy business herself – Love Home Swap – and is also the chair of trade body Sharing Economy UK, told me late last year that forward-thinking insurance start-ups will bring the next wave of technological innovation.
“New ventures aren’t just creating opportunity for themselves, they are also generating income for the traditional insurance industry”
This prediction has already been borne out in a number of interesting deals. Take Slice, a US start-up offering insurance for on-demand workers and providers, which has sealed deals with rideshare drivers and homeshare hosts. It raised $3.9m (£2.75m) in growth capital at the end of last month from Horizon Ventures and XL Innovate.
Alex Macpherson, head of UK early stage investor Octopus Ventures, told me last week that his fund is actively seeking out innovators in the insurance space. “We’re interested in insurance technology as an industry that we think hasn’t yet had same number of businesses look to address it,” he said.
Interesting deals are now being brokered all over the world between sharing economy businesses and the companies that have worked out how to insure their new and strange models.
Vrumi, a London-based start-up that connects professionals needing work space with householders who have rooms, is now working with insurance start-up SafeShare Global to fix what Vrumi founder Roddy Campbell calls “the biggest practical problem” facing the expansion of the sharing economy.
Safeshare uses “blockchain” technology – another hi-tech buzzword which refers to the ability to record accurate digital events – to protect homeowner and customer by creating “an undisputable record of the insured through a distributed network of proof”. It’s a new way to tackle the issue – one of many experiments currently underway.
What’s exciting about all this is that these new insurance ventures aren’t just creating opportunity for themselves, they are also generating income for the traditional insurance industry; SafeShare’s policies are underwritten by Lloyds of London. It’s a way to modernise an old industry while capitalising on its infrastructure and strict controls.
Insurance may never be sexy, but it’s never been more fascinating.