InsurTech Accelerators Q&A Series: Startupbootcamp Launches Hartford Program

IIR talks with CEO Sabine VanderLinden and Erika Bothma, Director of the new Hartford InsurTech Hub, about that program and the InsurTech/accelerator movement more broadly.

(Hartford InsurTech Hub meeting. Source: Startupbootcamp.)

Startupbootcamp debuted as a London-based cross-industry program in 2010, but its leaders quickly saw the value in focusing industry-specific startup acceleration, forming its first FinTech program in 2012.  The organization went on to shape programs including digital health, eCommerce, IOT and Smart Cities to name but a few to align startups’ innovative thinking and corporate needs.

Startupbootcamp’s InsurTech program was launched in 2015. The organization has now graduated 30 startups and will support 11 startups this year in London, plus another 10 in Hartford, Connecticut. Startupbootcamp’s global involvement in the InsurTech realm led to Insurance Innovation Reporter’s getting to know the organization and inviting Sabine VanderLinden, CEO of Startupbookcamp’s InsurTech business to be the keynote speaker at our 2017 Latin America Insurance Technology Executive Summit. As part of our series of interviews with prominent accelerators, we caught up with VanderLinden and Erika Bothma, Program Director for Startupbootcamp’s recently established Hartford InsurTech Hub.

Erika Bothma, Program Director, Hartford InsurTech Hub.

Insurance Innovation Reporter: Tell us a little about your increasingly global reach in the InsurTech accelerator realm, and how your organization as a whole is increasingly supporting insurance-focused startups.

Erika Bothma, Startupbootcamp: We see the InsurTech landscape being thinner in specific markets. Our FinTech programs also welcome and graduate InsurTechs, and our FinTech Mexico, Amsterdam and Singapore programs have graduated such startups.

The ultimate goal is to enable startups with solutions relevant for corporates to find their first customers and then the investment required to grow and scale. We facilitate this by giving them the key resources they need to succeed. We also want to ensure that the corporates we work with acquire the tools they need to innovate in a more consistent way.

IIR: How has the industry changed as accelerators have become established, and since InsurTech is now an important part of the industry? What important benefits are insurance carriers accessing through Startupbootcamp and other acceleratorss?

Sabine VanderLinden, Startupbootcamp: Insurance as a sector sees the need to adapt as a result of technological advances and ever-changing customer expectations. We are seeing great engagement from insurers across the sector in embracing the accelerator model. Accelerators bring together incumbents and startups and gives many benefits to insurers, for example:

Collaboration: Being part of an accelerator allows incumbents access to the best startups relevant to their problems, whilst being supported to collaborate and co-create with startups, often through Proof of Concepts during the accelerator program.

Learning: As well as finding solutions to known problems, insurers are exposed to a collection of forward thinking startups. These startups are often taking technology used outside insurance, and fining relevant use cases which can give insurers the competitive edge. For example, this may be by giving them access to a new set of data feeds, allowing an incumbent to insure a segment it previously did not have access to.

Network: Hartford InsurTech Hub also give insurers the opportunity to discuss together problems they similarly face within insurance, and the future trends they see in the industry.

IIR: What’s your sense of your role and your position with regard to other accelerators, whether independent or specific to insurance carriers? Tell us a little about your approach.

EB: We help turn new ventures into high-growth businesses. Startupbootcamp InsurTech is the first truly global insurance accelerator working alongside a large portfolio of leading insurance players to foster disruptive and collaborative insurance innovation from early stage startups. Each year, we select the 10 most promising insurance technology startups from around the world and help them grow. Since we started in London in 2015, we have made an impact on both entrepreneurs and the insurance industry.

IIR: We were interested in your work in London and excited about your entry into Latin America. Now you’ve established an important program in Hartford. Tell us about that.

EB: In Hartford, the InsurTech Accelerator, is part of Hartford InsurTech Hub, and established to attract new talent and technology to Hartford, which of course is one of the world’s leading insurance centers. The new program will provide entrepreneurs with the support, resources, as well as the industry and investor connections they need to help grow their business. We launched the initiative in September 2017 and its purpose is to build entrepreneurship, talent and innovative thinking in the City of Hartford.

Our programs aim to build a culture of innovation, leveraging international entrepreneurs in key locations, and to develop a local innovation ecosystem supported by local resources, capabilities and talent, in which insurance technology startups can grow and flourish.

IIR: What do you have planned for Hartford? When is your first demo event?

Sabine VanderLinden, CEO, InsurTech, Startupbootcamp.

EB: Hartford InsurTech Hub’s inaugural Demo Day is taking place on April 18th, showcasing our ten startups and celebrating the transformation they have gone through and the results they have achieved since the beginning of the program in January. We’re featuring 10 of the most talented InsurTech startups fostering insurance innovation and providing what we hope is the perfect platform to trigger a surge of entrepreneurial activity in Hartford. We hosted our March social event fully focused on the Customer, on March 22nd, giving insurers the opportunity to meet our 2018 cohort, as well as listen guest speakers Wade Seward from Haven Life and Eric Sondergeld from LIMRA.

IIR: What might your Hartford endeavor say about further changes might we see in the overall InsurTech/innovation ecosystem and the way these accelerators impact the insurance industry? What do insurers need to know about the InsurTech/accelerator trend?

SV: It is important for insurers and any industry to comprehend that the digital changes that are occurring now and the emerging technologies that are used to facilitate this change are here to stay. So, it is best for the corporate world, in particular those insurers that do not yet have an innovation strategy in place that include external players, to start working on these.

Today, in a world where knowledge is widely distributed, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research. They need to also incorporate inventions and innovation processes from other companies. Both an inward and outward-looking approach is required to succeed today.

As a result, businesses cannot afford to ignore Open Innovation as technology has now become so vital to everything we do. Open Innovation can enable businesses to update, modernize, and enhance a company’s brand through collaboration arrangements, therefore opening up new avenues and markets and creating dialogue with customers. As the firms look to advance understanding of technology drivers to meet the needs of current and future customer segments, they should indeed use external ideas—in combination with their internal ideas—and create processes to manage knowledge flows across organizational boundaries in line with the organization’s business model.

Q&A: Brian Hemesath, Global Insurance Accelerator

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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