(A snowy owl swoops down on an opportunity. Image credit: Boréal.)
An elusive new startup has appeared claiming to be “reinventing the insurance industry.” Late last week, Anand Sawal, CEO of market intelligence firm CB Insights, reported finding a job posting for Blue Owl Technology, “a stealth mode InsurTech venture poised to rethink and re-engineer the insurance industry while helping people live longer, more fulfilling lives.” Sawal noted that the company says it has raised $35 million in its first funding round and is leasing 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco’s Citigroup center.
“So it looks like Blue Owl has some resources and appears to be focused, initially, on auto insurance and car accident prevention,” Sawal commented.
Actually several job postings at the site allude to Blue Owl’s otherwise vague mission to reinvent the insurance industry in a way that saves lives in a manner that involves reducing the frequency of fatal car crashes:
A million people a year die in car collisions around the world. That number should be zero. You can help us create a new insurance company that uses the latest technology and data science methods to save lives by preventing car collisions before they happen. The field is rich with data and we will be pushing the boundaries of what is possible with data.
Precisely what Blue Owl is attempting remains elusive, in the view of Donald Light, head of Celent’s (Boston) North America Property/Casualty practice. The tag line on firm’s web site suggests something beyond just another telematics provider or personal auto exchange, Light opines. It says: “We’re a next generation InsurTech start up that’s reinventing the insurance industry, all handcrafted and homegrown in San Francisco.”
The amount of investment to-date, the claim to be creating an “insurance company,” and the exclusive San Francisco address suggest something else. “My guess is this cannot be another telematics start up because nobody would pour that kind of money into that,” Light comments. “Somebody’s pumping a fair amount of money into this thing because they think they can do insurance different or better. The mystery is what is the data that all these high-powered data scientists will be crunching, and what are they going to do with the results?”
At another Blue Owl page at programmer site Stackoversight.com, Blue Owl calls itself a “car insurance company” and says:
We can use sensors in phones to give drivers personalized tips on how to become safer and reward them if they improve, which will save lives.
We can offer massive discounts to incentivize adoption of new car safety features (including self driving cars), which will save lives.
However, the page goes on to report that Blue Owl’s strategy is to prevent losses before they happen in all lines of insurance. It continues with the following invitation to job-seekers and others:
- Do you want to disrupt entire industries and solve some big problems in the world? Join our team.
- We don’t just have big dreams. Our core founding team has decades of experience in all parts of the auto insurance industry.
- We are building a small (about 50 people total) team of elite developers, data scientists, and business people.
- Feel free to send us any questions you might have by selecting any of the available job listings and asking a question. Also, if you don’t feel experienced enough yet to join, but feel compelled to help in some other way, drop us a note and we can chat about ways to become involved.
On the Blue Owl home page the company invites the curious to “Reach out to learn more or to schedule a visit.” However, it adds that it is not accepting media inquiries. True to that statement and its claim to be in “stealth mode,” the company did not respond to this reporter’s outreach by press time.
$500 Billion Opportunity
“It is not surprising that there are people out there who would invest multi-millions in a startup with exceptional leadership, relevant experience and a vision as bold and enormous as this—to eliminate all accidents and fatalities,” comments Stephen Applebaum, Managing Partner Insurance Solutions Group about what is known so far about Blue Owl. “There is much more ‘dry powder’ out there than good investment opportunities and this one addresses a market opportunity worth approximately $500 billion.”
Editor’s Note: Stephen Applebaum’s quotes were added after initial publication of the article.