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Last fall, NextView Ventures Partner Lee Hower wrote about a particular industry he believes is ripe for disruption: insurance. “In most advanced economies, 40-50% or more of insurance is bought and managed over the internet,” Hower wrote in a blog post from October, “but in the US, it’s 1-5% in most insurance categories.”
After stating he’s interested in “next-generation insurance companies that own the consumer experience,” Hower is going beyond the typical role of an investor to become the co-founder of a new insurance tech startup in Boston that’s launching later this summer. And it’s the first startup to be incubated within NextView’s office near South Station.
We want to create super slick, easy-to-use online products
It’s called Quilt, and the startup has built a team consisting of founders, executives and senior employees from three Boston-area tech companies already working in the insurance space — Goji, EverQuote and Enservio — along with the now-defunct Dunwello. The startup has yet to announce any funding from investors.
Hower is only working on Quilt part-time as its head of business and will remain with NextView as a full-time partner, and his co-founders are CEO Blair Baldwin, formerly CMO of Goji; COO and general counsel Hal Schwartz, former senior vice president and general counsel at Goji; and Jim Fini, who’s also part-time as head of claims and who founded Enservio.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Baldwin told BostInno that Quilt’s mission is to create an easy-to-use mobile-optimized platform that lets people buy insurance from their smartphones in under five minutes. And instead of being an agency that eventually hands off a customer to an insurance carrier, Quilt wants to handle the entire consumer experience, from selling policies to handling claims and customer service.
The target audience? Millennials, people born between 1980 and 1996 who prefer to purchase insurance products online and the group of people insurance companies have the hardest time engaging with, a Gallup report from last year said.
“We want to create super slick, easy-to-use online products so that we can actually create something that people want to interact with,” Baldwin said, unlike more traditional insurance products that may require lengthy phone calls.
Quilt’s initial plan is to offer renter’s insurance and life insurance — two product areas where Baldwin said millennials are wildly underserved right now. There’s also a plan to eventually offer pet insurance. And they’re all expected to be at a low price point that’s paid monthly — like Netflix, Baldwin said, with renter’s insurance, for example, expected to cost around $10 or $15 a month.
Baldwin said he and Hower got the idea for Quilt after talking about the main problems facing the insurance industry and how a new venture could improve the channel through which insurance is handled to become nearly online-only experience, simplify insurance products that have been traditionally complex in language and creating a “full stack” approach that serves all of the customer’s needs.
Since insurance is a highly regulated industry and since every state in the United States has its own regulations, it sounds like Quilt will be doing a state-by-state rollout of its products, though Blair wasn’t ready to share more details about that.
However, Blair made clear that he and his team plan to enter the industry with a careful and calculated approach. He said all employees are required to become fully licensed insurance agents.
“I think it’s important everybody really understands the product” he said, “and it means that everybody can spend a little time talking to a customer every month to understand the customer and the customer side of the experience.”
The other team members are vice president of engineering Matt Brand, co-founder and former CTO at Dunwello; head of community and experience Sara Sigel, also previously of Dunwello; Lei Xia, another vice president of engineering who’s formerly of EverQuote; content manager Jeff Hampton, previously of Goji; and Mariam Melikadze, an intern who’s currently attending Harvard Business School.