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AN INSURTECH FOUNDER’S BEGINNING, HOW NIKOLAUS SÜHR STARTED KASKO

An interview with Nikolaus Sühr, CEO and Co-Founder, Kasko

 

How did you get involved with the insurance services industry?

 The short version is that insurance is the family business.

The longer version;

My family’s business is an insurance MGA specialising in vintage and high-value cars. Insurance has taken a larger lead in my upbringing than most – and I had to show an interest somewhere – cars wasn’t my thing but insurance was.

 

My path to co-founding and running an InsurTech startup was a bit different. Having helped my sister with her own startup idea, a project that started as a ‘localised Tinder’ and morphed into an events app called Buzzly – I got a taste for starting my own business.

 

From here, I reached out to my now co-founder Matt. We had rather fortunately ended up in the same halls at University. Quietly, that is because I chose the wrong campus… So instead of being at business school, I ended up living with friends majoring in engineering, English, philosophy and economics. Anyway, we were good friends, but as so many startup stories will tell you, that doesn’t mean we were fit to run a business together. Being pragmatic people, we formulated the plan of a practice run. Whilst still working full time on our consulting jobs, ‘real jobs’ as we called them at the time. Matt, a few friends and myself, set up “Quotes of Glory”, a small content app. We were not in this one for the money (and a good thing it was as we sure as hell didn’t make any), but to see if we could work alongside each other and be both friends and business partners. Several months later, we were the only ones still standing and we decided to start working on something substantial.

 

In January 2015, I took a  three-month sabbatical with the aim of working out how to take this new-found partnership to the insurance world. The idea we went with was to build an application for short term car insurance products. Instead of building it out properly, we started applying for startup competitions and grants. Our plan was to have an idea after three months as to whether we were in a place to quit our jobs and go full time. “KASKO Drive” won the three day pitch at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and that was our moment of realisation that we had to put all of our efforts in. We quit our jobs and pushed on, just two weeks into the sabbatical.

 

Later the same year, we were convinced by Seedcamp that London was the place to be – so for the third time in about four months, we were on the move again. In August of 2016, we had been working on our B2B2C intermediation model with very little fiscal success. Sales cycles took too long and getting traction with the big banks and retailers was a lot harder than we had ever imagined.

 

Fortunately, we had met with Baloise CH. The Swiss insurance giant liked the tech we had built and they had the network reach that we desired – a match made in insurance heaven. The team from Baloise decided that Matt and I were worth a shot, so offered us a license per product model and a small setup and success fee – KASKO’s “InsurTech as a Service” was born.

 

How do you compete with the insurance firms of old?

In essence, we don’t. Our goals have changed from the early days when we wanted to be the all encompassing insurance providing startup – and we are happy to say that. By partnering with the traditional firms, we enable them to compete with the newer InsurTech providers claiming to take them out of the game and existing competitors alike. We give them market leading flexible technology, they use the reach and brand they have spent decades building to push our technology further and wider than anyone else. It is the perfect win-win.

 

What are the main challenges?

As a startup there are several challenges – the first being the toughest, convincing the old established firms in our industry that there is opportunity for change with modern flexible technology like ours. The good news is that the business has been growing and we have an ever expanding product range and partnerships with the likes of Baloise, Allianz, AXA, Zurich, Swiss Re and many more.

 

The other is staying lean whilst we grow – KASKO has managed to prove its value as I mentioned, but in doing so we have proven that there is a market for companies like ours. I have been keen to grow the company whilst developing our offering, not leaving space to be filled. From the start, our USP has been to produce products for insurance companies in a fraction of the time that they used to take – meaning turning around new products in around four weeks, not 18 months. Whilst we increase our size, we have been aware of what makes us unique to our customers, so with every hire, we look to slash the time of turnaround for partners.

 

What does the future hold?

I think to turn to the future we have to look at the past briefly, we have come so far in a very short space of time, so I am going to take some rest over the holiday period. It has been a crazy year. At the moment our focus is P&C insurance there are fewer long-term risks involved (it is simpler from a regulatory development perspective).

 

But as next year progresses, we will branch out into life and health insurance, expose our internal tooling to create and manage insurance products to external developers and roll-out a partnership license model to IT-consultancies and large system vendors to improve their capabilities to bring products to market for insurers quicker.

 

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Interviews

A PROPTECH FOUNDER’S BEGINNING, THE START OF KLEVIO AND HOW ACCESS-TECH IMPROVES FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

KLEVIO

An interview with Klevio’s CEO and Co-Founder, Aleš Špetič 

 

What is Klevio? 

Klevio is a smart intercom that allows individuals to enter a building using a mobile app, providing digital access and removing the need to use a key. Teams or individuals can manage access rights from our dashboard or the app, understanding the usage of their buildings better, whilst cutting costs and improving efficiencies. As well as Facilities Management (FM) professionals, Klevio’s technology has been implemented across numerous sectors including short-stay lets and longer-term property management, a recording studio that manages room bookings and a London pub which allows temporary access to delivery professionals via its solution. Klevio is also popular with private homeowners.

 

How did the idea come about? 

The founding of the team and the products we worked on came from several influences along our journey. I was still working on CubeSensors, a company I founded that created miniature sensors for both the home and offices, feeding back data on temperatures, noise, light, humidity and the likes, something of a Fitbit for the room.

Aleš Špetič

My co-founder and now Chairman, Demetrios Zoppos, was involved in the creation of Sherlock, the digital entry system that went on to be the underpinning technology for Klevio. When Demetrios exited his previous company, onefinestay, he held onto the intellectual property (IP) of Sherlock, knowing that there was a future for this technology elsewhere.

We quickly came to the conclusion that my IoT experience and history with physical products for consumers and offices, and the IP he had kept for Sherlock, meant that it would be criminal not to pool our experiences and so Klevio was founded.

 

How do you compete with the other access solutions on the market? 

We have merged the new and the old. Keys have been around for thousands of years in some way or another, so have been ripe for a digital upgrade. With our competitors, although there is some amazing technology, most add confusion or annoyance to the process. There are smart-lock providers whose technology normally requires the changing of locks or at least the installation of an ugly and not always user-friendly pin-pad at the door.

Other options require magnetic cards and in many larger establishments receptionists are paid to ensure that someone enters their email for data capture, further adding to huge setup costs. With Klevio you do not need an extra key, token, or card. Everything is on your phone, similar to Apple Pay.Klevio is installed inside the building and is connected to the existing lock.

For office spaces, co-working and other large blocks, key cards are just one more item that can be shared and lost. With Klevio there’s no need to provide a keycard to anyone and it can be connected to an existing system. Many access systems do not have this benefit, and for offices this means you can change the access to your own unit without affecting the rest of a building.

 

What are the main challenges for your business? 

Changing a mindset. People have used and trusted keys their whole lives. Getting them to accept a simpler alternative isn’t an easy thing to do.

The other difficulty is hardware, especially when it comes to security and people’s offices and homes. With software, if you make a mistake or something doesn’t quite work, you can patch it and update things. If a hardware product has a fault, a product recall is going to be a huge undertaking, and no startup will have the budget to ride the storm like a Samsung or a VW Group. We invested a huge amount of time to make sure that Klevio performs well.

Customers need to build confidence and trust in your offering, rushing to deliver and make a splash can backfire in a huge way.

 

What trends in tech do you see shaping the future of offices and homes in the next five years? 

In the IoT space things are moving fast with the world’s largest companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook all vying to be the centre of the interconnected home and office. There are hundreds of startups carving out their own little corners too, so the next big shift will be consolidation. The industry leaders are already making moves to buy or partner with interesting startups to get ahead on IP and reach.

On a consumer level, people want smart solutions but are increasingly aware of their rights and privacy. Products that offer that on-demand feel, making lives easier and smoother, without taking too much data, will provide that personal touch consumers want and slowly start to manage the offices and homes of the future.

 

What is the one piece of advice you would give an organisation when looking to digitise its processes? 

Do your research – don’t rush to find a solution. There are companies out there that will be able to make your place of work run more smoothly. You just need to find the one that suits your systems, colleagues and budget.

 

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Interviews

OPPORTUNITIES IN FINTECH: LEVERAGING CROSS-BORDER PAYMENT SYSTEMS

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows.

An interview with Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and Co-founder of Kushki, a payment platform tailor-made for Latin America. 

What are some of the biggest challenges in the fintech sector, specifically related to POS payments?

There is a lack of standardization in the way that payments are handled in different countries, and this presents the most significant challenge because it complicates the process of connecting them all across borders. We’re working to address that by adding some standardized connecting processes and using artificial intelligence to help mitigate these complications and make smooth cross-border payments a given.

Why are cross-border payments becoming more of a necessity?

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows. People and businesses are expanding their scope and reach and therefore need to be able to operate in different countries. Part of being functional is the ability to make those cross-border payments, and so the demand for better options for those payments will continue to grow.

What are the key opportunities for cross-border payments?

There are four main opportunities that I see for cross-border payments. The first is facilitating fast and direct payments, cutting down on the extra steps required, but still maintaining the security of the transactions. From this, follows the need (and opportunity) to centralize recurring payments. Smart links are also an area of opportunity, letting people make mobile payments through different platforms using personal payment links. Lastly, expanding the opportunity to store payment information, like card numbers, and using tokenization to facilitate recurring payments.

With several fintech startups launching recently, how can you tell which are valid?

One common mistake is to assume that just because a startup has built something innovative that it is going to be useful. Instead, the most important thing to evaluate is whether the company is offering a solution to a significant pain point or just offering a minor improvement. I recommend comparing the startup to the most established version of its product. Which is less expensive? Which is easier? Which is resolving a larger challenge? If the startup is doing well on both counts, they’re probably on to something.

 

What are the security concerns surrounding POS payments?

The authentication process for credit card transactions is different in different regions due to different technological infrastructure. This inconsistency can generate confusion and concern about the security of various transactions and makes it hard to verify and understand the different fraud management and security processes in place.

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