"Needing insurance is like needing a parachute. If it isn't there the first time, chances are you won't be needing it again."
Let’s be honest, when was the last time you were excited to purchase insurance? Or the last time you discussed openly with friends or colleagues about your most recent coverage?
If you’re drawing a blank, I’m not surprised. Most people hate the idea of shopping for insurance. But this state of affairs may change very soon.
Data analytics, AI and machine learning are driving the emergence of insurtech.
And insurance being an antiquated industry is precisely why insurtech companies are worth your attention. The top players in the field are spurring big changes in an industry ripe for innovation.
As a founder or CTO within this segment, this makes your choice of tech stack all the more important. You want a technology that not only has a strong track record and large community, but also one that is the tool of choice in data analytics, AI and machine learning.
Maybe you are here because insurtech is sexy right now (see meme below) and you want to know which technologies your peers have decided to use to build their cutting-edge insurance applications.
Or perhaps you are a Python enthusiast dying to know which companies have chosen to implement your programming language of choice. Either way, we’ve got you covered.
In a continuation of our series on Python and fintech we bring you 7 fintechs that use Python in their tech stack - insurtech edition.
If you would like to jump to the list, go right ahead. But before I get to the highlight of this article, I wanted to provide a little more context regarding the industry and its relation to Python.
Insurance is boring, insurtech is trying to change that
The insurance industry dates back hundreds of years. To give you an idea, France’s AXA was established in 1817 while the UK’s Prudential was set up in 1848. Any industry that has been around for that long is due for revolutionary changes.
The problem incumbent insurance providers face is that their product has two main concerns:
It’s boring. Shopping for insurance excites no one. This is probably why you aren’t likely to hear insurtech discussed with the same level of excitement as other Fintech verticals: payments, wealthtech and cryptocurrencies. (How are your Bitcoins doing, by the way?)
The value for the customer is not obvious until the customer needs to make a claim - which may never happen.
Enter insurtech. What is great about insurance is that it’s an intangible product, making it easy to digitize.
As you will see from our list of 7, insurtechs are using cutting-edge data analytics and AI to drive innovation and introduce new products. At the same time, they put a strong emphasis on product design to ensure that the end-users’ experience is optimized for speed and ease of use.
Fintech is aging, insurtech has it covered
Insurtech is still a relatively nascent segment of the overall fintech ecosystem. While fintech as a whole is beginning to move towards maturity (Transferwise started in 2010, Zopa in 2005 and Venmo in 2009, to name a few), most insurtechs have yet to celebrate their 5th year of existence and in many cases their 5th month. According to San Francisco investment bank Financial Technology Partners, investors pumped $2.238 billion into insurtech companies through a record number of deals in 2017.
The reason why insurtech is an interesting space is because it is very much untapped. The majority of entrants are still focused on the US and UK markets, and predominantly on the personal and non-life insurance lines. There is still a lot of space to disrupt non-life and commercial lines.
The room for growth is not only exclusive to startups. Incumbents are just starting to take action. According to Accenture, only 17% of traditional insurers had in-house VC funds focused on innovation and acquisitions in 2017. In comparison to the banking sector, mature retail banks have nearly double that percentage.
Python is ideal for Data Science - the backbone of insurtech
The number-crunching capability of the digital world is a game-changer for insurers. With a near unlimited amount of data, insurers can more accurately assess risk, leading to more personalized products.
For insurtech founders, selecting programming languages and frameworks that are a fit for data science should be prioritized. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that Python is becoming the server-side technology of choice for fintechs in general.
However, for the insurance industry you would do well to consider Python as your tool for the following reasons:
According to a study by IBMs Jean Francois Puget, Python is the most popular language for machine learning and data science,
Known for its easy syntax and for being faster to program with than other traditional languages, Python is a top choice to optimize time to market,
Finally, Python’s wealth of open-source libraries (NumPy, SciPy, StatsModels, Scikit-Learn, Pandas, etc.) provides ready-to-go solutions for many common data analytics problems in fintech.
Andrew Webster - Founder of Validate Health shared his experience with the language in his 2017 case study How Python Saved My Company.
All analytics [of the Validate Health application] are automated using Python and give hands-on control to our customers through a web-based interface. We could not have reached the stage that we have if we continued to use R and Ruby on Rails. Python saved my company!
7 companies using Python to change the face of Insurtech
By now you are hopefully up to date on Python and its application to data analytics and AI, and you are dying to dive into the list that brought your here in the first place. Below are 7 insurtech companies that highlight Python as a must-have in their techstack.
- Headquarters: London, England, United Kingdom
- Founded in 2012
- Highlight: In 2018, the company launched its first travel insurance product
Let's say you are a Wedding Planner or Dietitian, or that your dog of choice is a Neapolitan Mastiff. Where would you go to secure the best insurance deals to meet your, let’s say, unique needs? Bought By Many has you covered - literally - provided there are a sufficient number of like-minded individuals.
Bought By Many brings together groups or communities of people who in most cases have very specific insurance needs. By combining their collective negotiating power, these communities can secure better deals from insurance providers than if they were to seek coverage individually. From the insurer’s point of view, it receives a very accurate risk segment, albeit at a larger scale.
At the time of writing this post, Bought By Many had 429,256 members and 309 groups live on its site. Groups range from home, travel, pets and professions to gadgets and sports enthusiasts. As soon as the group obtains a significant number of members (usually around 100), the business will begin negotiating with insurers to get the best coverage possible.
In January 2018, Bought By Many launched its first travel insurance product, specifically tailored to help those suffering from serious health issues such as cancer.
Full-Stack developers at Bought By Many are expected to have the following skills and experience, ranked by priority.
• MongoDB and associated Python libraries,
• Microservices and REST APIs,
• AWS: Lambda, Kinesis, API Gateway,
• AWS devops and APIs,
• Python Web Frameworks (Django, Flask).
According to Stack Overflow, Bought By Many claims: “Technology-wise we are primarily a Python shop using the Django web framework and Flask”. A neat fit for our list.
2. Oscar Health
- Headquarters: New York, New York, United States
- Founded in 2013
- Highlight: The company has raised US $727.5 Million as of January 2018
For those following US politics (who is’t paying attention these days), you may have missed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in December 2017, which is expected to impact health insurance providers going forward.
Oscar Health’s CEO, Mario Schlosser, is paying attention and is still bullish in his expectations for 2018, projecting the health insurance startup to pull in almost $1 billion in revenue and enroll a quarter of a million members in 2018.
“Health care [in the US] is broken. We want to fix it” is the slogan found on Oscar’s website. A millennial-focused insurance startup, the company has gained a great amount of success due to its use of data.
Traditionally, insurance companies in the US have used data in order to bill their customers. However, Oscar uses data to offer a customer-centric service through a well-designed app that allows people to track doctor visits, prescription drug purchases and lab work. It also provides 24/7 access to telemedicine services and appointment bookings with physicians.
In early 2017, Oscar Health expanded into a new business area, introducing a product specifically crafted for small businesses called Oscar for Business.
3. The Zebra
- Headquarters: Austin, Texas, United States
- Founded in 2012
- Highlight: Secured $40 million in Series B financing in 2017
Another well-documented Austin fintech with Python in their techstack, the Zebra is an online insurance comparison marketplace where consumers can receive quotes from more than 200 auto insurance companies in seconds. To date, the Zebra has partnered with more than 25 insurance companies.
In September 2017, the company that is trying to make insurance ‘black and white,’ landed $40 million US in Series B funding led by Venture Capital firm Accel Partners. The financing was the largest Series B in Texas for 2017 and brings the insurtech’s total to $61.5 million since its inception.
In line with the communication you’ll find throughout their careers page, the Zebra’s recruitment team allude to their preferred tech stack in a playful way.
“Experience That Would Impress The Pants Off Us:
There you have it - nothing ‘grey’ about that job description.
- Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States
- Founded in 2013
- Highlight: In May 2017, Clover received US $130 million in investment from Google
Co-Founders Kris Gale and Vivek Garipalli started Clover Health back in 2014, with the aim of using data science to improve preventative health care. The San Francisco based company operates as an insurance company that is reimbursed by the US federal government.
In May 2017, Clover raised $130 million from Google, a fundraising round that now values the company at $1.2 billion, and brings its overall funding to $425 million.
According to their Medium page, Clover uses Python for all of their backend coding.
Job descriptions out of their San Francisco headquarters include “Python is the primary language of our tech stack, and we’re looking to add more Python expertise to our team.” Clover values not only experienced Python developers but also those that will mentor others in Python.
- Headquarters: London, England, United Kingdom
- Founded in 2014
- Highlight: Risk Engine that can be used by commercial insurers to help them target and price risk using AI algorithms
Cytora leverages machine learning and unstructured data to help commercial insurers improve the way they understand and price risk. With the launch of the company’s ‘Risk Engine’, insurers will be able to make use of artificial intelligence to improve loss ratios and premium growth, providing their customers more accurate pricing.
In December 2017, Cytora raised $5.9 million from a group of investors that includes divisions of QBE’s venture capital arm and Starr Cos.
- Headquarters: Brooklyn, New York, United States
- Founded in 2014
- Highlight: Scaled the team by ~225% over the last 2 years
With more and more discussion about the future of the Affordable Care Act, (popularly nicknamed Obamacare), healthcare insurance providers will need the tools to properly engage young, affluent Americans and encourage them to sign-up for health insurance.
Created in 2014, Zipari is helping improve customer satisfaction and consumer experience within the healthcare industry. The company’s product, InsureCX, gives insurance providers real-time data about their members. It also allows for rule-based recommendations, automated workflows and member engagement management.
Zipari is on the look-out for Python Django developers. According to their website, the requirements include: “Excellent Python coding skills and understanding of Python best practices (PEP8), strong knowledge of Python web frameworks such as Django and Flask and of building RESTful API’s using Python.”
7. Urban Jungle
- Headquarters: London, England, United Kingdom
- Founded in 2016
- Highlight: Raised 1 million GBP in Seed funding in January 2018
Our final entrant to the list is also the youngest. The founders of Urban Jungle are tackling the issue that renter’s in the UK currently face by providing less expensive and more tailored home insurance.
According to Urban Jungle, only 40% of urban renters get around to purchasing home insurance. The company’s ‘Renters Contents Insurance’ addresses alternative accommodation in the case the renter’s home becomes uninhabitable, coverage for liability for the fixtures and fittings of the renters’ landlords and options to cover items of the home, to name a few.
The company raised 1 million GBP in Seed funding in January 2018 and will use the money to expand its product offering.
The founders of Urban Jungle believe they can disrupt the insurance industry by modernizing the tech stack, including smartphone-first design and using machine learning to improve risk scoring.
When it comes to machine learning, Python is an especially strong choice. The programming language is an ideal fit due to its wide range of scientific and data analysis libraries, including but not limited to:
Know an insurtech that belongs on this list?
Thanks for taking the time to read through the most recent list of fintechs that love Python as much as we do. Is there another leading insurtech that has been left out? Mention it in the comments and we’ll try to verify it and add it here. We will be tackling Regtech and Wealthtech in future editions, so feel free to suggest companies in those spaces as well.
To learn more about the advantages of Python for fintech companies, make sure you read my previous article: Why Python Should Be the Technology Choice for Your Fintech.
If you’re interested in reading about other fintechs outside of insurtech that include Python in their techstacks, look no further than the Top 15 Fintech Companies that Include Python in Their Tech Stack.
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