Three lessons learned from mentoring insurtech founders
Three lessons learned from mentoring insurtech founders
In 2020, American Family Insurance launched an innovative partnership with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison that provides support and mentorship to start-up founders in their companies’ early stages.

By Dan Reed, Managing Director, American Family Ventures

The program, just one of 16 CDL streams worldwide, is the first to focus on the field of risk. The first group of entrepreneurs completed this intense nine-month program in June 2021 and the second cohort of companies is well into their program.

Among the elements that differentiate this program are five, day-long objective-setting sessions led by mentors to help founders identify and reach important milestones. I’m fortunate to serve as a mentor alongside nearly 40 talented business leaders from relevant fields including consulting, human resources, insurance adjacencies, software development and venture capital.

We’ve been successfully investing in startups for over a decade via American Family Ventures, and we are excited to be part of a wildly different approach to supporting startups. Beyond that, I was enthused by how CDL’s provocative format unlocked new ways for our company’s leadership to see the industry’s ongoing digital transformation and how others are responding to the call to innovate.

A year into the partnership we are still exploring new relationships and remain truly inspired by all that these founders bring to the table.

Three things to learn from working with startups through CDL:

  1. We need to think and act more as startups do. Without substantial financial resources or complex systems and processes, they get a lot done – quickly and creatively. This has inspired us to think differently about “business-as-usual.” For example, we’ve started regularly bringing together property experts from across our companies to explore possible startup partnerships and other innovations and based the pace and approach of these events on CDL best practices.  
  2. Startups can be our tools for transformation. Because these companies are focused on risk, we can and have explored how we can partner with many of them to better protect our customers and improve our business, which is a huge win. Specifically, we’ve been able to make introductions in areas such as IoT, insurance verification, risk modeling, cyber security, new payment solutions and more. 
  3. We can share in each other’s success. Watching as other mentors interact with startup founders is both fulfilling and fascinating. The interaction puts these startups on firmer footing, while at the same time giving all of us a preview of what the future of our industry may contain.  In addition, I regularly hear from our mentor community that they’ve learned as much from fellow mentors as they do from the founders. 

Based on our experience with CDL, I highly recommend working with and listening to startup founders, particularly if you are investing heavily in technology and innovation. The entirety of the insurance industry is on a journey of digital transformation that’s like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. I believe there’s nothing like a fresh perspective and new ideas to challenge our thinking and help us shape the future of our industry.
We are always looking for qualified mentors to be part of our ongoing partnership with CDL, so if you’d like to learn more, please drop me a line. I consider it time very well spent and in this digital new world, you can get involved no matter where you are based.

Source: Digital Insurance

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