If you asked anyone to list the company-types developing new and innovative consumer apps for smartphones, tablets, and desktops, insurance companies would likely be at the bottom of the list. Those insurers that have introduced apps, generally have focused on basic extensions of their existing business models. At least one Massachusetts insurance company, however, may prove the general perception of insurance companies as technology laggards wrong by its corporate commitment to developing insurtech apps and services.
In January of 2017, Liberty Mutual announced that its newly formed incubator, Solaria Labs, had just launched its first open API initiative. As such, Agency Checklists thought our readers would be interested not only in learning about this new API developer portal, but what else Liberty Mutual was doing with respect to insurtech innovation in Massachusetts.
Liberty Mutual Innovations seeks promising startups
“Liberty Mutual Innovation”(“LM Innovations”) is the designation for teams from several units of Liberty Mutual from Consumer Markets (“Personal Insurance”), Information Technology and Strategic Ventures.
- Consumer Markets or Personal Insurance makes up one of the company’s largest strategic business unit with annual revenues of over $16 billion. The company has set five-to-ten year goals for the President of Personal Insurance, and that unit’s executive team, to producer $1 billion in additional pre-tax operating income
- through LM Innovations. The goal is to be achieved through the development of service and products for the “connected home, the sharing economy, and next generation vehicles” in addition to finding “disruptive opportunities in other insurance-related areas.”
- Information Technology consists of the more than 4,500 employees located in nine major IT offices around the globe. This unit also
seeks for opportunities to co-innovate with startups.
- Strategic Ventures is the new in-house venture capital arm for LM Innovations. Strategic Ventures was capitalized by the Personal Insurance unit with $150 million in 2016 and charged with funding early-stage companies with “disruptive hardware, software, and business models.” In addition to seeking partnering opportunities with startups, LM Innovations went further in September 2015, by setting up its own startup incubator near Boston’s South Station.
In addition to seeking partnering opportunities with startups, LM Innovations went further in September 2015, by setting up its own startup incubator, Solaria Labs (“Solaria”), near Boston’s South Station.
Both LM Innovations and Solaria’s websites encourage other startups to contact them to discuss partnering with Liberty Mutual. For example, the bold lead on LM Innovations’ site states:
Shaping the Future begins with compelling partnerships. We’re looking for promising startup. Engage with us.”
The website then goes on to list the advantages for startups partnering with Liberty Mutual Innovation as gaining “access to valuable assets” including:
- Distribution through Liberty Mutual;
- Solaria Labs;
- Mentorship; and
- Access to Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute for Safety.
LM Innovations’ Solaria Labs seeks to foster and develop its own disruptive insurtech apps
LM Innovations’ startup incubator, Solaria, operates as a stand-alone group at 745 Atlantic Avenue, Boston.
Solaria’s mission is to act as an internal incubator creating startups with disruptive ideas and turning those ideas into products or investments for LM Innovations. Solaria has partnered with universities, including MIT’s AgeLab, to fund research and participate in relevant discoveries on these new trends such as next generation vehicles, the sharing economy, and connected home products that enable real-time connectivity in the areas of security, energy efficiency, safety and homeowner convenience.
Solaria launched its first startup in July 2016, “All Set”
The All Set app is focused on putting homeowners with lawn care companies and homeowners or renters with housecleaning service providers. The other feature touted by All Set is a group discount where homeowners and neighbors share the same service provider. This discount increases, according to All Set, as more neighbors are added to that same provider.
Also, the All Set app allows for the booking of home service providers along with scheduling, messaging, facilitating payments and making referrals. The app also allows home services professionals to manage home services projects and connect with consumers. All Set competes with companies like Angie’s List and Home Advisor.
All Set received $14.4 million in funding from Liberty Mutual and the Boston Consulting Group. All Set also has Liberty Mutual officers as its executives and lists its primary place of business as Liberty Mutual’s Boston headquarters. Also, All Set’s trademark, issued in December 2016, was issued to Liberty Mutual as the registrant.
Solaria Lab’s new API developer portal to benefit auto owners follows six months later
In January 2017, Liberty Mutual’s Solaria Labs announced its first open source initiative aimed at spurring more app innovation for emerging technology for insurance industry. The initiative, an API developer portal, will combine public data with proprietary insurance knowledge. The end result will be to help create and inform future products and apps that will have the ability to provide public data on auto theft, parking citations as well as crashes using that proprietary insurance knowledge. For example, in the near future, both developers and data scientists will be able to access and analyze the aggregated data in order to devise the safest driving routes or the best places to park in a major U.S. City.
“We introduced this initiative to develop products and services that benefit everyone and ultimately help drivers make informed choices and feel less worry on the road.” said Ted Kwartler, assistant vice president, Innovation, at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “We expect to deliver new value to the community with a focus on improving safety by combining our expertise and insights while employing emerging technology.”
Venture capital rounds out initiative
Formed in May of 2016, Strategic Ventures acts as the venture capital arm for Liberty Mutual’s U.S. Personal Insurance business to support entrepreneurs that are reshaping the insurance industry and enabling Liberty Mutual’s personal lines customers to protect what they value most. Strategic Ventures focuses on:
- Next Generation Vehicles: Products that help consumers improve their driving experience and safety as car technology evolves;
- Connected Home: Products that enable real-time connectivity in the areas of security, efficiency, safety and convenience;
- Sharing Economy: As underutilized assets and time are shared for compensation, consumers need new products, services, and protections; and.
- Insurance Innovation: New products and disruptive opportunities in other insurance-related areas.
Strategic Ventures has invested in, at least, two companies, “August” and “Notion.” Descriptions and links to these two companies’ websites, as well as descriptions and links to the approximately fifteen other startups listed as partnering with LM Innovations or its component units appears in the listings below.
A smorgasbord of startups that have partnered with LM Innovations
LM Innovations has already partnered with various startups that cover a range of innovative services and products seeking to gain traction in the consumer marketplace. The link for these startups’ websites and a short description of their services or products appears in the table below:
Automobile related services apps
|Open Bay||An online service that allows customers to compare pricing and book car repairs at quality shops near to the customers home or office.|
|An on-line service with an app that allows consumers to find a book a guaranteed parking space before they reach their destination and to give consumers directions to get directly to their reserved spaces. ParkWhiz claims to have over 800,000 spots across 50 U.S. cities, including Boston and also claims to allow you to “book your spot and save up to 50% on drive-up rates.|
|A service that delivers mobile car repair at your home or office. Your Mechanic claims to save an average of 30 percent compared to shops and dealer with this app’s “top‑rated mechanics.” App users can book a service online and the mechanics will come to the consumer’s home or office to service your car. Your Mechanic claims using its website and mobile apps, consumers can access the maintenance schedule of all their cars, get a fair and transparent price, book an appointment, make payments, access service history and get maintenance reminders.|
Home security related apps
|August||August provides a smart door lock for homes that the homeowner can control with their smartphone through Bluetooth. With the additional doorbell cam, the homeowner can control the door from anywhere. The app with the smart lock lets you lock and unlock doors, view lock activity, and grant family, friends, and guests temporary or permanent access. The app also works with Apple’s HomeKit platform. August has received funding from LM Innovations’ Strategic Ventures fund and in June 2016, was given an “Editors’ Choice” rating by PC magazine.|
|Canary||An all-in-one home security system that a homeowner can control from their phone. The system is supposedly built to learn and will send intelligent alerts with HD video and audio|
|Nest||A manufacturer of connected hardware, software and services such as a learning thermostat, a special Nest protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm and Nest camera.|
|Notion||Notion provides an app that lets consumers monitor their entire home, even when you aren’t there. The app can alert its users when the temperature of a room gets too hot or cold, or when a door, garage door, liquor cabinet, or gun safe is opened, as well as when a water leak happens so you can avoid costly damage to your home.|
|A smart home security system with no contracts or required monthly fees that includes a 180‑degree camera, motion/sound detection, a siren and two‑way audio.|
|Roost||a smart device app that supposedly delivers the ultimate in home safety and consumer peace-of-mind through Wi-Fi‑enabled smart phone notifications. Roost claim the devices have simple installation and affordable price points.|
|Vivint Smart Homes||A complete home security system that provides through cameras 24×7 home monitoring, window and motion sensors, smoke detectors and an app to monitor the home security system. Presently, Vivint’s website offers $1500 worth of equipment and free installation for signing up.|
Home related services apps
|All Set||This LM Innovations’ IPhone and Android app seeks to do for hiring house cleaners and lawn care pros what Uber and Lyft did for hiring drivers. With this app, homeowners can request free quotes, hire, schedule, communicate, and pay for cleaning and lawn services in one place. Additionally, the app can generate an automatic discount when homeowners use the same service providers as their neighbors do–per the app’s website, “the more neighbors, the higher the discount.”|
|Porch||A home service platform and app that like All Set (Above) connects homeowners with professional contractors with required licenses and insurance; Porch also provides a communication service for projects, and allows the professional contractors to manage their projects and connect with homeowners using Porch.|
|Updater claims its app will simplify the way Americans move by fundamentally reimagining the relocation process. Updater provides all the move-in tools for property owners, managers, real estate agents, and relocation companies to streamline the move-in process for owners or tenants within one platform that can be customized for specific properties or property owners.|
Insurance claim related apps
|Snapsheet||Snapsheet is a self-serve insurance application providing insurance carriers, insurance customers, and repair facilities with easy-to-access vehicle information making the claims process a more positive and simple experience. The company states it has raised over $30 million in funding and has over 300 employees. Snapsheet utilizes proprietary technology to optimize virtual claims operations and states that it annually processes “hundreds-of-thousands of claims virtually by photo.”. Snapsheet has partnerships with Metromile, MetLife, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford and USAA.|
|XactSense||XactSense builds fully autonomous, 3D Laser scanning Drones allows its customer to get more data, at half the cost, and 1/5 the time of existing methods. XactSense shares space with Solaria. In 2015, Liberty Mutual received approval to fly drones for claim evaluation purposes.|
|Cake||Cake is a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab which partners with Solaria. Cake bills itself as the easiest way to think about end-of-life. While 100% of people die, only one out of four plan for it. This lack of planning can lead to emotional, physical, and financial suffering for survivors. Cake claims that its first-in-class, mobile-friendly web app helps people discover their end-of-life preferences and store and share them online. In addition to its free app, Cake offers personalized concierge services with end-of-life planning experts.|
About Liberty Mutual
Founded as a worker’s compensation mutual insurer in 1912, Liberty Mutual has grown over the last century to become a diversified global insurer boasting operations in 29 countries around the world. Based in Boston, Liberty Mutual is currently the fifth largest property and casualty insurer in the United States according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners employing over 50,000 people in over 800 office locations across the globe. The mutual insurer also ranks 73rd on Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 largest corporations in the U.S.