Insurify is the brainchild of MIT Sloan Graduate Snejina Zacharia
Cambridge-based, Insurify, started 2016 with a bang. In January, the company announced the launch of Evia, the first intelligent and virtual insurance agent that will help consumers find the perfect auto insurance policy in minutes. Shortly thereafter, the start-up announce that it had secured $2 million dollars in its first round of seed funding led by Rationalwave Capital Partners. Kayak chief technology officer Giorgos Zacharia also participated in the funding round and sits on the Board of Directors.
With news like that, Agency Checklists was intrigued by the idea of an online comparison shopping platform based in Massachusetts and decided to find out more.
First off, for those Massachusetts insurance professionals who have never heard of Insurify, the company first launched from Cambridge in 2013 and is the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Snejina Zacharia.
Like a distant cousin to Coverhound and the now defunct Google Compare, Insurify differs from these site in that it is as an online insurance comparison shopping platform which provides text-based auto insurance coverage recommendations via its own proprietary virtual insurance agent, Evia.
It is the first online comparison shopping site that uses predictive modeling and advanced analytics in order to simplify the shopping experience auto insurance shoppers. For example, the start-up also invented RateRank™, its own proprietary software that “…analyzes patterns and matches each user’s risk profile with the best and most affordable insurance carriers and coverage for their unique profile.”
Using a Massachusetts-based insurance agency to help sell auto insurance
What is of real interest to investors and consumers alike, however, maybe Evia, a patent-pending virtual agent. Built on machine learning and natural language processing, a consumer can simply snap a photo of his license plate and text it to Evia, who will deliver policy quotes and recommendation via text message. So within minutes, an interested consumer can have custom-tailored deals outlining the best insurance policies available for them.
An interesting caveat for independent agents, however, is what happens when a consumer is then interested in buying that insurance product from Insurify. The company, which does not yet sell insurance policies directly online, actually offers its products and services via two independent insurance agencies.
One of the agencies is ClearLink Insurance Agency, LLC of Utah and the other is Massachusetts’ own MassDrive Insurance Group. As both agencies are licensed to operate in all 50 states, these independent agencies effectively provide the ability for Insurify to sell its products nationally.
MassDrive, which is always pushing the envelope for independent agencies, spoke to us about their partnership with Insurify and how it fits in with the concept of their own independent agency.
Insurify is an online comparison shopping service with a terrific front-end user experience and a number of consumer friendly tools that simplify the research process for customers,” explained MassDrive Co-Founder and CEO Bill Suneson. “Through our partnership, we are pleased to provide agency and technology services which support Insurify’s dynamic front-end consumer experience. Given our partner-focused infrastructure, Insurify is a natural fit to drive qualified leads to our digital agency, which is staffed by nationally-licensed phone-based agents and features multiple carrier appointments.”
With such an interesting premise, and with the funding to implement its plans, Agency Checklists got in touch with Insurify to learn more about its origins, its future and whether that includes remaining in Massachusetts.
An Email Q&A with Insurify…
How did Insurify come about?
While Snejina (CEO and co-founder Snejina Zacharia) was in business school at MIT Sloan, she got in a minor car accident. Following this, she shopped around for car insurance and realized that the industry did not yet have a good solution for people who want to easily compare rates from multiple carriers. Lead generation sites were dishonest. Talking to each carrier individually took too long. She thought there had to be a better way, that could make shopping for car insurance as easy as shopping for flights and hotels had become. So she decided to build that better way…Insurify.
You’re based in Cambridge, do you plan to stay here?
Yes, we love it here!
In what other markets does Insurify operate in? What is your biggest market right now?
We operate in the US across all 50 states. Our largest markets right now are Texas, California, and Florida.
Do only write auto? Are you planning to add other lines of insurance?
Currently, we only help customers find auto policies, although some of our broker partners can offer home as well.
How does Insurify work? How is different from other online insurance sites?
Insurify lets customers quickly and easily receive real accurate car insurance quotes from carriers, based on their vehicle information, driving history, and personal profile. Unlike lead generation sites which sell a shopper’s information multiple times to make the most money, Insurify is ‘customer-first’, and only connects shoppers with a carrier or a broker if they want to talk to one. The whole process is much more transparent, intuitive, and easy to navigate. Insurify passionately believes that we can build a successful business model that puts the customer first.
Tell us about Evia? Could you explain to us what it is and how was it developed? Do you think Evia is a game changer for the online insurance experience?
Evia is the brainchild of Product lead Tod Kiryazov and Engineering lead Steve Moseley. Tod and Steve had the idea to create an even simpler user experience that would operate entirely through SMS. Today, Evia includes a language processing component so shoppers can have a conversation with her, and can generate personalized quotes just like Insurify does. We think Evia has potential to be a game changer, offering an entirely new channel in which to shop for car insurance – SMS. More choices around how to shop create a better user experience.
Once someone has a quote, how do they buy insurance? Do you have your own licensed agents who work for you?
Currently, if a shopper likes a quote they have received, they need to speak with one of Insurify’s licensed broker partners at their convenience. We are currently working on a partnership that will allow shoppers to buy their policy directly on our website, which many of our shoppers have already expressed interest in. Timing on this feature improvement is still TBD.
How do you handle licensing to write insurance on-line in multiple states?
Currently we do not sell any policies online. However, we are licensed in all 50 states if we do decide to go down that path in the future.
How do you see Insurify in the insurance landscape, do you see it co-existing with small independent insurance agencies?
Insurify can absolutely co-exist with small independent insurance agencies. There are always going to be shoppers who want to meet with an agent face-to-face to talk through their needs. These shoppers will be serviced better through those small independent agencies. Insurify’s target audience is shoppers who are looking for a breadth of options in an easy-to-use online format, which we think we serve very well.
What are the advantages that Insurify believes it offers the insurance buying public over traditional local brick and mortar insurance agencies?
Insurify provides shoppers the easiest ever online tool to get car insurance quotes and recommendations. Insurify has lots of options, provides recommendations based on individual profiles and needs, and can connect shoppers with licensed agents if they decide they want to talk with one. The ability to quickly find rates and then invest the time to talk to an agent only if you decide to is a major advantage over a brick and mortar agency.
Why should a consumer use Insurify rather than say an independent insurance agency?
This is all about the individual consumer’s preferences. A lot of users really appreciate that they can get quotes quickly from Insurify without having to talk to an agent, and only invest their time to speak with an agent if they find a policy they are interested in. On the other hand, some users really value the personal relationship they get from a small independent agency, and are better served by those organizations.[pullquote]We believe that the only way to help people feel comfortable shopping for insurance online is if we can build the brain of a super agent behind our platform. We analyze millions of records, identify patterns and build models to match to your profile. – Insurify website.[/pullquote]
You’ve just raised $2 million. What does that mean for Insurify? What do you have planned for the future?
We plan to invest in our product and our customer experience. Improving carrier coverage in all states, making user experience improvements, and building an online purchase platform are key investment priorities going forward.
What are the differences, if any, that Insurify offers the insurance buying public over other on-line agencies providing insurance price comparison sites?
Insurify prides itself on having the best user experience, and is striving to offer the best coverage options for each customer in each state.
What insurance companies does Insurify represent? Does Insurify represent each company in all states where they can write insurance?
Insurify works with 82 carriers in total, including SafeCo, The General, Dairyland, Infinity, 21st Century, and many more. Currently we offer multiple state coverage for many of these carriers, but do not necessarily quote every carrier in every state that do business in. But we are working on it.