Wunderite is a Boston-based insurtech that is automating insurance applications for insurance agents. Started by Peter MacDonald and Joseph Schnare, both of whom have worked in their family businesses, the duo has a unique perspective on how to help the independent agency system increase efficiencies and become more agile. For those who will be attending Insurtech Boston this evening, Wunderite will be one of this edition’s start-up stories. Click here to see the agenda and get our special ticket discount code.
What is Wunderite and what does it aim to do?
We build intuitive software for insurance agents: agents want better online customer experiences. And they want fast, intuitive tools that make it easy to onboard new sales people and staff. We recognize that opportunity, and we’re leveraging our experience in insurance and small business to build delightful software. Specifically, today, we digitize and automate the process of applying for insurance.
How did you come up for the idea for Wunderite?
I used to “hack” Halo and AOL Instant messenger, and had a website featured in Wired while I was still in high school. When I started working at my dad’s insurance agency, I figured there had to be a better way to do business, so I started building tools internally that got up to 30,000 hits in one year. Then I had the opportunity to pursue an MBA and decided to launch Wunderite full time during business school. Serendipitously, I met Joe on the first day of the MBA. Joe ran a small family business and he understood the pain point immediately. Buying business insurance was a black box.
When did Wunderite officially launch or is it still in Beta?
We launched our Alpha in the Fall of 2018.
How big is the Wunderite team?
We’re a lean team. Joe and I are both working on Wunderite full time; we have a few contractors and have had numerous interns. We rely heavily on service providers, accelerators (like the DCU Fintech Center), and informal mentors.
How long did it take you to develop the Wunderite platform from idea to actual product?
While I don’t believe software is ever “finished,” it took about nine months (during my MBA) to re-teach myself to code and build the alpha.
The idea was formulated over a number of years starting around 2013, and I bought the domain Wunderite in September of 2015. Though I mocked up a front end-while I was still an insurance producer, it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 during my full-time MBA that I got serious about committing to Wunderite. We incorporated on Valentine’s Day 2018; I worked most breaks and my MBA summer full time on it, and we both committed to Wunderite full time when we earned our MBAs in May 2019.
What were some of the challenges you have had to deal with in creating this platform?
My background is math, which often requires you to take a step back from a problem to think about the best approach. Writing good software is similar: you can start building right away or you can distill and abstract the problem to come up with a more elegant solution.
It is not a stretch to say that insurance software often solves a problem without first asking the question: what is the root problem we’re addressing?
At Wunderite, we strive to strike a balance between building quickly while also thinking deeply about insurance agents, technology, and the insurance industry. Early decisions we make–whether technology architecture, raising capital, or early customers–all impact the future.
The biggest challenge has been to balance building the technology we always wanted, (while being an MBA student raising a family), with a limited budget of time, cash, and resources.
We’re thankful for the countless friends, family, mentors, and early believers who helped us get to where we are today.
How does Wunderite work exactly?
The current iteration of the product looks like this: insurance agents invite their customers onto the Wunderite platform and together they create a risk profile (like LinkedIn for insurance). This risk profile includes both high level company information (e.g., type of business, industry) and granular data on the people and assets a company needs insured (e.g, properties, vehicle fleet, drivers). The process of filling out this risk profile is partially automated because Wunderite leverages datasets and APIs to prefill certain fields. Once the risk profile is complete, users can sign digitally, then click a button to fill out PDF applications (to send to insurance carriers) or to export to Excel spreadsheets (for internal use). With the data collected on the Wunderite platform, we generate basic insights (e.g., average age of the vehicle fleet) to help the end business customer better understand their risk exposure.
What differentiates Wunderite from other insurtechs trying to solve the same problem? What do you offer that is different?
Wunderite is built by insurance and small business veterans who understand the problem first hand and have years of experience built into the product. I’m part owner of an insurance agency on Cape Cod and sold insurance for seven years prior to business school. I know the industry in and out and built Wunderite to solve my own pain point. Joe understands what it’s like to run a small business, buy commercial insurance, and implement and manage digital change in an organization.
Wunderite is still in Beta (or Alpha) – How has the reception been thus far?
The pain point Wunderite aims to solve has been validated by almost every agency we’ve talked to. The users of our alpha product like the workflow we’ve built and find our platform to be very intuitive.
How many and what type of clients are now using Wunderite?
Wunderite is selling to the 38,000 independent insurance agencies across the country. Specifically we target those agencies that sell business insurance.
Do you see any generational gaps or certain segments that have embraced Wunderite more so than others?
We’ve talked to over a hundred agents from all sorts of background about what we’re building. Most everyone understands the value or is interested in our software. Naturally, the more tech forward an agency is, the more inclined they are to actively look for and adopt tools like ours.
What is Wunderite’s pricing structure? What kind of contractual provisions do you have with your users? Once someone signs up to Wunderite, what happens next? Could you walk our readers through how it works in practice?
When someone signs up for Wunderite, we schedule a call to better understand the prospective user’s background and interest in our platform. We generally provide a demo of the software, field any questions, and then assess whether it makes sense to turn the user onto our alpha version. Regarding how the software works, refer to the answer to question 7
On renewal applications, how does the process work?
Wunderite is a collaborative platform that allows the insurance agent and the end customer to work together to fill out insurance applications. Our platform will have triggers that alert the agent and the customer of any upcoming renewals. Users can then update information as necessary to renew policies.
How is sensitive data protected by Wunderite?
Wunderite uses SSL and encryption across our website; additionally we monitor our codebase for inherited software vulnerabilities.
What do you think has been the biggest barrier to the insurance industry adopting more automation in insurance applications?
Building the technology is in some ways the easy part. Implementing new technology at agencies, especially those that have been conducting business the same way for years, will be the biggest challenge we face. How many agencies out there still have a typewriter or desk calculator? People are resistant to change. That is why we’ve been thoughtful and measured while building to get customer feedback and anticipate their needs.
You were already a part of the Massachusetts insurance industry before starting Wunderite correct? Could you share with our readers a little bit about your background in insurance?
I worked in my dad’s agency starting perhaps in sixth or ninth grade and I thought insurance was not for me because the tasks assigned to me were process focused. After graduating with a degree in math, I traveled and worked abroad. When I came back to the US, my dad suggested I owed it to myself to give the insurance industry a chance, after all, it is an enormous industry and had provided well for my upbringing. I took him up on it starting in January 2011. Over the years, I tried nearly every role at the agency, spent two weeks at a regional insurer learning all aspects of personal and commercial insurance from their side, and earned my licenses and designations. I also joined the MAIA in DC for our annual day on the hill to share our perspective with lawmakers.
I knew from personal lines that insurance was too complex. I started working on commercial accounts in 2012 as a producer and that was when I solidified my idea that there had to be a better way, which became the early basis for Wunderite.
What is your take on the state of transformation in the insurance industry? What else do you think needs to happen?
The insurance industry needs to be more customer experience focused and simple.
A hundred years ago, the Titanic was insured by a bunch of underwriters signing one page. And when it sank, the total loss was paid out in under 30 days.
Even for all the technology we have today, I don’t think that would happen now.
Open standardization and transparent pricing and forms could help. And there is opportunity: according to Swiss Re, in the last ten years, there was $1.8 Trillion of global property damage; $1.3 Trillion was uninsured.
How can anyone who is interested in learning more about Wunderite get in touch with you?
Anyone interested in learning more about Wunderite can email me (peter at wunderite dot com) or my business partner Joe (joe at wunderite dot com).