Find True North
Three northeastern U.S. cities have been dominant forces of insurtech innovation.
- Gates Ouimette
- March 2020
Sitting here in the Boston area, it's easy to get desensitized to innovation. This is especially true for emerging technologies being applied in industries viewed as technology laggards—industries such as insurance.
Despite this perception, the emergence of the insurtech ecosystem in the northeastern part of the United States proves that in today's world of digital business transformation, insurers are no longer content with the status quo. Instead they're looking to innovate, whether it's in property/casualty, life or especially, health—an industry that's also moving from laggard to innovator.
One important and growing driver of this insurance movement to innovation is the insurtech ecosystem “triangle” between Hartford, Connecticut; Boston and New York City.
Originally started with Insurtech Boston, a city whose startup ecosystem enables rapid evolution of tech startups in any industry, the regional ecosystem triangle significantly accelerated with the launch of two entities in Hartford, which has long been dubbed the home of the insurance industry.
InsurTech Hartford started three years ago when its founder Stacey Brown saw what was happening in other geographies and realized Hartford had too much history to remain on the sidelines, especially given its already robust insurance ecosystem.
Around the same time, the Hartford InsurTech Hub was launched, funded by state government in collaboration with the University of Connecticut and Rainmaking, an international network of 26 industry-specific accelerators.
Separate from the Hartford InsurTech Hub is a local insurance-focused incubator, also based in Hartford and housed downtown at Nassau Re.
Along with this influx of state money came venture capitalists, private equity and education, namely insurtech classes launched at the University of Connecticut and the University of Hartford.
In the midst of all that activity was Brown, a vice president at a large insurance carrier, who suddenly found himself involved with both Hartford insurtech entities.
Brown's passion for insurance and technology led him to champion Hartford's insurtech cause. Suddenly, as he said, “it was cool to be in insurance,” and he wanted to be part of the future of insurance—“not just a part of maintaining the past.”
Brown's vision for Hartford includes a pragmatic perspective.
With nearly 100,000 insurance industry-related jobs within 30 minutes of Hartford, along with a growing number of jobs in Boston and New York City, it's easy to see why the Northeast insurtech triangle has much to offer and benefit from.
Following in the footsteps of Boston and Hartford, New York City recently launched its first “real” hub—InsurTechNY.
While others have attempted to launch similar hubs in the city, InsurTechNY went the extra mile by investing time in learning the Hartford model (absent government funding). InsurTechNY offers insurtech-specific events, a spring conference and a $300,000 startup competition judged by representatives from Bain Capital, Amazon, Guardian Life, New York Life Ventures and others.
The Northeast insurtech triangle has been in place for slightly more than three years, and what it's already accomplished is exciting. Today, the insurtech phenomenon continues to expand nationally and internationally.
Collaboration across insurtech entities has been informal even from a regional perspective. However, collaboration between startups and legacy insurers is real and strengthening as both continue to benefit from this dynamic.
Based upon its promise, it's likely that insurtech will be here for the long run.
Best’s Review columnist Gates Ouimette is founder and principal of ITconnecter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.