Being a disruptor is a coveted status among startups. A badge of honor. An indicator that your product and or company is innovative enough to make established entities lurch into action or remain complacent into oblivion. The insurance sector is what you would call prime for the taking: populated by complacent incumbents, cumbersome processes and enough jargon and fine print to make your head spin. Insurtech startup Getsafe is one such disruptor. In this episode of the OMR Podcast, co-founder and CEO Christian Wiens discussed Getsafe’s rise from industry “enfant terrible” to USD 30m in series’ B funding late last year. We spoke about the unique challenges that being an international insurance provider entails, overcoming fierce pushback from incumbents who’ve never had to fend off a startup and how a broken door opened up Christian to the realities of a broken system.
“Getsafe started essentially with my first encounter with insurance”
The Getsafe story starts with Christian breaking a custom-built door at his house he was living at and his search to find out if he was still covered by his parents’ personal liability insurance policy. Instead of answers, he found stacks of dusty binders and thousands of pages. “I wasn’t covered because I had graduated and I didn’t know I needed it. I had to pay for the door myself and it was quite expensive.”
A trained mechanical engineer, but an entrepreneur by trade, Christian is one of those people motivated by solving challenges and annoyed by inefficiencies. So when insurance proved to be both it “was a pivotal moment. I knew I had to build a solution to make it easier to understand what I was paying for each year and month,” Christian tells OMR digital marketing editor Scott Peterson. “That was the moment I became intrigued and took a closer look at the industry. I saw how big the problem was—and the opportunity as well.”
“The police did not understand digital signatures”
“Like most entrepreneurs, we started with a feature and not a finished product. And we didn’t start as an insurance company either,” Christian says. In fact, the actual need he sought to solve was much more acute: the thousands and thousands of dusty studies across Germany like the one in his parents’ house—where paperwork was in full supply, but answers were not. “Let’s start by helping people, older people, get an overview of all the insurance policies they’ve collected over the years.” So he built a feature, where people could sign up and sign over a power of attorney to him and his partner, who would serve as a single point of contact for their insurance.
That was unheard of and too good to be true—for both incumbents and authorities. “We were the enfant terrible of the insurance industry.” But that’s not all, the police raided their offices. Four times. “They thought we were up to no good. They did not understand how digital signatures worked and thought we faked them—what we were doing was totally new to the industry,” Christian recalls. Getsafe’s and his relationship with industry incumbents has warmed up since then. “They call this phase, back in 2015, the wake-up call for them,” Christian says. “In the end they were happy it happened though.”
That sentiment could change—and fast—if recent trends continue. When host Scott Peterson asked him if the USD 30m in series B funding that Getsafe acquired late last year would primarily be allocated to expansion, Christian emphasized it is growth capital. “Expansion is part of it, but we are active in Europe’s two largest insurance markets, the UK and Germany. Taken together they are almost half a trillion dollars—the core global market of Uber, for example, is a fifth of the market we are active in.” With Getsafe’s core target group comprised of millenials who have never had insurance, Getsafe is in position to be their insurance of choice for the next 50 years.
Check out the full OMR Podcast with Christian Wiens to hear more about Getsafe, including how the company walks the fine line between tech and insurance company, what goes into the coverages they offer, the challenges of providing insurance to users in different countries, as well as the impact of Corona on Getsafe.