Article By Liese Klein
Latest Hartford accelerator startups aim to transform insurance industry
Before this year's crop of Hartford InsurTech Hub startups even got to town in February, meetings were already happening — entrepreneurs from across the world were pitching their products to local insurance executives.
The startups had their eyes on the prize: partnerships to develop technology with the potential to transform the city's insurance industry.
The 10 startups in the Hartford InsurTech Hub's second annual class hail from seven countries and were winnowed from 232 applicants. All are taking part in a three-month accelerator in Hartford run by London-based Startupbootcamp, in collaboration with major insurers, including Cigna, The Hartford and Aetna.
Working with feedback from the first year of the program, organizers made sure to fast-track paperwork to allow the 2019 class of startups to get early access to key players in the city's insurance industry.
"The speed at which the insurers are engaging has definitely accelerated this year over last year because of that proactive approach," said Dawn LeBlanc, Hartford InsurTech Hub's managing director.
This year's class of InsurTech startups also expands the scope of the program, with companies offering technology in the commercial property-insurance space for the first time, LeBlanc said. Hartford-area insurers are also more eager to engage with the startups after a successful first year of the program, she added.
"I think the community was hungry for this type of thing," LeBlanc said.
Is that nice person you hired to take care of your parent really doing the job? Sure, you could install cameras and spend hours reviewing footage, but InsurTech Hub startup CareValidate has a better solution — one you can simply screw into any light socket.
The company's SafeLight is a "smart light bulb" packed with ultra-wideband radar, sound and light sensors that can monitor a wide range of activities in a home or care facility. Software powered by machine learning analyzes the sensor data and sends alerts if an incident like a fall is detected — or if a caregiver is spending all day on the couch.
"You just screw in the light bulb and you'll be able to get continuous monitoring and predictive analytics," said Jay Pugliese, co-founder and vice president of business development at Atlanta-based CareValidate. Unlike wearable technology, the bulb is also always in service, even when lights are switched off.
Pugliese said he and the other CareValidate co-founders all had personal experience with the challenges of elder care and saw the potential of sensor technology. An earlier version of their product that mounted on a wall proved to be too costly for widespread adoption, so they "lit" on the idea of a smart light bulb. In addition to convenience and ease of installation, SafeLight offers a level of privacy as it doesn't capture video or images.
"We wanted something that grandma would be fine with having on all the time," Pugliese said.
For CareValidate, part of the value proposition for the Hartford InsurTech Hub program has been access to both major insurers and state and local officials, Pugliese said.
"Potentially, we want to be a fraud, waste and abuse tool for government," Pugliese said. "The experience so far has been fantastic, we've had a lot of connectivity to not only insurers but local government agencies."
He added: "Our intention is to stay in Hartford and build an arm of our business here."