Waffles are nearly as popular as pizza. Insurance? Not so much.
Waffle, a company with a decidedly global team, is looking to simplify the market by combining insurances into one policy. Grit Daily caught up with the Techstars-backed company, led by Quentin Coolen, to find out more.
- Waffle appears to be incorporated as Waffle Labs. What are you “cooking/baking” at your company?
Haha. Nothing nefarious, don’t worry. The short answer is that at Waffle Labs, we are reinventing insurance.
Now, insurance is clearly not the sexiest industry in the world. I can’t sell you on that. But it is an industry that plays a critical role in society – you need insurance if you get sick, if you get into an accident, or if something gets stolen or broken. And it’s an industry that counts hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women who take their responsibility to others proudly and seriously. And yet, despite all of this, it’s really hard to find people who believe that their insurance works for them.
How do you reconcile these two realities?
We found an answer by talking to thousands of customers without any preconceived ideas. We told them this: if we give you a magic wand with the power to totally reshape insurance as an experience and a product, what would it look like? Their overwhelming answer was less fragmentation (different providers for different products), much better coverage (dramatically reduce the number of exclusions) and much better experience (speedy claims, policies that are easy to understand, and an experience that doesn’t force you to spend hours/days filling out forms, arguing with your insurance companies and/or try to decipher what the heck is covered or not covered).
And that’s how Waffle was born. Waffle is the first company that insures you and everything that you love through one fully-customized policy. That means your car, your home, your life, your travel, your electronics, your pet, and even your health – all wrapped up in one policy. With Waffle, you no longer need to Geico for your car, or Cygna for your health or AllState for your home. You can opt in and out of any product at any time right from your phone. And the best thing about Waffle is that you design your coverage based on your needs and specific situation.
- Each of your cofounders has an interesting entrepreneurial background. Share those.
The three of us all met at MIT.
Sam is British (don’t hold it against him) and was trained as a chemist at Oxford. After graduation, he became an M&A investment banker at Citi . In addition to being an angel investor in various prominent London FinTechs, he also tried to start his own but failed. As he would say himself, entrepreneurship is a full time job – you can’t just dangle your feet.
Michael is Chinese/Canadian and was trained as a mathematician at Cambridge University and a data scientist at MIT. He’s now focusing on his PhD in Machine Learning at MIT. In another words, yes Michael is a Jedi. Before co-founding Waffle, he served as the CTO of an EdTech startup which also gave him tons of insights on the dos and don’ts of building a startup.
As for me, I am a lawyer by training (apologies), originally from Belgium. After working as a litigator focusing on technology, I switched to the United Nations where, among other things, I led the establishment of the Insurance Development Forum, a public-private partnership between the CEOs of the largest carriers, brokers and reinsurers, the United Nations and the World Bank. The partnership is designed to protect countries and communities particularly vulnerable to climate change and other natural disasters. And that’s how I got into insurance.
- Don’t we already have enough insurance? Why add yourselves to that market?
Way too many insurances! That’s why Waffle is offering one insurance policy covering everything that you need / want. By refocusing the insurance experience onto the individual as opposed to one-size-fits-all products, we get a much more efficient product based on what you need.
Now, will we be another player on the market? Not really. First, because nobody else is offering the kind of product Waffle is offering. Second, because we are creating a new category of products, one that forces people to rethink the way they purchase insurance. Our bet – which is based on nine months of intense customer research – is that people will buy in more into the Waffle value proposition than any traditional single line product.
- Your market yourselves as having “no fine print.” But isn’t that what protects the insurance companies?
Waffle is built on the concept of protecting everyone and everything you love. Reducing fine print, and by fine print we are really referring to exclusions, has been a core part of the value proposition from Day one.
Now these exclusions are designed to protect the insurance companies from a bunch of fraudulent claims (which is legitimate) but also to reduce your coverage to only cover the circumstances that best fit their modelling. And this is precisely what annoys customers – when they’re told ‘Oh I am so sorry but your policy doesn’t cover this particular condition or this particular event.’
At Waffle, we don’t want that and have found another way to offer insurance to protect exactly what our customers need – I know it sounds a bit enigmatic and I clearly don’t want to reveal too much here but the bottom line is that we are able to offer a much broader coverage than the competition for a similar price. Our secret sauce is a mix of novel analytics and having the luxury of being able to start with a clean slate.
- You’re based off of “MIT tech.” What does the intellectual property break down look like now?
Ok, this is gonna sound very legal gibberish. But it’s an IP question so can’t avoid it. Here it is:
All co-founders met at MIT and built the technology and the modelling in their own personal time and with no significant use of MIT funds or facilities. As sole owners of the technology, the co-founders assigned the result of their work to Waffle Labs.
- In which category are consumers overpaying the most for insurance? Why?
Well, on average (and it depends on the product), about half of your premium covers costs that have nothing to do with you. So answering the question directly, we all overpay for insurance, regardless of category. Now, according to our own modelling, about 70% of people subsidy the 30% remaining in general. It varies by lines though. Car insurance for instance is much more competitive than any other personal line. It’s almost commoditized at this point.
- What’s behind the name? Wouldn’t something sturdier be more in line with your industry?
Believe it or not, the name has nothing to do with the fact that I am Belgian 😀 It actually has a geometric meaning. Insurance is siloed into verticals (car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, etc.). At Waffle, we put the horizontals in the experience by designing a policy that is based on you, covering everything that you need and love through one policy. And that grid looks exactly like a perfect Waffle.
As for the sturdier aspect to the name, we had long debates about this. Some people buy into insurance brands because of the commercials – they don’t really look into the robustness of the company. For instance, a sizeable part of the population believes that Geico stands for the Gekko seen in the commercials while it actually stands for Government Employees Insurance Company.
Getting into this market we thought that this was a trust game. But it turns out that about 60% of consumers do not trust their insurers. If trust is less prominent, the question becomes an appeal game – a challenge that is shared by all new brands.
Down the line, we hope that consumers will associate Waffle with a brand that is there to support them, protect them and empower them to live better lives.