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stanley-gabriel

Startups, have an app or web platform you want to sell to Old Mutual?

Have an insuretech product? Startups should spend more time getting to know the challenges insurance companies face before approaching a corporate. So says Stanley Gabriel, head of innovation at Old Mutual Personal Finance.

In addition startups should know their story and understand Old Mutual’s constraints and limitations, while remaining flexible on how these can be addressed or overcome.

“Don’t engage on a proposed partnership unless your product or service is ready for testing — this only leads to disappointment for all parties involved,” says Gabriel.

Startup shouldn’t engage on a proposed partnership unless their product or service is ready for testing says Old Mutual innovation head

Ventureburn spoke to Gabriel to hear what the insurance company looks for when picking new apps or solutions to back.

Ventureburn: What are some important tips for startups looking to approach Old Mutual with their idea for an app, widget or platform?

Stanley Gabriel: Firstly, conduct thorough research on the appropriate business unit or area within Old Mutual that could potentially absorb your idea or solution. Have a clear indication of the specific benefit that your solution offers — i.e. whether it reduces costs, (or) enhances customer experience.

Lastly, be patient and resilient in engaging Old Mutual as the business is in its early stages of partnering with startups. We’re in the process of developing our opportunity review and vetting processes for startups.

VB: What should they prepare or think about beforehand about their idea to the company?

SG: Be clear on your value proposition to Old Mutual, your role in partnering Old Mutual, your proposed revenue model, and whether the solution solves an existing pain point for Old Mutual or allows Old Mutual to explore new markets or opportunities.

VB: What channels should they go through and what kinds of things should they have prepared and got in order before approaching the company with their ideas?

SG: Startups can communicate with the following stakeholders who will respectively guide you on the process to follow depending on the nature of the opportunity:

Opportunities for the Group: OMEM Strategic Partnerships & Investments: Anton Kleingeld, Evelyn Olwagen, Tshidi Hagan & Steve Goeieman
Opportunities for Old Mutual South Africa: Old Mutual Digital Garage: Jikku Joseph
Opportunities for Life Insurance in South Africa: Old Mutual Personal Finance Innovation Unit: Stanley Gabriel & Lureshnee Reddy
Old Mutual Wealth: Mike Willis
Old Mutual Corporate: Guy Chenells
Old Mutual Retail Mass: LD Stuart
Opportunities for Non-Life Insurance in South Africa: Old Mutual Insure: Duran Chetty
Opportunities for Non-Life and Life Insurance in the Rest of Africa: Old Mutual Africa:  Thuso Segopolo
Opportunities for Services to Old Mutual by Black Startups: Old Mutual ESD Fund: Khanya Okomu

To prepare get the following together:

  • A pitch deck outlining the problem, the solution, the market opportunity and how this opportunity will be monetised.
  • Research on Old Mutual, the relevant business unit which the startup wants to partner with and a clear view on how value would be created and shared.
  • If relevant, a demo of your proposed product, service or solution. It’s often simpler to relay a new concept or opportunity by enabling your audience to visualise the opportunity at hand.

What is the process one usually follows when one is trying to sell a product or service to the company?

SG: We have an existing procurement policy in place. The policy for procuring services from startups is still under development and startups will take their guidance from the relevant Old Mutual representative on the best approach to take.

VB: In general, how can startups improve the way they deal with corporates?

  • Know your story.
  • Understand Old Mutual’s constraints and limitations and remain flexible on how these can be addressed or overcome.
  • Don’t engage on a proposed partnership unless your product or service is ready for testing — this only leads to disappointment for all parties involved. You are welcome to engage the business before you want to partner with us in order to gain insights into the challenge you’re looking to address and to further validate your proposition. In fact if this is the case, we’re happy to refer you to organisations or programmes that can support you in doing exactly this, like Startupbootcamp InsurTech and Startupbootcamp Cape Town.

VB: Are there certain things that make them look more professional?

SG: Yes. Startups that understand our business, markets and customers and startups with a deep insight into the problem being solved — not only from Old Mutual’s perspective but from a South African or global insurance industry perspective.

Startups that have an awareness and knowledge of existing competitors locally and globally and startups who can demonstrate their unique value proposition relative to these competitors.

VB: What are some common mistakes you see startups make when they want to sell tech products or services to the business?

SG: One is relying on Old Mutual to identify the precise opportunity. Startups should spend more time acquainting themselves with the challenges Old Mutual and insurers in general face and by the time they engage they should have conviction that their product or service solves a burning challenge for Old Mutual.

Another challenge is not understanding that Old Mutual and big corporates in general have a longer sale cycle than other businesses and being ignorant of the fact that Old Mutual operates in a regulated industry.

VB: How many pitches do you currently get from startups per month on average and what kinds of services and products are they usually pitching?

SG: About four opportunities a month. Typically pitching solutions fall into the following categories:

  • Payment platforms, apps and wallets
  • Nano or micro financial services providers
  • Chatbots
  • Robo-advice
  • Data analytics

VB: What kinds of (innovative) services and products is Old Mutual looking for?

SG: In general Old Mutual is interested in any front-end and back-end solutions that leverage emerging business models and technologies to support its digitalisation efforts as follows:

  • In quoting customers
  • In on-boarding customers
  • In advising customers
  • In engaging customers
  • In enhancing customer experience
  • In administering customer data and records
  • In managing claims
  • In pricing premiums
  • In underwriting non-life, life and health insurance risk
  • In designing product for underserved segments
  • In upgrading legacy systems
  • Gavin Symanowitz

    This is a great article, thanks Stephen!

    One of the biggest problems with the South African start-up ecosystem is the lack of partnerships between big corporates and start-ups. The problem is asymmetry of information and power – for example, start-ups don’t know what the big companies’ biggest challenges are, and big corporates don’t always know where to look for a solution (which is often below the radar).

    If more big companies were willing to publishing their challenges (as Old Mutual has done here), along with the relevant people to contact, then it would go a long way to opening up and growing the local eco-system.
    Please consider expanding this as a dedicated series with a lot more big corporates (and their challenges) being showcased.