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South African insurtech startup Indie hopes to takes on traditional insurers in the youth market and is being bank-rolled by insurance giant Sanlam. This, despite claims from its founder that it’s “a genuine garage-built startup”.
Indie launched its first offering — a life-insurance offering — in late July. Since it was founded 18 months ago the company has grown from a three-person team to 30 people, with plans to expand to India and at least one other African country by next year.
In a phone call with Ventureburn, the startup’s CEO and founder Peter Castleden said his company is “absolutely a genuine garage-built startup”. However the former Sanlam employee admits that while management has a small equity stake, Sanlam holds the majority stake in the business.
While the 34-year-old — who worked at the insurance giant for 10 years during which he headed up the company’s actuarial product management division — did not want to disclose the actual stake Sanlam holds, he was able to say that the company had received R10-million last year in its first round of funding from Sanlam.
He said as insurance companies burn through a lot of cash, such as firm would typically need about R100-million, but that if the business proved successful this would likely grow to “R500-million”.
Indie CEO and founder Peter Castleden said his company is absolutely a genuine garage-built startup
He said because it’s a long and exhausting process to acquire financial services registration, from a “legal point of view” the company is a division of Sanlam. “From a client’s perspective all they need to know about is that they’re underwritten by Sanlam,” he added.
The company, which works out of Cape Town co-working space Cube Workspace, he claims acts like a startup. “We act independently, all the technology is independent and we make our own decisions,” he said.
Castleden however conceded that some potential clients might think that the company is an independently-owned startup. “Maybe that is the impression,” he said. But he added that Indie needs to “have its own voice”. “We don’t want to seem like we are dressing up Sanlam products,” he added.
For example the company offers what it calls gamified “CashDrops” — where members can receive cash perks — and says the cost of life cover is almost cancelled out by these.
In addition the company’s lead product designer is a former Silicon Valley based tech worker who convinced Castleden and his team to launch light and thereafter continue to add new product updates.
The company’s fifth product update was added on Monday, where existing clients can earn R1000 for helping refer new clients to the company.
Castledon said the company had so far signed up “not more than a 100” clients, but aims to grow this to between 500 and 1000 clients by December.