Highlights from the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge (Semifinals)

Those who deal with insurance or reinsurance, and even those removed from it, are immediately aware of how far behind the industry is in terms of the technology that is used to support and facilitate the companies working in this space. For an industry that demands the control and manipulation of large data, it is astounding that there has been so little movement with regards to filling and aiding the needs of insurance companies to harnessing information faster, until very recently.

In 2012, the funding of new startups and companies investing in technology started to become recognized due to both the frequency and the size of the deals being made. According to our latest InsurTech briefing, by the end of the year, $347 million had been distributed for the purpose of advancing the capture of more data quickly, preventing claims and many other areas related to insurance.

The amount invested into companies trying to harness information faster has grown to $7.12 billion

Since then, the amount invested into companies trying to solve these problems has grown to $7.12 billion – with over $1.26 billion in 2017 so far alone. This wave of interest has been dubbed as the InsurTech space and it will only continue to grow.

In an effort to be on the forefront of technology and to differentiate ourselves from our competition, Willis Towers Watson, through Willis Re, its reinsurance branch, has begun finding various methods of staying on top of advances.

Notably, the most up-to-date industry details were recently provided through the aforementioned Quarterly InsurTech Briefing Q1 and Q2 2017, focusing on trends in claims as well as offering a general overview. Additionally, Willis Towers Watson hosted the second semifinal round of the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge in Chicago, organized by Willis Re’s Greg Moore and judged by Willis Re’s Andrew Johnston.

Other judges included representatives from TransUnion, Global Insurance Accelerator (two of the event’s sponsors), Little Engine Ventures, InvestHER Ventures and STEMconnector. The judge panels were made up of insurers, reinsurers, intermediaries, consultants, VCs, and accelerators/incubators. For this round, competitors were evaluated on four different criteria:  how innovative the offering was, how disruptive the idea was, it’s applicability and the quality of the presentation.

ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge

The semifinals took place on July 27. Founders, CEOs, COOs, EVPs and Heads of Marketing from 28 different competing companies joined us in hopes of winning a $5,000 prize and the opportunity to compete in the finals in Boston between the 24th and 26th of October. Bill Pieroni, CEO of ACORD, kicked off the event with a quick speech encouraging the participants and highlighting some of ACORD’s research about the InsurTech wave. And with no further ado, the competition began.

The participants submitted entries to one of two categories: Startup Disruptors and Industry Innovators. Each participating company had five minutes to make its pitch with an additional five for questioning. There was a broad mixture vying for the prize, varying in age and experience within the insurance industry as well as the part of the value chain that they were targeting. While waiting to be called to present, participants networked with each other along with other Willis Towers Watson and TransUnion employees.

Leaks and water damage cost the U.S. about $40 billion annually

Willis Re’s Andrew Johnston, one of the judges for the Startup Disruptor category, noted that it wasn’t easy to choose from the selection of candidates. Conservation Labs took first with only a margin of two points out of a possible 120.

Mark Kovscek, CEO and Co-Founder, pitched his company’s low cost, smart water meter which can identify and stop household leaks. The device also provides insight as to how often a family uses or wastes water through each appliance in their home. Mark’s succinct presentation also articulated the value of these devices, noting that leaks and water damage cost the U.S. about $40 billion annually.

Pete Miller and Christopher McDaniel of The Institutes took first place in the Industry Innovator category. The Institutes focused on the use and implementation of Blockchain technology to leverage multiple uses to facilitate the transmittal of information. While their current product and pitch revolved around the distribution of contracts, the application of the technology will be used to further improve the dissemination of information.

This was exciting to be a part of – ideas and energy flowed. A big ‘well done’ to all involved and best of luck to Mark and Conservation Labs and to Pete and Christopher and The Institutes in the finals!


Alex La Palme is a Reinsurance Treaty analyst in Willis Towers Watson’s Chicago office. He provides client support to Property and Casualty Insurance writers in the Midwest and aids in the placement of reinsurance treaties alongside completing the Willis REACH training program.

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