If prompted, you could probably list the names of several insurance companies off the top of your head, possibly their slogans, and maybe even their jingles. Car insurance companies are constantly competing for consumers with creative gimmicks, but insurance targeted towards all drivers with no regard for driving behavior can make for less than optimal coverage. Root Insurance based in Columbus, Ohio, is bucking industry trends by using technology to offer common sense, practical coverage to only the best drivers.
“A big reason that insurance rates are so high is that everyone has to pay for the mistakes of bad drivers. We don’t think that’s fair, so we offer personalized rates based primarily on actual driving ability,” said Alex Timm, co-founder and CEO of Root Insurance. “As the nation’s first mobile-only insurance company, we use smartphone technology and data analytics to measure key indicators that determine whether you’re a good driver or not—and we don’t insure bad drivers. We’ve found that our approach saves good drivers a lot of money—sometimes well over half off what they were paying through traditional insurance.”
Root employs technologies that come standard in all smartphones to determine whether a driver is safe, and thus eligible for coverage. GPS provides data on speed and acceleration, the tellurometer which senses how the phone is oriented and can sense whether you’re using your phone in the car, and the magnetometer that senses whether you’re holding the phone or making sharp turns. If behaviors like hard braking, turns and mileage, etc. are detected multiple times over the course of two to three weeks, Root simply won’t insure you. The company found, through their research, that about 70% of all drivers are actually pretty good.
“Traditional insurance is needlessly complex. We want to streamline it down to essentials and make the best customer experience possible,” said Timm, “That’s why we’ve implemented a 47 second signup and why we offer to cancel your old insurance policy for you. In 2017, there’s no reason insurance should be anything less than simple and elegant.”
Timm spotted inefficiencies in insurance during his time working for and auditing traditional insurance companies. He decided to remove data he considered nonsensical in predicting auto accidents, which contribute most significantly to insurance losses. Timm and his team of data scientists and engineers developed an algorithm based on their discoveries and began to build a prototype. Their no-nonsense approach to auto insurance drew them big support from several startup resources.
Root receives ongoing support from Drive Capital. The team is very active in the vibrant startup scene in Columbus, participating in events at Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier, and SunDown Rundown, a pitch competition organized by Braintree, another regional partner.
“I’m not sure there’s a better place to start a business right now than Columbus, Ohio. It’s an incredibly supportive community where a win for one is a win for everyone,” said Timm. “Because Columbus is a big insurance town and because we have multiple organizations that support technology startups, we benefit from a fantastic infrastructure to make connections and grow our business. This is an exciting time—not just for Root, but for the entire city of Columbus.”