Kobi Bendelak is the CEO of InsurTech Israel, assessing market opportunities, facilitating PoCs, creating effective interfaces with local start-ups and providing thought leadership. Kobi was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and InsurTech Israel?
“Insurtech Israel manages one of the largest and most active insurtech ecosystems in the world, most of which is located in Tel Aviv. We have close to 200 insurtech startups that operate in a wide variety of solutions both in insurance products such as cyber insurance, commercial, P&C, life, health and in the professional areas such as underwriting tools, claims, AI, etc.
Insuretech Israel has four areas of activity: investments, consulting, media and an amazing accelerator program. Among our business partners, you can find insurance companies such as AIG, IAG Sompo, Lloyds of London, AF Group, AON as well as technology companies such as Dell, Microsoft, Sapiens, Deloitte, Milliman, Xceedance, Resource Pro and our main partners Broker Tech Ventures.
I have been in the insurance industry for over two decades. After my military service (I was a colonel in the Israel Defense Forces), I entered the world of insurance and worked in it for 22 years until I sold my company. After a short break, I have been working to promote and strengthen the insurtech ecosystem in Israel and the world.”
Why is it so active and successful? What has contributed to that?
“First, is the culture; we are entrepreneurial-minded people. We live in a tough neighborhood, and we need to be independent and believe that we can lean on ourselves. Second, the infrastructure in Israel makes it easier to be an entrepreneur. The infrastructure to open a startup here is quite successful. We have a lot of global development businesses based in Israel with the biggest technology frame from all over the world. This is made possible by the support from the government, innovation authority and a great education system.
One of the most unique ways for a startup nation to grow is the army. There’s a lot of intelligence and technological unity in the Israeli army. Soldiers that have served in the technology unit of the military have also worked on applications, research and data used all over the world. Overall, it's a supportive nation for startups, but it's not enough to build a great insurtech ecosystem.
You need to have more. It’s not just technology you need; it's finding solutions for big problems. Israel is great at finding solutions to problems and implementing technology. To build a strong ecosystem, you also need to have success stories that will attract entrepreneurs. We have a lot of success stories from companies such as Lemonade and Hippo, which are based in Israel. Success stories have been an important tool for us. All of this has shown me that to build an insurtech ecosystem, you need more than being a startup-friendly nation.”
What are some of the biggest challenges that you face in the ecosystem right now?
“We have the same challenges as startups around the world. The biggest challenge is that it's hard to work and build trust between startups and insurance companies in any region, especially if you come from the Middle East. It's difficult to start with a client when you’re based in Israel. Because of that, we like to build a bridge for our startups. An example of this is our upcoming roadshow in the Midwest with a stop in Columbus, Ohio. It's a great opportunity for our startups to engage with potential clients and investors because it’s challenging to look for clients when you’re based in Israel with clients in the United States.”
What does the future of the insurtech industry look like?
“The future is bright because everyone knows that the insurance industry needs to change. This change will come from new products and distribution channels. In the last year, paramedic insurance has become popular because it uses technology among young people and in other regions. You can see embedded insurance as part of the future of insurance because it's changing the distribution channel. Instead of a line of brokers and agents, there are other ways to distribute insurance products. But, we will not stop seeing brokers and insurance agents.
Our MGAs based in the United States start to work with agents and brokers. The reason for that is because insurance is a push product. You will never find someone that wakes up in the morning and says to his wife, ‘Let's buy two life insurance policies today.’ For the future, we’ll continue to lean on brokers and engines to distribute insurance policies as well as new products and distribution channels.”
How do you think it is possible to support and accelerate the activity of the insurtech industry in the world?
“One tool that would help accelerate insurtech is the creation of a global insurtech system that would connect startups, technology companies, insurance companies and brokers from all over the world. The creation of this network would allow the construction of an infrastructure to accelerate the development of technologies in the insurance industry.
It's like building a network of railroads with stations in every region of the world that allow the other, less developed regions (such as Africa, the Middle East and South America) to operate and contribute knowledge, power and business potential to the industry.
This network would increase the activity of the industry, so that eventually the insurance world will be the insurtech world. We are in an amazing and historic time period where this huge industry is undergoing change, and this generation will spark the fire to accelerate it.”