The InsureTechGeek 28: High Tech Crop Insurance with Simon Schwall from Oko Crop Assurance
The InsureTech Geek podcast, powered by JBKnowledge, is all about technology that is transforming and disrupting the Insurance world. We will be interviewing guests and doing deep dives into specific technologies that we see changing the industry. We are taking you on a journey through insurance tech, so enjoy the ride and geek out. Back in a second.
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JAMES: Back with another episode of the InsureTech Geek podcast. We have got another international episode. A very interesting international man of mystery. Is he French? Is he from Luxembourg, is he Israeli? We do not know. We are going to find out. He is joining us from Israel. Mr. Simon Schwall. Simon, how are you doing?
SIMON: I am very well, thank you. Thank you for having me.
JAMES: Yeah. Glad to have you on the show. And with us, my fellow Texa-Gander, Rob Galbraith. The most interesting man in insurance. Rob, what is going on, brother?
ROB: Hey, welcome back to the heat of Texas my friend.
JAMES: It is back. It is hot and muggy. My girls went outside this morning. They stepped outside for five minutes to go jump on the trampoline. Came back in. And I was like, man, that was quick. Like, man, it is already hot and muggy, seven o’clock in the morning. I am like, yeah, it is not Michigan anymore. It is terrible. It is truly terrible temperatures. But we love the great state of Texas, even despite this little three-month period that we call Hades. It gets better pretty fast in the fall, and then it stays good through the winter. So that is why we are here, that and the low taxes and the great Tex-Mex. Good to have you, Rob on the show. Oh, and Simon, we are going to get back to you in just a second. I want to remind you, that if you want to subscribe to the podcast, you can text GeekOut to 66866. Make sure you never miss an episode. Text GeekOut to 66866. Back to Mr. Simon Schwalbe from Oko Crop Assurance. Simon, we love talking about insurance, we love talking about technology more than that. We love talking about the people behind it. Now, you have an interesting educational background and you are kind of half French, half Luxembourgian. What do you call someone from Luxembourg?
SIMON: A Luxemburger.
JAMES: Luxemburger! That sounds like something that In and Out would serve. It is like a secret menu item at In and Out. I would like a Luxemburger, please. It is like a burger, but extra special. A little sweet, a little hint of French. Maybe that thousand island or free French dressing on top of it, we will call it the Luxembourger. So, did you grow up in Luxembourg or France or both?
SIMON: I was born in Luxembourg. I lived a little bit in both. I would say mostly in France, the South of France.
JAMES: Yeah. Awesome. You got your bachelor’s in France, I believe. And then you went to the national university of Singapore for your masters. And so, tell me when you were growing up and, I was a little French boy. I dreamed of making baguettes or, whatever it was, like by the way, I can say that cause I am like a quarter French. Grandmother’s French. She is from Provence. And I love France. I love France. Just to be really clear. I do not call them freedom fries. I call them French fries. All right. I love France. I think it is great. Brie, it is one of my favorite cheeses. Love a good baguette. I had a great time touring France. All right. Just to sandwich this and that statement. When you were a boy growing up in Luxembourg and France, what did you dream of doing, and then, when you were studying science in college and going into international management and graduate school in Singapore, what path did you think you were on and how did you wind up in crop insurance?
SIMON: Yeah. The first thing, you will like it, but my first job was actually as a Baker. During my summer holidays, I was making sandwiches in London for the bankers, like French sandwiches. My first dream job as a kid was to be a Baker. That was very stereotypical. But yeah, then I traveled during my studies, as you could see, I went to Singapore, even before studying my bachelor, I did a trip to Mongolia to help cattle herders to build new shelters for their sheep. I was quite curious and open to new horizons. Maybe the fact that also that I moved from place to place from example from France back to Luxembourg, it gave me more flexibility. In my mind, I do not feel like I have strong roots anywhere. I was open very early on to new places, to Asia, to Africa. And I think that is why it came back to this later on after I graduated.
I studied management in France in Paris at HEC indeed, which was a prestigious school in Europe, a bit in Singapore, and initially with the idea in mind that I would work in the media industry. But then media and telecom became quite related. The OB operators started to offer TV and stuff like this, and I discovered the world of telecom. And in the world telecom, I realized that it was changing the world, especially in Africa. I was studying the way people work and transact. They were finally able to pay each other remotely without having a bank account, just using their phones. So that is where I became very interested in the space of payment and micropayment, and I ended up in micro-insurance.
JAMES: That is awesome. Talk about the origin story of your current company. Tell me where the idea came from, where was the pain point you identified that made you want to start this business in crop insurance?
SIMON: Alright. I worked for a startup; I did the first few years of my career in strategic consulting. And then I joined a startup called BIMA that is providing life and health micro-insurance to populations in emerging markets. During my years as a consultant, I discovered as you say, more about money, the way people transact with their phones, and I wanted to be part of this. I joined this company called BIMA. They sent me to Papua New Guinea, so I launched their operations in Papua New Guinea from scratch. I grew the company from 0 to 150 employees to 350,000 subscribers. It was a huge success. I saw on one side that it was possible to offer insurance to people who have never had insurance before, using partnerships with mobile operators, using the device that they have in their pockets already.
But then I saw that most of them were having part or all of their incomes coming from agriculture and this was a huge risk on their life and lifestyle, because every time they suffer from a bad season, they would lose most or the entire tier of their income. It was great that we could provide them live and health insurance, but I saw that there was a huge risk on the majority of our customers that was subsequently not covered. Knowing that I had a tool in my hands to distribute insurance and that there was a strong need, I decided to leave this company and create Oko Crop Assurance to bring affordable insurance to the billions of farmers around the world that have no way to secure their income today.
JAMES: Does that mean that they can apply for it on their phone? Can they text in for insurance?
SIMON: Exactly. They do not need to have a smartphone. They do not need to have the internet. They do not need to have a bank account. They just need to text us. To be precise, it is not a text. It is a code that you need to dial on your phone and then a menu pops up on the screen. On this menu, you can choose to register, to find out more or to request a callback. It is really making it accessible to anyone, even from the rural part of the country where there is no 3G coverage to have access to insurance.
JAMES: And how do they, to use this, I mean, is it a chatbot? Is it a live agent on the other side? And how are you binding it? And how quickly can you issue insurance and where are you licensed?
SIMON: Okay, so we are licensed as insurance agents. We are partnering with an insurance company locally. It would be lengthy to obtain insurance licenses in each market. It is not really a chatbot, we tried the chatbot initially, but people struggled to read and write so many times, most often I navigated, so it is difficult for them to interact with texts interfaces. So what we did is we added this option to request a callback and then people call them back from our call center and take their details to complete a registration form. That is very basic. Location, crop type, field size, and from these three pieces of information, we can give you an insurance price. They are given this quote over the phone vocally and then by a text message and then they can pay using the payment systems that mobile operators are offering these countries.
JAMES: Awesome. Rob?
ROB: Simon this is a fascinating background and fascinating how you came upon this opportunity. I am just kind of curious too if you can go a little more in-depth on the local insurance carriers that you partner with. You mentioned you are just collecting a very few data points. What is happening behind the scenes and maybe it varies by carrier. Are they doing any type of weather modeling, catastrophe modeling, looking at floods etcetera, maybe kind of give us a glimpse for the underwriting behind the scenes. And then maybe you can give a sense of what is a typical cost for these policies? Cause again you mentioned a lot of these folks are probably living year to year, based on their crops and do not have a lot of discretionary income. I am just curious about the premium size for these accounts.
SIMON: Sure. These insurance companies, they were not providing crop insurance before. The reason why is that as we said, these are the smaller farmers, they make between 10 and maybe 30, maybe $40 a year. And to provide insurance to these people, you will need to send someone on-site to create a quote. We need to have a network of agencies to collect the premiums, and you will need to send an expert on-site at the end of the season, to verify the claims, access the damages and create the compensations. All discussed would be way too expensive for smaller farmers or it would pump up the price of insurance and then it would not be affordable anymore. So, what we do is we use index insurance. Our insurance is based on data. We cover only weather risks, but we have very good knowledge of the weather risk, because use 25 years of history called weather data, that we collect from satellite providers.
In any place in the country, we know what the frequency of droughts, floods of extreme temperatures, of extreme wind speeds, so we can calculate the risk based on this data. We do this on behalf of the insurance company. We create the insurance product. We have a partnership with Allianz, the German insurance group. They reinsure the products. We share our calculations with them. Once they approve it, then we can sell it locally. We have a product and Allianz reinsures it. A local insurance company issues a group risk policy contract, and then we can start distributing it. We onboard customers to this group policy contract. They do not have to sign the documents themselves. They just need to contribute. Pay their premium or their contribution bindable by it, and then they are on board. So, the costs, we need to keep it at a really low cost.
At the moment I think farmers that are insured with us pay on average about $9, $10 per policy. That is for a season. That is for five months of coverage to cover against droughts and floods and that is for about one hectare and one and a half hectares. I think, in acres, it would be about four or five acres. So yeah, that’s really low cost. It is about 5% of the insured value, but that is what customers can afford. The big challenge that we have is about scaling up, having enough of these customers to cover our fixed costs, and to make it a profitable business.
ROB: And then, Simon, correct me if I am wrong, but I think one of the things that you are looking for is to partner in some emerging economies with local insurance firms, correct? Maybe you can talk about, how you found some of the ones that you have today and what you are looking for in a potential partner.
SIMON: Yes. Indeed, we are not an insurance company ourselves. We partner with insurance companies that have a presence in emerging markets. Today we are mostly in Africa, in West Africa especially, but we are looking at all the markets. It could be Southeast Asia, it could be South Asia, it could be Latin America. We know that there is a similar need in all these markets. We found Allianz was already working with BIMA. My previous employer, life and health insurance, and they know the model. They were interested in going into crop insurance. They did a few tests and they were lacking a solution to bring it to scale. When I reached out to them, they were very interested in what we were doing. We signed a partnership with Allianz at the African level, for the full continent. We know that other companies like AXA that are looking into this, they created AXA Climate to cover climate risks. We see growing trends, the growing demand for these kinds of products by large insurance companies. If we have insurers among the audience that came to test this in the markets, feel free to reach out.
JAMES: That is awesome. Technologically speaking. I mean, this is a tech podcast, right? You have enabled people to very quickly, you are not a carrier, it does not look like you are an MGA. You are your broker, right?
JAMES: So, and you do not have text bots for obvious reasons. And the reasons that you have laid out. Chatbots cannot handle this kind of interaction, so you have a call center with people who take phone calls, you got a text line, where is the technology? Where is the technology that is really making this different than just changing a business model?
SIMON: Yep. There are two sides to our technological solution. One is about distribution. Some parts are really low tech. It is a call center, it is SMS, it is really basic, but still we need to automate everything in the backend. We are connected to the operator’s API in terms of mobile payment, in terms of SMS, in terms of voice calls, so we can route calls. Whenever a customer makes a payment, it automatically updates the policy in our system. And again, to keep costs low, we had to redesign a CRM, a customer relationship management tool from scratch to make it really light so that it could operate with low bandwidth to make it cheap, to make it scalable. We built this cloud platform to match the insurance policies, to interact directly with customers who are not connected to the internet, and connecting with SMS, with USSD, with Mobile Money APIs, so that is one part of the solution.
The other part of the solution is the data science that is behind the products. We are collecting a huge amount of data. Weather data, but also yield history, called yield data to understand the correlation between, for example, let us say a 20%, rainfall during the season, how is it going to impact the yield at the end of the season? And when is it being critical that the rain falls, what is the impact of a shortage of rain in the beginning of the season versus the end of the season? Our actuaries are working on all of this is sort of data science to come up with a product that is reliable enough for farmers to trust in insurance, because it is their first experience in insurance. And for us to be sure that we covered the right risk at the right price.
JAMES: But if you are not the carrier, why did you have to go into that level of detail? Are not your carrier partners doing that underwriting when you pass the data on the information to them? It is only so much you have to do as a broker, right?
SIMON: Yeah. Because these are very new products, it is a new expertise that not all insurers have. We talk with the agricultural experts of Allianz and they have very good knowledge of how this should work, but they want to see, they do not have the bandwidth, the scale to do this in every market for all crops and that is why we need to bring this to them. We need to do this work of preparing a product and then they will validate it. They do not have, at least at this stage, the expertise and the scale to build products, to industrialize the creation of products.
JAMES: If they do not have the expertise, then how are they actually writing the policies? They trust you?
SIMON: They trust my calculations. They look at what is the payment rate is, the risk ratio, the frequency of payouts. So based on all these parameters, they can check that we did this work on historical data, on their large number of data. They can trust us. We are kind of making it easier for insurance companies to provide these products. Some insurers are doing this themselves. I talked about AXA. They created an AXA Climates to create these kinds of products. Some insurers need us to do this, some others do not. So, in that case, we can always provide you a distribution solution, which all of all insurers are missing today.
JAMES: Fascinating. I find it interesting that your kind of pulling your markets along. You are basically saying you have more expertise in this area than your markets do. They are still willing to write the paper, even though they do not fully understand the product to actually write the paper.
SIMON: Insurers are really interested in one thing and that is opening these new markets. Africa is growing. The middle class is growing, and people do not have insurance today. They never had insurance. And these people might never have a bank account. They will jump straight to mobile payments. Insurers need to understand how to address these customers. What are their needs, how to reach them, how to collect payments from them. That is what is most interesting for our insurance partners. But you are right. We need to somehow educate the insurers, but also educate the farmers because farmers do not know about insurance. It is a lot of work that we do to create a market. But the good thing is that once we create these markets, it is a blue ocean. We do not compete with incumbents. There are not many players in this field yet. Once we crack the distribution parts, then we open up a brand-new business of millions and millions of customers. We estimate it is about 500 million farms globally that need this kind of product.
JAMES: Yeah. So, walk me through what is next, like right now. Cause you are really in the infancy of this company. What countries are you operating in right now? Where are you writing policies right now? And what countries do you want to be operating in the next year?
SIMON: So today we operate in Mali, West Africa, and in Uganda, in East Africa. These are interesting markets because they are very focused on agriculture. They are big exporters of cotton for example or coffee. And these were great places to start our operations, but we know that we need to grow to larger markets to make it a big business, international and fast-growing. We are looking at Nigeria. We are looking at Ivory Coast. We are looking at, also outside Africa, we are looking at Columbia, for example, as a market that could be huge for us. We have also always looked at India. But the situation is a bit more complex there with the States being in charge of crop insurance. It is a bit more lengthy.
JAMES: So, it is like the United States then? It is a state-based insurance system?
SIMON: Yes. In India it is. There are nationwide products that have been approved, and then the monopoly I think has given to one insurer per state, so it is making things a bit more complicated. So yeah, for now we focus on Africa. We are looking at mostly Nigeria and Ivory Coast as next emerging markets and beyond that, Nigeria, sorry, I said Nigeria already, and Namibia, South Africa as well, Mozambique, Cameroon. There are a lot of very strong markets, agriculturally speaking that need these kinds of solutions. And the good thing is usually is the same insurance companies and mobile operators operate in all these markets so that makes the growth easier.
JAMES: Yeah, it is fascinating. Do you think you will ever target North America or are you going to stay really in the developing world, like moving to Latin America, South America, really expand in Africa? Where do you think the real growth opportunity is for crop insurance? Cause obviously crops are growing everywhere. I mean, you could say, I want to target the whole world, but the reality is you have got a very specific type offering. Where do you think you really should go long term with this?
SIMON: Index insurance could work as well in Northern America in Europe. It is actually used in some niche markets, like vineyards, olive trees for example, so very specific needs and, no tailor-made products today. It could be a market, but what we believe is that with the scale of agriculture in the developing markets, and with the absence of existing solutions, that is where the biggest opportunity lies. And we know that other payers will provide these niche products that are needed in the developed markets, so we really specialize in distributing and making these insurance products work in emerging markets. To do so though we need investments to grow. As I said, we are in two markets. We proved that this model works. We grew faster than any other previous initiatives in this space. In a matter of three months, we had 2000 farmers insuring. We were just having one product for corn in Mali.
JAMES: Let us pause for a second. And just talk about Mali. Okay. You have 2000 farmers in Mali. How did you acquire them? What was the method of customer acquisition? What was customer acquisition costs? Was it really high, really low? You said you are dealing with a largely illiterate population or borderline literate population who has a tough time texting. How are you reaching them? Is it costing a lot to get to them? Walk me through.
SIMON: We have two communication channels for these farmers. We have a mobile, so all these farmers have a mobile phone. It is not connected to the internet, but they have mobile phones. We send out SMS’s. We do cold calling. Calling, and getting lists of numbers. And sending SMS’s to reach out to them. But we also get inbound calls following radio campaigns and the fact that we are integrated into this mobile money menu of operators that are used by 4 million people in Mali every month. That is a real good showcase for our product to be in that menu. So that is how we acquired a third of our customers. The two thirds we acquired through ground presence. We have a network of agents who are paid by the commission every time they register customers, and the customer is paying a premium. We have about 70 agents around Mali that go from cooperative to cooperative from marketplace to marketplace to introduce insurance and register our new customers.
The cost of acquisition is therefore quite high. It is about $9 today, which you would say for an insurance company in the US that wouldn’t be a lot, but for us, because they are only paying about $10 a year so we need to reduce this further and we need to scale up quickly. We are now implementing innovations, such as WhatsApp chatbots. We found out that 30% of our customers use WhatsApp and they use it for voice notes, so they do not read or write. They just send each other voice messages. We are going to have a chatbot based on these voice messages to make it accessible to all these farmers and further reduce the cost of acquisition. We are going to have a voice indirectly voice menu. Again, for people who speak in their native language, which is not always reading language to make it really accessible to all and make it automated so that we reduce the cost of acquisition like that.
JAMES: Yeah. I mean, let us say you are getting a standard broker fee. Let us say you are getting 15% on a $10 policy. It is $1.50 and $9 CAC is obviously way too high. But you previously said that their language skills are not going to be doing really well for WhatsApp. So, I am wondering whether or not WhatsApp is actually really going to work or not only because of the previous comment you made about them having a tough time with chatbots. If the agent’s not there to let them know about it, are you going to have to implement a market market-wide, like go into the markets and do ad campaigns? Are you going to do like aground on the ground print ad campaign with signs in the marketplaces where they come to sell their goods? I mean, that would be the place to reach them, right? Is to sponsor the marketplaces where they come to sell all their crops?
SIMON: We will do a bit of that, but again, mobile is really the game-changer in this space, especially in Africa. Operators offer solutions to do, for example, robot calls. So even if a farmer’s child can’t read, they will get the message across in the local language, through these kinds of calls. When I talk about WhatsApp, I am talking about the voice notes, so it’s not text, it can be videos and voice messages that we send to them. It would be amazed to see group chats on WhatsApp in Mali. No one types anything. It is only a voice note to voice note.
JAMES: Really? I mean, I have offices in Argentina and South Africa and all of my employees in those countries use WhatsApp exclusively. But they largely type the text. I’ve I cannot say I have seen a large group chat with all voice notes. That must be chaos. It has got to be absolute chaos.
SIMON: It is just difficult to follow, but for them, it is a great innovation. Before that, they could only have a radio, and now they have a personalized means of communication so we can give them a very specific message. We can say, okay, you should grow maize type one, and for cotton type two, and we send a specific voice note. Specific to their request.
JAMES: Ah, I like that.
SIMON: So that is the way we see the solution, being the most efficient.
JAMES: So, WhatsApp is your distribution channel partner. Long-term.
SIMON: Yeah. For now, for 30% of our customers, the rest, still rely on SMS, voice notes, call center calling.
JAMES: Yeah. Well look, insurance, I think it is important to talk about the moral good of insurance, right? You are not just there to make a profit. You are literally there improving the planet. Not enough people think about the bigger picture of the philosophy of insurance, but the philosophy is pooling risk so that we can all get by. We all chip into the pool so that when something happens bad to one person, they can be taken care of and the pool does not dissolve.
JAMES: That is the entire point. And there is a real good moral good here in that. Some families will not starve now in Mali because of this, right?
JAMES: So that is a big deal. That is a big deal.
SIMON: Insurance is most needed by the most vulnerable people, who can lose everything. And it is those people who have the least access to it. So, in that sense, we really making something that has a strong impact. When you break your phone and need a new one, it’s good to have insurance, but if you lose all your income for the next six months, then you certainly need insurance that comes and helps you to prepare the next season to get by until the next season starts. That is going to save your family too. Maybe it prevents you from migrating to the city and have a low paying job while you wait for it for the next season. It really has a strong impact on the life of these farmers. Not only that, but also because we reduce the cost of risk that is farmers are exposed to. We open the door to them, to microloans.
JAMES: There you go.
SIMON: Microloans have been proven as a very effective way to help people grow their business, for example, for farmers, it means being able to buy more fertilizers to grow more, and the next season have more income to plant more seeds. But the problem is that farmers are very often denied these microloans because they are a high-risk for slow payments because as soon as the rain does not come in time, then they might not be able to repay. We are starting to do partnerships with microfinance companies so that loans are being made more accessible. Our rates are better for farmers we are insured. So then it starts to go to a circle where all those that are insured, they can get a loan, they can plant more, they can grow more, they can pay a higher premium to us, which is good, and they can grow their business further and equip it.
JAMES: Yeah. The goal overall, like societally is higher production of agricultural goods. Cause the consumption needs are there, so the goal is really to produce more crops and then they get paid when the crops fail. Microfinance has been proven to work over and over and over and over again. The repayment rates that we have looked at in Africa. Cause I have friends who have actually, funded microfinance startups in Africa. Their repayment rates are super high. People repay these loans and, you know, a small loan goes a long way, just like a small premium goes a long way in insurance. So, it is important to note first off, this there is a great business model behind eliminating friction, that a lot of these people have to getting insurance. Because that is largely what keeps them from buying insurance. It is just too difficult. Either they do not know about it. They do not know they cannot even get it. And that is fairly common. Or if they do not know about it, if they do know about it, it can be really challenging for them to actually acquire the insurance and they give up. But if you combine microfinance and insurance, you are solving like number one, number two problems to getting into business, and staying into business for a lot of these farmers.
I love the trajectory. It could go. It is exciting to see that the early results in Mali are so good. The only concern is the customer acquisition cost and the need to use agents. But that is really like, but I understand. You also are a pretty early stage. You are having to pivot and find all the ways you can find your customer and where are they hanging out online and how do we reach them online without having to have a person go meet them in person. They really cool thing in Africa and my parents have been very involved in Uganda for several years. The last 15 years they have been really involved in Uganda; is how explosive the use of mobile technology was. They really leapfrogged wireline because they could not afford to develop that, but they could afford cell towers. And my dad told me 15 years ago, he goes, James, the cell coverage here is better than back in Louisiana. And I was amazed. And so that is really a game-changer, right?
SIMON: Yeah. So mobile is really game-changing in Africa. People receive their salary on the phone, and they can pay for the electricity bill on their phone, and they can have a solar panel for example, that they pay their own kind of power station. So, they have a solar panel, and every time they need electricity, they need to send an SMS and it repays the solar panel, or they can activate irrigation with their phone, or at least sending SMS to your regular irrigation system, that has the same card. It is really changing a lot of industries in Africa and the financial industry was the first one we’ve remittance with payments. Insurance is coming next. And then there’s also micro pension funds now, using phone transactions. Credit risk is done looking at your usage of phone and how you paid with your phone, how you reach out to your new account. So, it is a fascinating area to explore.
JAMES: Yeah, that is awesome. Well, how many lines do you think you can offer? You cannot stop at crop insurance. Why not move into property commercial auto? I mean, ensure their tractors and their barns too, right?
SIMON: Yeah. The challenge is always in the claim verification. If you do tractor insurance, it is going to be tricky to verify the claims remotely, unless they can send the picture. Smartphone adoption needs to grow a bit stronger for these kinds of products to arrive. But for example, we did a short project for a warehouse in Morocco. They were in an area that was the risk of flooding. They were looking for this kind of index insurance as well to protect their stock against potential flooding of the commercial area. This could also work for them. We work with AB inBev, so the beer company. We provide insurance to their brewing growers in Uganda, but now we also trying to see if we could provide insurance to the people who are collecting beer bottles in the capital cities for recycling because on a day where it’s too rainy or the day where there’s lockdown, they cannot work. So we also provide microinsurance to these kinds of informal workers. There are a lot of possibilities. Sometimes I am thinking, okay, this does not work. I kind of also create insurance for ski holidays. Like if there is no snow in your resort, you get compensated. You do not lose all your… You can change all your flight tickets and go somewhere else. This kind of index insurance product is very powerful. And then coupled with micropayments and mobile payments. It depends.
JAMES: Yeah. Will you be excluding pandemics in your coverage?
SIMON: For now, we do not life and health insurance.
JAMES: I know, but you just mentioned business interruption with the bottle collectors. If the city is on lockdown, is that a pandemic related claim, and will you cover it?
SIMON: We did not explore this yet, but indeed we explored lockdown down because that is very easy to check in their decree. Is there a statement from the mayor or, I don’t know, something that states that the markets cannot open and the streets should stay clear. In that case, we cannot receive your payments. So as long as it is something that we can verify remotely, and that we can measure also in the past to have statistics on how often these problems happen, then we can provide insurance.
JAMES: In other words, the key, and I am really repeating what you just said, but the key is remote verification. I mean, on everything. You might be able to do property. Once you have a fleet of drones, you could deploy to fly over a property and verify the damage. Maybe you can remotely verify it, or you could tap into, I mean, there are so many satellites flying overhead now that you can get near real-time footage of property from a satellite. If you can verify the damage remotely, then it is aligned, and you can try and get it into cover. And in particular with weather events, that is very easy to verify if you had an event. A government decree is very easy to verify because it is published publicly. I am with you. That is awesome. Well, Simon, I am excited about the future here of Oko Crop Assurance. Really neat. I think you are actually, doing a round coming up. Is that right?
SIMON: True. So, we had the first round about a year and a half ago, and now we are raising a second round, to scale up, so as I said, we have proof of traction in the first market. We signed important partnerships with huge companies, such as Allianz, such as AB InBev. So, we are now trying to close the second round. It is a difficult time to speak to investors, but we have already a few investors committed. But we are still looking for strategic investors, so FinTech investors, active investors, or impact investors. If that is interesting to your audience, again, I hope you will share the details so that I can get in touch with us.
JAMES: Yeah. So how can they find you?
SIMON: https://www.oko.finance/ That is our website. We have a strong presence on LinkedIn as well. You can find us under https://www.linkedin.com/company/oko-solutions/ We have a good presence online. And otherwise an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JAMES: Where does the name come from?
SIMON: Oko is the name of a deity in West Africa in Orisha. So, it also exists in Latin America. It is an ancient divinity that is productive in agriculture. We chose this name obviously for that reason, but also because it is short. And as you see, we use SMS, we use means of communication where every character counts.
JAMES: Yeah. If you are an investor out there and you are interested in checking out, being in their second-round again, that’s email@example.com you can go check out their website @oco.finance and check out what is going on in crop insurance and more. There is more than they do than just crops, but this is a really, really exciting segment. And certainly, it’s really great to see a company focused on delivering insurance to people who need it the most. And if you had not spent time in the developing world, I encourage you, if you are a listener to get out there and go check it out. Their needs in insurance are different. The way they buy it is different. The way they consume it is different. The way you handle claims is different. And there is a lot of buyers out there, right? There are billions of people in the developing world that need insurance, even more than we do in the developed world of Western Europe and the United States, Canada. It is really, really impressive. Well, Simon, thanks a bunch for your time today. I am fired up for you and I am fired up for your product and I hope it goes well.
SIMON: Cool. I will be in touch. I will try to show you the updates.
JAMES: Awesome. And to all the listeners, thank you out there for joining us for our interview with Oko Crop Assurance. Rob, any closing comments?
ROB: I am just so excited about what you are doing Simon. And I love it. It is just very inspiring. You saw a need and saw where there was not any service really for folks. And I think we always talk about improving the customer experience for existing things. And you are kind of building a new market on crops, so congrats to you and, best of luck!
JAMES: That is great. And again, thanks for joining us today. This has been the InsureTech Geek podcast powered by JBKnowledge.com. It is all about technology that is transforming and disrupting the insurance world. I have been your host, JamesBenham.com, with cohost, Rob Galbraith, that’s EndOfInsurance.com Big. Thanks to Jim Greenly, our podcast producer, and Kara Dalton-Arro, our creative producer. And thank you for joining us today. We are taking you on a journey through insurance tech.
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