Please introduce yourself.
People first: We’re currently a team of seven full-time team members and are located in one of Munich’s most exciting areas, the Werksviertel near the East Station. There’s nowhere in Munich with more of a Berlin flair… From our office windows, we look right at the new Ferris wheel and during every lunch break, we discover new startups, new shops and new faces that diversify the emerging district. That’s definitely one of the reasons why we often hold meetings with ambassadors and executives from our partner companies here at the office — change often only happens when you get out of your familiar environment. We’ve also discovered some freelancers one floor below ours in the Werk1 co-working space.
As one of the twelve digital hubs, Insurtech Hub (ITHM) is supported and financed by the State of Bavaria and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs as well as by its partner companies. The majority of our partners comes from the insurance industry. Large corporations such as Munich Re, Allianz or Generali are on board, as are regional champions such as Versicherungskammer Bayern or ‘Münchener Verein.’ With Roche, PWC and NTT DATA, we also have members from other industrial sectors and explicitly consider ourselves an intersectoral ecosystem.
Wanted: disruptive approaches for the insurance industry
Our ideal situation is to find startups that don’t have anything to do with insurance at first glance – which is exactly why they can offer disruptive approaches for the insurance industry. Because quite feasible ideas now also come from early stage companies thanks to digitization, we came up with an accelerator program specifically for that target group: the ‘W1 Forward Insurtech Accelerator.’ We offer an eight-week exchange with our members and teach startups everything they need to know to establish themselves in the insurance industry.
What do you focus on when working with startups?
‘Ideas are cheap — it’s all about the people’: We take that startup scene mantra very seriously. Even beyond accelerator programs, we connect people from a very conservative industry with people who often think, work and present themselves in a completely different way. What’s important to us is to be close to both sides and live up to our role as a bridge builder and often as a translator. What that predominantly entails is helping startups prepare their pitches and with other communication measures. We just recently completed our 2019 accelerator program and received a lot of positive feedback about our in-depth pitch coaching and constant communication with our resident entrepreneurs — during our demo day, it became clear that it really paid off.
To be successful, a startup needs to…
… be a good team that is made up of complementary characters and skills. A team that can also fall on its face — and then get back up again. What’s also important is for them to be open to feedback from all directions.
Insurtech Hub Munich as the point of entry into a rather reserved industry
Why would a good startup even need an accelerator program like W1 Forward — a program that you initiated?
First, we bring you together with decision makers in an industry that is more on the reserved side. We had more than 160 applicants for W1 Forward this year and selected ten teams from among them. That means those who make it into the program can count on getting attention from our corporate partners. And it’s often not possible to work without them in an industry that’s all about high risks and their coverage.
Secondly, we also make sure that everyone who participates goes through a steep learning curve in the accelerator. Because it’s an early stage program, we pass on important basics such as business modelling, founding a company, tax basics and also things like pitch training or coaching from experienced entrepreneurs who young founders often wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
What’s the biggest mistake a startup can make?
Building a product without finding a product-market fit first. Because many founders know they can’t act as the customer prototype alone, they perform numerous customer interviews and customer-based iterations.
What makes the Munich startup scene so special?
Munich’s economic power combined with its village-like character — a lot of people know each other. And the headquarters of major insurance companies, as well as companies like Siemens and BMW, are rarely more than a few subway stations away. All of that put together offers a unique environment for startups. Plus ITHM, Mobility Hub, Medialab, UnternehmerTUM and Impact Hub are just a few of the many places that offer support and networking opportunities.
Last but not least: Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet with you?
Ask us anything, any one of us – come on by and talk to us in person at one of our many events, such as our meetups. Otherwise: Our Community Manager Corine Ackermann is a good initial point of contact at ITHM.