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OPTIMIZ: Talking about startup growth and accelerator success
Kingsly Kwalar, one of the co-founders of StilFresh and its spin-off OPTIMIZ, shares what has happened after participating in the InsurLab Accelerator 2018, and how OPTIMIZ has developed to this day. Growth, challenges, markets, and surprises.
How would you describe Optimiz in three sentences?
Kingsly Kwalar: OPTIMIZ provides a digital platform that directly connects international traders and their insurance companies to shipping lines and other cargo carriers with the goal of fostering AI enabled claims resolution. As benefits, our system reduces claims cycles from 3 – 6 months down to a few clicks, improves process efficiencies and provides deeper insights into risk exposures. CroP has the potential to be another “container revolution in the shipping and logistics industry”.
Optimiz was created as a spin-off of Stilfresh during the InsurLab Accelerator in 2018 with the help of your mentor, IBM. How did this idea come about and what added value does this cooperation bring you?
Kingsly Kwalar: We have been providing recovery services physically through StilFresh to the market for a good number of years now. We have clients here in Germany who have an appetite for Africa, and who have significantly benefited from our deep field knowledge and African expertise. At StilFresh, we are always thinking of how we can add more value to our customers at less cost. This is how the idea of CroP - OPTIMIZ’s digital platform was born.
Around the time we joined the InsurLab Accelerator, IBM and Maersk were concluding the international trade documents highway, which today is called TradeLens. We were fortunate that Dr. Klemens Hägele from IBM was our mentor during the program, and together with our tech team, we leveraged the IBM Sandbox to design and deploy our three blockchain use cases. Today, we are thrilled to hear that the CMA CGM Group and MSC are joining TradeLens with other shipping lines. This confirms to us that our vision of the industry is accurate and we are right on track to take advantage of the changes that are on the horizon.
What mentoring and/or training measures have helped you best within the InsurLab Germany Accelerator program to make Optimiz marketable?
Kingsly Kwalar: We operate in two industries which have historically been very resistant to change: the shipping industry and marine insurance. The various accelerator programs and mentors we have had along the way have been essential to help move the needle. We started off at Insurlab Germany. We were privileged to work with some of the leading experts in the DACH insurance industry who helped us in designing our Cargo Claims Recovery Transformation Survey for cargo insurers and shipping lines. We also worked with consultants from EY who probed our value proposition, which led us to successfully applying and receiving an EU H2020 grant. Besides giving us access to their online services and technical support, IBM helped us in getting our product TradeLens-ready. Through our mentors from SCOR, we got in contact with one of the largest shipping lines in the world, which really kicked things off for us in terms of validating our value proposition for the cargo carrier segment of our platform.
What has happened since you finished the InsurLab Accelerator last November in 2018?
Kingsly Kwalar: We have concluded a pilot with one of the leaders in the shipping industry and we are currently part of cohort 2 at the Lloyd's Lab in London. This has helped open more doors in the wider insurance market, particularly with the specialist Lloyd's market which controls over 8% of the global marine market.
What are your next goals?
Kingsly Kwalar: During one of our many meetings in the shipping market, a senior leader intimated that our solution can become the standard in the market. We are working hard every day to make that a reality. We are refining our proposition to ensure that our users have a clear advantage and service differentiation in the market to nudge their competitiveness and help them acquire and retain new customers.
What are the three most important tips based on your experience for startups entering the German insurance market?
- Don’t let language put you off. While I encourage you to take up German lessons, many of the people you will encounter are comfortable and happy to engage you in English.
- Join an accelerator like InsurLab. It boasts of the largest network of insurance companies and specialists who have signed up as its members and whose main purpose is to ensure that you have the tools to succeed in the German market.