InsurTech NY founders: Group aiming to provide “ecosystem” to foster community

InsurTech NY’s co-founders David Gritz and Tony Lew have outlined the group’s mission of fostering community within the segment and to leverage their insights and relationships to invest and incubate start-ups to help them get off the ground.

Gritz and Lew spoke to The Insurer TV from the sidelines of InsurTech NY’s Spring Conference they organized last month where they outlined the various “seasons” to their business.

The pair founded Insurtech NY in 2019, a business that hosts events on a bi-monthly-basis, but also that acts as a venture investor to early-stage firms and serves as an incubator for start-up MGAs.

“Our organization is really an ecosystem to bring together all the stakeholders in the insurance community,” Gritz said, describing the “four pillars” to its strategy that includes conferences and events, along with a corporate innovation program connecting insurers and brokers to carriers.

Gritz said Insurtech NY effectively operates with “seasons” to its business, with winter and spring operating as its main conference season, where in the fall it largely focuses on hosting activities for its corporate innovation members.

Activities revolving around its focus on MGA incubation tend to be clustered in the fall, while its investment efforts tend to be a year-around affair.

The group’s Digital MGA Lab has evolved out of a growth stage matching program that it sees as an accelerator to help start-ups get connected with insurance carriers and to build relationships to improve their businesses.

“What we found is that it's really well tailored for startups that develop data products, that develop software, and have tools that insurers can use internally,” Gritz said, adding that start-ups that want to sell insurance policies “need a lot more support”.

“They need on the front-end help from actuaries, underwriters and attorneys. They need to connect with the right people at the fronting carriers and the reinsurers, and they need brokers that are going to distribute their products,” Gritz said.

The MGA Lab was created to “short circuit that learning process” that insurtech MGA founders have had to go through, as a means to getting “them stood up a lot faster”.

Annual Spring Conference attendance tops 1k

Insurtech NY started five years ago as a community prior to the pandemic, where it began by hosting 100-person events, but it knew that to build stronger connections throughout the insurtech space, it needed to do a 300 to 500-person full-day conference.

“And so that's kind of the genesis of our first spring conference, which funny enough occurred, right when Covid started,” Lew explained.

The group pivoted to holding the event virtually, which it did for two years running, and which Lew added “went really well”.

The 2022 Spring Conference marked the event’s third iteration - the first in-person - and that after initially hoping to have 300 attendees, the event has grown to host 1,000 people annually in the last three years.

“It's really a great way to just have everyone we've been working with and also a lot of newcomers as well,” Lew said, who “want to connect and help innovation really accelerate”.

“The feedback we've been getting really gives us great motivation to continue doing this,” he explained.

AI among top themes in insurtech

Among the top industry themes that have stood out to Insurtech NY is AI, as Gritz pointed to a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group that pointed to the insurance sector as being the most interested in the technology, after the media and technology sector.

“So, that gives us a lot of optimism that, even though insurance has fallen behind because of some of its legacy [challenges], that insurers are trying to use Gen AI to help catch up to some of the other industries,” he explained.

Insurtechs, he said, are focused on providing better cat exposure management solutions, especially those aimed at hardening properties, while also providing solutions to mitigate social inflation.

Insurtech NY’s unique position in the market gives it unique visibility into the insurtech world, which the pair said is what led it to launch a venture fund where they said they can provide distinct insights to the firms it invests in.

“We can really add a lot of value to these startups [and] connect them to our ecosystem and add a lot of value,” Lew said, with the pair launching its first venture fund three years ago.

As an investor, Lew said Insurtech NY is wrapping up its first fund having made 12 “great investments” at the seed funding round level and is launching a second fund, for which it is about to have its “first close”.

“It's really going to kind of leverage all of the different things we were able to build at Insurtech NY - finding deals, and then being able to add value back to them. And then, we'll be able to hopefully add a little bit of additional value to the ecosystem as well by being an investor,” Lew concluded.

Watch the full interview with InsurTech NY co-founders David Gritz and Tony Lew to hear more on:

  • How InsurTech NY fosters community in the insurtech world with bi-monthly events
  • Insights on how the group is leveraging its knowledge and relationships as a VC investor
  • Why insurance is ranked by consulting firm BCG as the second-most interested in AI
  • The evolution of InsurTech NY’s spring gathering into a 1,000-plus person event