How American Family Insurance Partnered with Highline Beta to Build Relay Platform
American Family Insurance (AmFam) is a Fortune 500 private insurance company. It focuses on property, casualty and auto insurance, and also offers commercial insurance, life, health and homeowners coverage, as well as investment and retirement-planning products.
When Ryan Rist, Director of Innovation at American Family (AmFam) Insurance, approached Highline Beta, AmFam had already built up a sophisticated innovation team of 20+ employees. This team had a mandate to come up with outside of the core, new business concepts — and they partnered with Highline Beta to leverage our experience helping large companies use their resources to spin out new startups. AmFam wanted to avoid ‘innovation theatre’ and instead, work with a venture studio without ego; a partner whose incentives and goals were perfectly aligned with theirs, that would help them build out high-growth ventures and go after new investable opportunities.
Turning Innovation Challenges into Investable Opportunities
Together with AmFam, we worked towards finding an investable opportunity through:
1. Active Collaboration
Collaborating with AmFam, leveraging our collective industry expertise to uncover 10 early venture ideas that we thought were interesting
2. Ongoing Validation
Narrowing in on a few ideas that we validated as solving a problem in specific insurance verticals
3. Finding the Right Opportunity
Identifying which of those verticals had the most widespread problems and therefore the most opportunity
All of this work led us to focus on the reinsurance industry. As an opaque industry, its problems weren’t easy to identify. But once we dug in, we realized that the opaqueness meant there was untapped potential for something new. From this insight the MVP (minimum viable product) for Relay Platform was co-created by Highline Beta team members and reinsurance experts that were connected with AmFam. Through a process of rapid iteration and testing, we were able to create a focused platform that aimed to solve widespread problems in the reinsurance industry.
Helping Companies Grow Beyond their Core
Highline Beta helps large corporations identify new opportunities to grow their business through internal and external innovation. We help companies build new ventures, partner with startups and co-invest in growth opportunities.
One of our key approaches is our corporate startup creation model, which is led by our Venture Studio team. We work with Fortune 1000 clients to identify new areas of growth, and then collaborate to spin-out a new startup. This provides our corporate partners with access to great talent and new business models, while sharing the risk with Highline Beta, which dedicates resources and capital (through our venture capital fund).
When building a new startup spin-out, we recruit a great Founder / CEO, and surround them with our Venture Studio team. This ensures we can validate the right opportunity, build an MVP and help the new startup secure the funding it needs to grow.
Co-Creation Allowed Relay Platform to Scale Rapidly
In the historically slow-moving insurance industry, co-creation proved itself as a model of success. AmFam’s industry expertise, networks and initial funding, in coordination with Highline Beta’s enterprise experience and agility in the startup space, cut the time from concept to pilot considerably.
Align on challenges and program structure
Both sides accelerated the path to innovation by bringing essential pieces of the puzzle to the table. Our collective industry expertise unearthed 10 interesting and potentially viable venture ideas.
Pressure-test each idea and opportunity
We pursued each idea initially uncovered, and validated whether or not they would solve problems within specific insurance verticals. At the same time, we identified which verticals would yield the most opportunity. Our work led us to the reinsurance industry.
Build an initial version of the product
Through a process of rapid iteration and testing, we quickly developed an MVP for Relay Platform; a workflow & collaboration platform that dramatically elevates the level of control, integration and innovation in reinsurance.
Find the right CEO to run Relay and secure funding
To get from MVP to an investable venture, Relay Platform needed the right person at the helm. Highline Beta’s model for co-creation includes hiring a founder, and Greg Boutin was the right entrepreneur with the right experience for the job.
Greg joined very early in the journey, but we had an MVP in place, a team ready to continue working and a partnership with a key insurance and reinsurance company, with American Family. When Greg took over as CEO of Relay Platform he worked quickly to gain traction, build momentum in-market and develop relationships throughout the insurance & reinsurance industry. He was instrumental in setting up Relay’s first pilots and ensured the product was on track, solving real problems and creating value for its customers.
“The beauty of this startup creation process is that it cut the initial exploration and MVP development work by 1-2 years. I hit the ground running. I had a corporate partner, an investor in Highline Beta, a team (5 people), an office and I didn’t have the constant stress of figuring out how to pay the bills. In a model like this, having two experienced partners on each side gives us the perfect quarterbacks to supercharge our growth.”Greg Boutin,
CEO Relay Platform
Impact: Relay Platform got to its seed round in less than 1 year
Relay was selected by Plug and Play, a well known incubator, for their insurance program and the Global Insurance Accelerator for their InsurTech Week — proof that the insurance industry took Relay seriously.
With that momentum under its belt, Relay recently announced a USD $2M seed round, with investors including NFP Ventures, Highline Beta, AmFam and Plug and Play. Those funds will allow Relay to build out its team and scale in 2020.
seed round raised
< 1 year
to get to market and meaningful recognition
“Relay originated in a collaboration between our innovation team and Highline Beta. As we realized the potential Relay held to deliver efficiencies and effectiveness gains for the whole industry, we decided to spin it off and are excited to witness the rapid market adoption of this elegant — and now independent — cloud-based solution. There is no question that complex risk transfers, whether in reinsurance or insurance, can benefit from the boost into modernity that Relay offers.”Dan Reed,
American Family Ventures
The Future is Bright for Relay Platform
Since launching in 2019, Relay Platform has continued to evolve and grow. The company has remained nimble in the market, finding the right customer wedges and product features to have a meaningful impact in insurance and reinsurance. Relay continues to build great partnerships and get recognition in the industry.
You can learn more about Relay through the video below. And please visit: https://relayplatform.com.
Is your organization exploring how to improve the way in which it innovates beyond the core?
Reach out to us at Highline Beta and we can share more about our startup co-creation and venture studio model and how it might work for you.