How Cincinnati worked with Highline Beta to discover and validate two new ventures

How Cincinnati worked with Highline Beta to discover and validate two new ventures

At a Glance

Client: The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Opportunity: Identify new ventures to support people’s financial security

Solution: Validated 2 new venture opportunities


  1. Find users with problems related to financial security
  2. Test concepts & prioritize based on Desirability, Viability, Feasibility (DVF)
  3. Test prototypes to build a business case

Results: 2 new ventures that make solid business sense are being further tested as pilot programs

What is/Who is The Cincinnati Insurance Company?

The Cincinnati Insurance Company offers business, home, auto and life insurance solutions through local independent insurance agents. 

The Strategic Innovation Group at Cincinnati Insurance was set up to partner with internal business units and startups to work on opportunities that are best pursued using an experimental and iterative innovation framework and process.

Through innovation ventures, forward-thinking associates across the organization learn how to use innovation tools and techniques. They also participate in pilots, collaborating with cutting-edge startups. Their mandate is to improve the Cincinnati Insurance experience for associates, agents and the customers they serve.


Cincinnati recognized they had a challenge many companies face: coming up with and executing truly breakthrough innovation quickly. This is often a challenge because it requires a shift in the way the company thinks about innovation: moving from focusing on problems close to your business to looking instead at problems in the world that you could be well positioned to solve. With this in mind, they knew they needed an external partner who could help them make that shift quickly, and they felt Highline Beta was the right one.

Specifically, Cincinnati wanted to delve into the topic of financial security, and the challenges many people face, going beyond an exclusive focus on insurance. The goal was to identify and validate new venture opportunities that could help Cincinnati deepen their relationships with the agencies they work with and their customers.

We were far enough along on our innovation journey that we wanted to spend some time on what we call breakthrough innovation. We thought an outside perspective may help us identify truly breakthrough opportunities that could move the needle faster.

Bradley Purnhagen, Head of Breakthrough Innovation, The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Why Highline Beta?

Cincinnati had a few criteria in mind when it came to selecting an innovation partner. The organization needed to be experts in innovation, with some understanding of the insurance industry, and be a group of people who could feel like an extension of their team.

Highline is a team you can trust. They seamlessly fit into our team because they care and they wanted to do the best job they could for us. It’s pretty apparent through their service-first mindset, versus just maximizing revenue and trying to hit a moon shot and getting lucky. They wanted to understand who we are and be part of our success.

Roger Brown, COO, The Cincinnati Life Insurance Company

After completing the initial mandate of validating new venture opportunities, Roger, Brad and the team felt they had made the right choice and re-engaged Highline Beta to provide more detailed recommendations for how to realize those opportunities, through either internal venture development, startup partnership or co-creation/spin-out.

The workflow Highline Beta led us through felt thorough and logical. They were focused on outcomes and making the most of our time together. I thought the whole thing was pretty outstanding.

Roger Brown, COO, The Cincinnati Life Insurance Company

The Discovery & Venture Validation Process

Highline Beta spent 6 months moving through Discovery and Venture Validation to land on 2 venture ideas with the potential to scale. During those 6 months, the ideas were stress tested with consumers, agents and internal members of the Cincinnati team to ensure that they were desirable, viable and feasible. 

During the 3 month Discovery sprint, our goal was to understand different user and customer groups’ problems with respect to financial security. What made them feel financially secure or insecure? What resources, tools, products and services did they engage with around their financial security? Where were their needs not being met, and why?

To do this, we:

  • Started with a combination of user research, market research and startup scanning to identify 5 problem areas related to financial security. 
  • Expanded on those problem areas through qualitative research to distill them down into problems a new venture could solve.
  • Narrowed our list of problems into a handful that the Cincinnati team felt were best aligned with their business.
  • Ideated 70 potential ideas that could solve these problems.
  • Tested the ideas through a variety of methods from ad testing of value propositions to qualitative concept testing.
  • Identified companies in these spaces to see what, if any, whitespace existed.
  • Calculated TAMs (Total Addressable Markets) for each potential problem and quantified the funding for startups emerging in that space.
  • Narrowed to 4 concepts worth bringing forward into venture validation.

Our second engagement was Venture Validation of 2 of the 4 concepts that came out of Discovery. Our goal in Venture Validation was to further test the desirability, viability and feasibility of the concepts, while also recommending a go-to-market plan that encompassed a perspective on whether it made sense to build a new venture internally, build a new venture as a spin-out, buy a startup, or partner with a startup.

To do this, we:

  • Tested traction of the concepts through a variety of testing methods, including prototypes, landing page tests and further concept testing.
  • Defined pricing through a competitive audit and consumer research.
  • Worked with the Cincinnati team to identify potential competitive advantages in the distribution strategy that leveraged the existing independent agents they work with.
  • Conducted qualitative research and a proof of concept with agencies representing Cincinnati to assess their interest as a distribution channel. 
  • Used traction data, pricing data, and the validated distribution strategy to build out a business model to prove the viability of a business.
  • Created a go-to-market strategy and product roadmap based on a variety of potential scenarios, including Cincinnati spinning in/spinning out a new venture vs. partnering or buying an existing startup.


In the end, Highline Beta presented two validated new venture opportunities to Cincinnati. We had validated the problems, early adopter customer segments, solutions, go-to-market strategies and business models. In addition, we had identified the key unfair advantages that Cincinnati brought to both ventures. Our work concluded by providing go-forward plans and product roadmaps for both ventures based on a recommendation to build, spin-out or partner with an existing startup.

We wanted to come up with one idea by the end of these six months together. We ended up with two, and they’re dramatically different and aren’t dependent on one another. I really feel good about the diversified approach that we’re taking. We’re taking two different paths that came out of venture validation, and I think we’re going to end up landing at least one of them, if not both, in the market, which means we’ll get double the impact for the work we did with Highline Beta.

Bradley Purnhagen, Head of Breakthrough Innovation, The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Curious to know more?

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Why not get in touch and have a conversation with us about the challenges you are up against? Chances are we’ve either been there, or have a parallel experience that might just be the catalyst you are looking for.

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