Niche Insurance Products for a Post-COVID World

Niche Insurance Products for a Post-COVID World 2560 1447 Steve Palmer

Cumulative funding in insurtech startups has skyrocketed ~200% in the last year. Here are the opportunities in niche products for a post-COVID world.

The pandemic turned the insurance industry on its head, forcing incumbents to rethink their offerings and providing opportunities for startups to fill the void, such as:

Gig Workers and P2P Models: After remaining stable at ~27% for the last 5 years, the proportion of the American freelance workforce that reports freelancing full-time grew to 36% in 2020.

Source: Freelance Forward 2020 (Upwork report)

The shift has led to the emergence of new companies, models, and products, including:

  • Collective Benefits: Gives gig workers access to a full range of protections and benefits, and has raised ~$13m since February 2020
  • Duuo: A Canadian on-demand digital insurance brand that recently launched a new gig liability product based on a per-day rate
  • Dinghy: Provides pay-as-you-go business coverage for freelancers
  • Snack: Offers microinsurance policies for Grab drivers (a ride-hailing service in Asia)


Last year we wrote about Bread Funds, a pioneering model of self-organizing, P2P insurance in the Netherlands, which emerged as early as 2006 and provides income protection to the self-employed.

There’s an opportunity to explore a platform play.

VouchForMe in the UK provides an online platform that enables freelancers and entrepreneurs to form and manage their own P2P income protection insurance groups. The company charges users a one-time activation fee of €100 (~$117) and a monthly platform fee of €5 (~$6).

You could do the same, but without limiting your offering to freelancer insurance. Allow groups to self-organize across a number of niche products, including motor, extreme sports, and even bicycle insurance.

Laka, a London-based brand organized as a collective (rather than a for-profit company), focuses on providing niche products specifically for cyclists. They have raised ~$9.4m since launching in 2017.

Pandemic-Proofing and Usage-Based Insurance: COVID-19 forced the industry to innovate for a new world in which deadly global virus outbreaks are possible (probable? Please, God, no).

Airlines, for example, now offer COVID-19 insurance, with some even covering medical expenses and quarantine costs.

Companies like SpottedRisk and Elite Risk have started offering insurance products for more niche markets, like the indie film industry — protecting production companies against cast members falling sick with COVID during filming.
Machine Cover, which uses various nontraditional metrics to address risk, are also innovating in this space. For example, they use traffic data around businesses like beauty salons and restaurants to determine if/when a policy should automatically pay out.

Examples of parametrics used by Machine Cover (Source: Machine Cover website)

Demand for more flexible solutions and usage-based insurance (UBI) options like these is soaring.

A 2020 report by Capgemini found that consumer demand for UBI increased from 35% in 2019 to 51% in 2020. The size of the UBI market is expected to balloon 525% from $24B in 2019 to $126B by 2027.

Source: Insurance Business Magazine

There’s an opportunity to provide niche UBI products like pay-as-you-drive motor insurance for WFH employees, or for specific events that are canceled on account of a positive COVID-19 test.

You could build an insurance marketplace, similar to Lloyd’s (which has its eyes set on becoming the world’s most advanced digital insurance marketplace), but with a focus on niche UBI products.

Blockchain and DeFi: Automatic, self-executing insurance policies like the ones offered by Machine Cover are often enabled by blockchain technology and smart contracts.

Decentralized insurance applications like Etherisc, Guardtime, and Lemonade will become more commonplace as adoption of blockchain technology continues.

There’s also an opportunity to provide insurance products to blockchain companies and users. Nexus Mutual, for example, provides cover against bugs in smart contract code, as well as crypto wallet cover.

There will be opportunities for niche products as the DeFi industry continues to expand.

Original article by Julia Janks at Trends.

Everything you should know about Apple’s WWDC21

Everything you should know about Apple’s WWDC21 1280 720 Steve Palmer

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicked off on Monday with a keynote showing off new operating systems for all of its hardware. Here’s everything you need to know.

iOS 15

Apple officially unveiled iOS 15, which was built around four pillars: staying connected, finding focus, using intelligence, and exploring the world. Here’s what you need to know about the next big iPhone update:

  • FaceTime: Apple’s seriously stepping up its video chat game. Grid View and Portrait Mode are coming, as is support for Spatial Audio. You can also send links or share your entire display with “SharePlay,” which allows for third-party app integration via API. Apple said they’re working with Disney, HBO, TikTok, Twitch, and more. Another nice new feature: you can join FaceTime calls from the web on Android or Windows.
  • Health: A new metric, “Walking Steadiness,” warns you that you might fall… before you fall. Apple will also present trends for your health data with more trackable metrics than what’s available on your Apple Watch. With telehealth seeing a big boost due to the pandemic, being able to share Health data with your doctor is a great new feature (and you can now share between families, too).
  • Maps: More detail in cities, especially around buildings and commercial districts. Commuters’ lives will be easier, too, as new transit features will let you know when to hop off a train or bus.
  • Messages: “Shared Stacks” helps keep you organized by combining content from your Messages, News, and Photos apps.
  • Notifications: You can now choose when your iPhone delivers a notification summary. Toggling Do Not Disturb mode on your phone lets your contacts know you have it enabled, which is cool (and a bit creepy).
  • Photos: Apple is using AI to detect text in images automatically with a new OCR feature. Photos will now appear in Spotlight search, too.
  • Siri: Siri is now available offline, which means the experience should be faster and more responsive.
  • Wallet: You can now store keys for your home and office in your Wallet, as well as hotel keys (which Hyatt will roll out later this year).
  • Weather: New look, same great taste. (Also: lots of new data.)

iPadOS 15

Here are the biggest new features on display in iPadOS 15.

  • App Creation: For the first time ever, you can create iPad and iPhone apps on an iPad with Swift Playgrounds (and launch/release directly to the App Store). 9to5Mac notes that “it is probably notable that Apple chose not to rebrand this as ‘Xcode’, signifying that you aren’t going to be able to do everything you can do with Xcode on the Mac.”
  • App Library: Now available on iPad after launching on iOS 14 last year.
  • Home Screen: You can view your home screen from within apps by sliding these apps out of the way.
  • Multitasking and Split View: You can now drag and drop apps to enter Split View.
  • Quick Note: Quickly create a note from within any app. (These notes can also be created on macOS. The notes are viewable, but not creatable, on iOS.)
  • Translate: A new “Auto Translate” feature automatically translates spoken conversations. Very helpful.
  • Widgets: Now available on the home screen.

macOS Monterey

Here are the key takeaways from Apple’s newest laptop/desktop OS:

  • AirPlay to Mac: You can now AirPlay content from your iPhone on your Mac’s display. Nice.
  • Safari: Visual redesign, and now with an integrated tab bar.
  • Shortcuts App: Create automations, build shortcuts, access existing shortcuts, and more. Integrates with Spotlight, appears in Finder.
  • Universal Control: More easily integrate your iPad with your Mac, using a keyboard and mouse on either device. You can drag-and-drop between devices, too.

watchOS 8

Not to be left out in the cold, watchOS is getting an upgrade, too.

  • Mindfulness: Out goes the Breathe app and in comes Mindfulness.
  • Photos: New interface, which now includes highlights and memories.
  • Respiratory Rate: Now measured during sleep tracking.
  • Timers: Now… multiple timers!
  • Weather: Your Apple Watch will now tell you if it will rain in the next hour.

tvOS 15

Here are the shiny new features coming to tvOS:

  • “Hey Siri”: You can now use this command to play content on your TV.
  • Lossless Audio: Coming later this year. (More info below.)
  • “Shared with You”: A hub in the TV app that lists content that has been — you guessed it — shared with you in the past.
  • Spatial Audio: Powered by AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. (More info below.)


Apple announced iCloud+, which has three new features (but the same price point). The big feature is “Private Relay,” which encrypts everything leaving your device, sending it through two relays. (Apple says no one, not even them, can view or access this data.) “Hide My Email” uses technology similar to what Apple previously rolled out with “Sign in with Apple” to create randomized and unique emails that forward mail to your main account. iCloud+ also removed the five camera per account cap on HomeKit Secure Video cameras.

Siri… Everywhere

For the first time, Siri is available on third-party devices. Apple did not give details of further examples, but if you’ve wanted to build your Smart Home around Apple’s ecosystem, this is a big step toward that reality. (This may be the keynote’s biggest announcement.)


Siri already could announce incoming phone calls and messages, but Siri can now read notifications to you, too, via your AirPods. In a noisy area? Your AirPods can now boost phone call audio. Integration with “Find My…” was improved, too, making it easier to find misplaced AirPods. AirPods are also getting Spatial Audio capabilities. Speaking of…

Spatial Audio, Lossless Audio

Fresh off a recent announcement of lossless audio, Apple doubled down with its audio enhancements by launching Spatial Audio support with Dolby Atmos. If you have AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, or Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, you’ll be able to take advantage of Spatial Audio. Apple said all 75 million tracks on Apple Music will be available, lossless, by the end of the year. (20 million songs are lossless compatible starting today.)

Some quick storage math: 10GB will get you…

  • 3,000 songs in HQ AAC
  • 1,000 songs lossless
  • 200 songs hi-res lossless

Some quick streaming math: a 3-minute song will require…

  • 1.5MB of data with “high efficiency” enabled
  • 6MB of data at 256 kbps (HQ)
  • 36MB of data at lossless (24-bit/48 kHz)
  • 145MB of data at hi-res lossless (24-bit/192 kHz)

By Shelly Palmer

iOS 14.5 is everything Facebook feared

iOS 14.5 is everything Facebook feared 1280 720 Steve Palmer

Facebook was quite vocal about its opposition to Apple’s ATT (AppTracking Technology). The social media giant feared that its implementation in iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 would significantly damage its Facebook Audience Network business.

They were right. Very, very right.

Early data from Flurry (a Verizon-owned analytics company) shows that 94 percent of U.S. iOS 14.5 users opt out of ad-tracking. It’s a bit lower (85 percent) globally. These numbers will trend downward as more people update their devices, but they are unlikely to get anywhere near the 50 percent zone that analysts were throwing around before the update went live.

ATT is not an attack on Facebook. It is a new privacy protocol that applies to every app in the Apple App Store, no matter the developer.

How will this play out? There are some workarounds to ATT for small businesses and advertisers who have come to rely on tools that allow them to track users around the web. But for Apple’s big tech competitors (the ones they just skewered), this is going to start a 1st-party data war. The bigger the company, the more likely they will be to redouble their efforts to keep you on their respective platforms. All other conditions are secondary.

Get ready for super-sticky services and conveniences designed to literally glue you to specific platforms. After all, if they can’t track you when you leave, they’re left with no choice but to do whatever it takes to hold you (and your data) hostage.

By Shelly Palmer

Say hello to Dall-e

Say hello to Dall-e 624 630 Steve Palmer

“Creative endeavors will never be replaced by computers. Art is an expression of human creativity, imagination, and improvisation – something that computers will never have.” (said someone 5yrs ago)

Last year we said hello to GPT-3 and AI not only replied, it started a conversation, in real time.

This month we say hello to Dall-e, who generates images from text descriptions, using a dataset of text–image pairs. Its early stages, but go check it out for yourself.

How do you see this helping ideation/prototyping?
No more searching for images on Getty/Shutter?
What are the possibilities and advantages to creatives?

However, these are just replacing tasks that already exist.  The really exciting question is, how will this technology help us do new things we have never done before?

Digital Transformation Is Seriously Misnamed

Digital Transformation Is Seriously Misnamed 1280 720 Steve Palmer

Our main business is helping business, regardless of size, with their “digital transformation” journeys. This is an super way to spend your day. We get to work with super-smart people who are being forced to adapt their organisations to the accelerating pace of exponential change. The process is generally known as “digital transformation.” But that is a misnomer. There’s no such thing as analog transformation, or quantum transformation. By definition, all current technological transformations are digital. It is also important to point out that technology is ephemeral – the only successful path to digital transformation is through sociological transformation – so we need a new name!

The Process Is the Product

Back in film school (NYU TSOA ’79), the legendary Haig Manoogian mentored the likes of Martin Scorsese, Chris Columbus, and Marty Brest, to name a few. Haig taught that “the process is the product.” To him, the best directors were benevolent dictators with a clear vision for the desired outcome and, most importantly, the leadership skills to create a process and an environment where everyone working on the project, from the production assistants to the actor playing the leading role, was incentivised to deliver that outcome.

To do this, Haig loved to put his students into impossible sociological situations with classmates as he forced them to create short films in three-day sprints. He’d pair them with a fellow student who was to be their camera operator (even though that person was known to be terrible at it). Students would be assigned to work with another student whose role was to produce their film. By the second semester, it was clear that Haig looked at their filmmaking talent as table stakes for being in his class – he was teaching them to figure out the sociology (and the psychology) of their peers, co-workers, and subordinates and create a process that was so positive, the product created from it would be a reflection of it.

Culture vs. Technology

The enduring battle between the “middle management mafia” and technology is not new. Sabotage (the ‎etymology of which will surprise you; it’s not the story you know) probably predates the Gilded Age. But this ancient sentiment echoes in the halls of modern corporate life. People fear what they don’t understand. And what they fear, they seek to destroy. This is a broad generalisation, and you may not personally feel that it reflects your attitude, but almost any group, cluster, or cohort of humans you take a minute to study will, as a group, behave this way.

So, the first step to digital transformation (for which we really need a new name) is to share a clear vision and goal. “We’re going to make it faster for people to get across the river.” Then, and only then, should you begin the decision-making process to determine whether you will build a bridge, a tunnel, a tram, a people mover, a ferry fleet, a barge fleet, a transporter from Star Trek, or something else. The technology that enables the “how” is evolving exponentially fast, and the pace of that evolution is accelerating, which makes starting with technology (the “how”) a very bad idea. While the “why” may change (a competitor could disrupt your plans with a better idea that is executed in advance of yours), it is always the “why” or simply the goal that drives the cultural evolution that enables what we are calling digital transformation.

This unfortunate reality is exacerbated by an observation made by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Which is a long way of saying that digital transformation has nothing to do with digital and is only superficially related to transformation. It is about creating a corporate culture where people are incentivised to deliver a shared vision. If that vision happens to require some new technology, so be it. But digital transformation starts and ends in the hearts and minds of the workforce. “Technology” is just another word for “tool.”

By Shelly Palmer

8 Expert Predictions for the Future of Drone Photography

8 Expert Predictions for the Future of Drone Photography 1920 1080 Daniel Perry

What does the future hold for drone photography? These 8 pro photographers share their expectations and hopes for the growing art form.

Drone photography is here to stay. Whether it’s in the real estate sector or the Instagram community, drone pilots continue to dominate the industry. In 2016, the Shutterstock Creative Trends Report indicated a huge uptick in searches for the word “drone,” and drone registrations in the United States alone broke 770,000 last year. The hashtag #drone on Instagram currently has well over 7 million posts. Other popular hashtags include #dronestagram, #dronefly, and #droneoftheday.

Drones have forever changed the landscape of aerial photography. The field has become more democratic; photographers no longer need to afford a helicopter to get a taste of the sky. Drones were also among the most popular holiday gifts this past season, appealing to professionals, hobbyists, and everyone in between. We asked eight drone pilots from the Shutterstock and Offset collections to predict the future of the genre.

The verdict? Drones will get better in terms of the technology, but it will be harder to fly as more policies and restrictions are imposed. Read on to learn why.

1. Piotr Krzeslak

“World governments see that the number of drones is increasing rapidly, and for this reason, they must control it carefully.”

2. Karolis Janulis

“In the near future, I think the gear will become even more reliable, and the quality will also increase.”

3. Alison Etcheverry

“I think that as the industry continues to grow and evolve, more drones will be used for artistic photography, commercial work, and other fields.”

4. Radu Bercan

“Although the sensors are not all that great right now, they could match the sensor of a DSLR in a few years.”

5. Dewald Kirsten

“Soon, we will be able to shoot long-exposure night shots at high ISO and get usable images from it.”

6. Amund Meier (invisiblepower)

“…I think that we will see better and better cameras with the option of using different lenses, along with better battery life for professional drones.”

7. Kevin Krautgartner

“In terms of drone technology, the next step will be making them smarter and stronger.”

8. Maxim Zabarovsky (mzabarovsky)

“Within five years, I believe, there will be a kind of revolution when it comes to flight time and drone batteries.”

What is your prediction for the future of drone photography?

By Feature Shoot

What type of photos drawn out emotions?

What type of photos drawn out emotions? 500 334 Steve Palmer

As with all forms of art, our preference for images tends to be highly subjective, with personal tastes differing from one person to the next. Having said that, science would suggest that there are certain categories of images that are more likely to elicit strong emotional responses than others.

6 images that make you feel…

To explore the point, consumer psychologist Leah Tierney put together a collection based entirely around these psychological theories, with each category aimed at evoking positive emotional responses in the viewer. In addition to brightening your day, we hope that these theories – and corresponding images – provide inspiration for approaching your next marketing project or campaign.

1. Portraits









From the moment we’re born, we’re hard-wired to focus our attention on human faces. In a classic study by Robert Franz, newborn babies spent twice as long looking at an image of a human face as they did at an image of a bulls-eye. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense; babies will be at an advantage if they can both recognize and bond with the face that provides them with all their basic needs.

2. Babies

Babies evoke some of our strongest emotional responses, instantly engaging and then maintaining our attention. These instinctual responses are inclined to be universal across cultures, and are thought to be triggered by “baby schema” – a specific set of characteristics that include: large, wide eyes; high foreheads; small noses; round, chubby cheeks; and soft, small bodies. When we are presented with these cute characteristics, the nucleus accumbens is activated, and a huge surge of the pleasure hormone dopamine is released — leaving us feeling happier and completely enthralled by these tiny creatures.

3. Animals

As most of us can attest, the “cute appeal” certainly doesn’t end with human babies. Evolutionary psychologists propose some possible explanations for this. One theory argues that our response might be an evolutionary glitch; that our hard-wired response to babies is so powerful that it transfers over to other baby mammals that share similar “baby schema” characteristics. The second idea is that our fixation with baby animals allows us to better bond with them. In the past, forming such bonds, or feeling fondness toward animals, may have been evolutionarily advantageous and helped us to survive. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that our emotional response to animals is a strong one, and that our fixation isn’t going to end any time soon.

4. Inspiration

Images that evoke feelings of inspiration can have a powerful psychological impact. As something that most of us seek on a daily basis, inspiration plays an important role in our lives. It can help us to envision overcoming our current limitations, and in doing so, motivate us to achieve our goals, increase our productivity, and improve our well-being. When this inspiration comes from others, it brings the sentiment, “If they can do it, I can do it” – sometimes the greatest motivation of all.

5. Nostalgia

The power of an image to evoke past memories can be surprisingly moving. We can be transported right back to a particular time or place and remember everything that we felt at the time. And while triggers for nostalgia are highly individual, research shows that we tend to feel nostalgic for past events that 1) were personally meaningful, and that 2) involved significant people in our lives, like family, partners, and friends.

If we’re reminiscing on happy memories, experiencing nostalgia will have lots of psychological benefits. For example, if we’re feeling lonely or facing difficult challenges, nostalgia can act as a powerful reminder of happier times, re-instilling the notion that we’re part of a larger scheme and helping to place our problems in perspective.

6. Expressions of Happiness

Body language is one of the most talked-about topics in social psychology, and with good reason. The ability to convey emotions and attitudes through our stance and expressions can have a powerful effect on ourselves and the people around us. Most impressive, perhaps, is our natural tendency to mimic the emotional gestures of the people we’re interacting with, which research has shown can actually lead to feeling the emotions of the other person. Social psychologists call this emotional contagion.

Which type of image evoked the strongest response for you?

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