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Technology, US News

Data-driven approach shakes up shopping for construction insurance

Russell Hixson
Data-driven approach shakes up shopping for construction insurance
NYASHA GUTSA - Nyasha Gutsa, second from the right, is the co-founder of a new construction insurance app, Billy. The tool aims to compare prices from dozens of different carriers and utilize data from companies to drive down insurance costs.

A new startup is looking to transform the way construction companies shop for insurance with software.

“Billy is essentially a technology company that’s on a mission to make insurance fair, fast and accessible to contractors,” said Billy co-founder and CEO Nyasha Gutsa. “We basically live in a world where, for example, you can order an Uber in a couple minutes, or you can order groceries that can arrive at your door in a matter of minutes. In large cities, you can also order construction materials and they can arrive. But the most essential thing that all these companies need is insurance, yet we don’t have an experience where you can purchase insurance instantly.”

Gutsa explained construction insurance lacks tools to compare multiple quotes from many different carriers.

“What we do that is we essentially provide value to large general contractors to track and manage insurance first for all their subcontractors,” he said. “Then we use that information to essentially provide quotes to their subcontractors, because now we know when their insurance is expiring as well.”

Gutsa was born in Zimbabwe and came to the U.S. for school on a scholarship. His first job was demolishing the old Yankee Stadium. He also spent time as a landscaper and in what they call plan rooms where construction drawings are printed out. Eventually he made his way to Procore, where he was one of the earliest employees. His tasks primarily focused on the digitization of the back office as a product manager.

“A lot of this insurance friction that we’re solving for, I had done it personally in my role as a project accountant and at Procore,” he said. “What we saw was the process of actually proving who has insurance still hasn’t been solved in a specific way for construction. And while there are many other apps that do something similar, there really wasn’t somebody who is taking the information that’s within the platform and solving friction for all contractors.”

Gutsa explained construction costs are going up meaning premiums are as well. This is leading to larger claims. Carriers are asking for unique underwriting data to give cheaper quotes. Gutsa explained Billy intends to provide this data and wants to plug into construction management software and use that data to drive down insurance costs.

“Anywhere you go in the world, if you want to buy commercial insurance you still have to go to fill in some static form, and some person has to go and login to many different carriers which is why you get the same quotes every year,” said Gutsa. “Because they’re not technically enabled to be able to compare all that insurance. So that’s our dream, being able to solve that.”

Gutsa said Billy has been able to save clients up to 40 per cent on insurance by shopping with more than 30 carriers. The company currently has 13 employees but also has some full-time external consultants which brings the team to 21. The company manages roughly 12,000 policies, with a little over 8,000 vendors that are subcontractors that are on the platform.

“I think the biggest hurdle that we have is, people say ‘I’ve had this agent for 30 years, it’s my brother in law,’ right. And we don’t win all those accounts,” said Gutsa. “But the accounts that were mostly winning are people that are shopping for price and then we win them over. Then people that are just looking for good agents to work with.”

Gutsa said for now the company’s focus remains on the U.S. market where there is massive room for growth, but the approach could be applied anywhere. He also believes the data that construction companies collect will become more and more useful to plug in to tools like Billy.

“More data, from my perspective, allows insurance companies to actually design specific products for the contractors,” said Gutsa.

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