Personal insurance is easy to buy online, but you’re out of luck if you want commercial insurance.
If you’re a contractor or small business owner searching for an insurance policy, it’s offline you go. “Business owners will start their insurance search online, but then be forced by insurance companies to go to a brick and mortar store to buy their policy,” explains Rashmi Melgiri '03, MBA '09, cofounder of CoverWallet, a tech startup aimed at taking the analog experience of commercial insurance purchasing into the digital world.
Launched by Melgiri and cofounder Inaki Berenguer MBA ‘09 in 2015, CoverWallet offers an online portal for contractors and small business owners to search for, buy, and manage policies—like liability and property insurance—online. The idea for CoverWallet began when Berenguer (pictured above with Melgiri) was frustrated while trying to buy insurance for startups he had launched. “I figured I could just go to a website and buy insurance, but I was told that I had to go to a broker and complete a paper application and wait two to three days to get a quote,” he says. “I knew that using tech we could reinvent that experience and make it fast online.”
Berenguer and Melgiri, who met at Sloan, stayed in touch after MIT and often discussed projects they were working on individually. When Berenguer shared his idea to transform commercial insurance, the two saw an opportunity to work together. “We agreed that it was an industry ready for disruption and thought that our skills would complement each other in doing so,” Berenguer says.
CoverWallet works like many online platforms that offer personal insurance—users can search for policies, tick off the coverage they need, and then manage everything online from filing claims to adjusting policies. “We want to be high tech and high touch,” Berenguer explains. Though users are covered by insurance companies like Liberty Mutual or The Hartford, CoverWallet manages the policy, relying on licensed advisors to handle claims or answer any questions.
When sharing the CoverWallet pitch, Melgiri explains that people can’t believe a service like this didn’t already exist. “People will say ‘Isn’t this something that should have happened years go?’” she says. Berenguer has an idea why it took so long: “These insurance companies know their consumers will eventually go online to buy insurance, but they just don’t have the DNA to do something about it,” he explains. “They’re very knowledgeable about insurance, but they don’t know how to create a tech product—so it’s a very good symbiotic relationship for us.”
While Berenguer and Melgiri continue to grow CoverWallet, hoping to reach a larger share of the 30 million contractors and small business owners in the US, the company —which has alumni employees and MIT student externs—has strong MIT roots. “Even just bouncing around ideas, we run them through our Sloan friends and ask them about their industry and what they were seeing in the world,” Berenguer says. “We have very strong connections to MIT.”