It seems like every other week another traditional institution is trying to cash in on the innovative nature of startups; from partnerships with FinTech companies to establishing innovation centres, these large companies are trying hard to bridge the gap between themselves and scrappy startups.
“Our philosophy is that you need outsiders to bring a fresh perspective into your organization.” – Dave Kruis, FAIRVentures director
Financial holdings company FairFax Financial, which works in the insurance and wealth management sectors, is the latest company to create its own innovation initiative with the launch of FAIRVentures, which only recently set up shop in Communitech. The Disruptors co-host Amber Kanwar was on scene speaking with Dave Kruis, director of FAIRVentures, to talk about the benefits of creating a space in the heart of Kitchener-Waterloo’s startup ecosystem.
“We see on the horizon a lot of words about disruption, and we hear a lot about it especially in the insurance space,” said Kruis. “The reality is unless you’re actually in the trenches working with startups, you’re not going to get that feedback or be as attuned to the newer technologies that are out there than perhaps you’d be if you were in the day-to-day operating your business.”
Kruis said the company is interested in the personalization of insurance, information that can be gleaned from wearables, and artificial intelligence and machine learning. He added that insurance companies are increasingly turning to data science to make sense of large amounts of available data. “IoT is also interesting since you can put sensors in your car, house, or businesses and that provides more information to make better decisions.”
Kruis, who was not part of Fairfax or its portfolio companies, said it was important that Fairfax kept as much distance as possible from the initiative.
“Our philosophy is that you need outsiders to bring a fresh perspective into your organization and that’s why I don’t come from insurance, I don’t work for Fairfax companies, but I’ve done some startups and worked at large companies before, so I understand the dynamic between big companies and small companies” said Kruis. “Even the team that we’ve hired at the Lab, none of them come from Fairfax. They come from startups that can bring a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh perspective.”
Watch the whole interview below:
BetaKit is a production partner on The Disruptors. Tune in to BNN every Thursday night at 7pm for full episodes!