Moving home can be tiresome and chaotic and probably not something that people particularly enjoy. It’s the time you realise you own too much stuff and still you can’t throw anything away because some day you may need that unusual musical instrument you bought 5 years ago while on holiday in Italy. The removals industry itself has seen very little technological development. That is until now. I caught up with Becky Downing, CEO of buzzmove, to find out how the start-up is revolutionising not only the removals market, but the insurance sector too.
Hello Becky! First of all, how did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
I didn’t always have a clear plan for buzzmove. When I quit my job as a lawyer, determined to set up a business, I didn’t even have an idea for my start-up or know what sector it would be in. After turning 30, I decided it was now or never and so handed in my notice and spent a few months in the British Library researching an industry that had only been minimally affected by technology and would be ideal for my business. I remembered having a disastrous moving experience with a mover who I found on Gumtree. He turned up late, dropped my television and didn’t have insurance.
I realised that very little information came up about removal companies if they were searched for online and there wasn’t an aggregator or a price comparison site for the sector, although these were common in other sectors. The £1bn UK removals market is highly fragmented, lacking innovation and currently suppliers invest very little in tech (almost all still use pen and paper).
There was little I could learn about the removals industry in books and so, to find exactly what I needed to create, I spent nine months essentially doing work experience with managing directors of established removal companies as well with as the director of the British Association of Removers. I interestingly found out that there was no rhyme or reason process of estimating the volume of belongings in a house. Further research showed that there was a severe lack of transparency when it came to pricing jobs. So I decided to set up an online marketplace for the industry to make things a little less opaque.
What is your start-up all about?
buzzmove is an online price comparison and booking platform for the moving industry, which encapsulates a new distribution model for home insurance with unprecedented insight into household contents data with a core focus on creating Europe’s largest and most exciting platform for insurtech.
buzzmove uses new tech, whilst cleverly utilising existing distribution channels and processes, to collect a large volume of unique and highly accurate data on what people have in their homes. Once this data is collected, Buzzmove uses this information to create new digital distribution channels for established industries, notably the insurance industry. These digital distribution channels are entirely customer driven, and are therefore 100% data protection compliant.
How is your start-up changing / challenging the insurance industry?
In the same way as telematics apps provide motor insurance providers with better insight into their customers, buzzmove is able to provide household insurance companies with accurate insight into their customers’ household contents. This data gives rise to many more opportunities, such as the cross selling of specialist insurance and other types of insurance, and the provision of on-demand insurance.
buzzmove has unique access to customers at a pivotal moment in their lives – a trigger event for the purchasing of many goods and services; most notably home insurance. buzzmove provides insurance companies with a new and powerful digital distribution channel and insight into household contents data, allowing insurance companies to better correlate their premiums to risk. For the first time, insurance companies will be able to provide truly personalised home insurance policies and a simplified claims process. If the worst happens, buzzmove facilitates a substantially friendlier and shortened claims process – given that the insurance company already has access to an accurate record of the customer’s belongings.
What’s the most difficult aspect about running a start-up?
Ensuring that we always have money in the bank. Breaking-even takes some time and until then you need enough capital injection to keep going and to achieve your vision. Fundraising is a full-time job in itself and always takes significantly longer than you would expect. Negotiating with investors whilst running a business can be tough.
Coming from a legal background, I expected everyone in the start-up world to be upfront and behave by the book, but this wasn’t the case. I went in incredibly naïve thinking that everyone was there to help or that I could take whatever anyone said at face value. But that is not the case, especially when you are looking to hire or partner with people. As a result, I have made every mistake in the book when it came to hiring and going into business with people.
What’s the best aspect?
Running a start-up is exciting as I love building ambitious, driven teams that work hard to overcome business challenges. The buzzmove team always has the remit and freedom to use creative and innovate ways to improve processes, in fact we’ve even built our own in-house Google adwords arbitrage system to ensure that the PPC budget is invested in the most cost effective way.
Can you describe your start-up in 3 words?
Innovative, unique, fun
What are 3 key aspects you wish you knew before starting up your business?
- Be careful about who you give equity away to and how much;
- Always take references for people, whether you are hiring them, going into business with them or accepting an investment from them;
- Work hard yes, but also take the time to relax every now and then 🙂
What other insurtech start-ups are you excited about?
Whilst we were in Startupbootcamp’s first Insurtech accelerator, we were lucky to work alongside some incredibly innovative and creative entrepreneurs that have brought an excitement to the insurtech space. In particular, we’re looking forward to seeing what Covi Analytics, Fitsense and SPIXII have to offer.
Do you have any advice for others who might want to venture into the start-up world?
Find good co-founders to join your journey and be prepared to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone. Joining an accelerator is usually a good idea to get a leg up and some decent support along the way.
Can you give me an example of innovation / technology that has impressed you lately?
I’m amazed by what’s happening in the world of robotics. I also keep a close eye on what Elon Musk is doing with SpaceX and his mission to Mars – that man is pure genius and has changed more in 5 years than most have in decades.
What gadget you can’t live without?
Can you describe the current state of the insurance industry in one sentence?
Lacking customer centricity, rigid and inflexible in their ways but increasingly open to understanding and embracing innovation.
How can insurers be more innovative?
Understand that transactions need to be customer driven and need to be flexible and accommodating to their exact needs. Technology can help insurance companies deliver this standard of service and a better overall digital experience for the entire insurance life cycle.
What can insurers do to make it easier for you to collaborate with them?
Create a sandbox environment in which new propositions can be tested. Allocate proper human and financial resources towards both the exploration and the implementation of new technology via partnerships with start-ups. Start-ups need to work fast – insurance companies need to understand this and create an environment within the monolithic company itself to enable quick and nimble innovation.
In your opinion, what is going to be the next big thing in insurance?
The integration of big data into services allowing for truly personalised, bespoke insurance tailored to the individual customer.
What else would you be doing if you hadn’t started up your current business?
I may have continued my career as a lawyer or spent more time with my kids 🙂 Instead I hope to retire early and spend loads of time with my kids!
Thank you Becky, it looks like the career move has paid off and the insurance industry is looking forward to seeing how your activities will evolve.
If you are thinking about moving or know somebody who is, make sure to check out the buzzmove website here. For more insurtech start-up interviews and articles, keep an eye on this space.
Marketing assistant @Ingenin