When I decided to let my flat through Airbnb back in 2016, I knew exactly what kind of insurance I was looking for. I needed a policy that would protect my property, protect my guests, and protect me against the risks of doing business, while providing the kind of short-term flexibility the sharing economy thrives on.
I couldn’t find it. The InsurTech sector has brought disruptive innovation to many areas of the traditional insurance industry in the last few years. According to a McKinsey study, investment in InsurTech climbed from a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 to more than $2.5 billion in 2017. Despite this growth, no-one was offering insurance technology tailored specifically to the sharing economy.
Virtually everyone who works in the sharing economy needs insurance. Freelancers need indemnity insurance to protect them against lawsuits if they do inadequate work or give bad advice. Anyone who visits offices or other worksites as a freelancer needs public liability insurance in case they cause an accident while they’re there. Public liability insurance is also a good idea if your clients visit you at your workspace, in many cases even if you use a co-working office.
These kinds of cover are not just a matter of securing a freelancer’s piece of mind. In many industries they’re a contractual requirement. In others, quality insurance cover is a passport to more work and better clients.
Perhaps the most important form of insurance for a self-employed person is income protection, which will support you if anything happens to stop you from working for a while. For a freelancer with a mortgage or any other long-term financial commitment, this kind of cover is essential.
It’s not enough just to provide these products. The sharing economy thrives on short-term flexibility, which means that in the sharing economy, it rarely makes financial sense to pay for insurance except when you need it. A freelancer who makes one site-visit a year is unlikely to buy public liability cover for the whole year if they can avoid it—but that leaves them vulnerable. What they need is on-demand insurance, a policy they can activate or deactivate as they use it, when they use it, through their smartphone or laptop.
Creating a disruption across the industry
On-demand insurance has already begun to transform the insurance industry, for instance by providing flight insurance that covers travellers just from take-off to landing, or car insurance that covers a car only while it’s in motion. However, when I was looking for insurance in 2016, no-one had brought this disruptive technology into the sharing economy, where it has the power to drive enormous change by supporting sharing-economy workers as they find new solutions to old marketplace problems.
That’s why I started Tapoly. Through our online platform, freelancers, SMEs, contract workers and anyone else in the sharing economy can get on-demand cover in less than two minutes. We connect users with a comprehensive range of commercial insurance products from heavyweight insurers, and our platform allows for day-by-day flexibility across all our policies. By vertically integrating the key processes of insurance—underwriting, brokerage and distribution—we’re able to drive down costs even further and make our products affordable to part-time and gig workers. With insurance you can switch on and off, the upfront financial commitment for our users is vastly reduced, compared with traditional annual insurance policies. And there’s a lot less paperwork. The result is an insurance solution that is responsive to the needs of workers in the sharing economy. Our hope is that, through this disruption, the sharing economy will become a safer environment for everyone involved – meaning freelancers and contractors aren’t put at a greater risk than a large organisation when it comes to financial or legal ramifications. Our aim is to make the sharing economy a more level playing field, and in order to do so the industry needs companies like Tapoly to change the rules of the InsurTech sector for the better.
Photograph by Skitterphoto