Startup Spotlight: Interview with Matthew Elan Smith founder of Insuretech startup Pineapple

Pineapple (formerly Amyti) is a Johannesburg-based P2P insurer, and South Africa’s first P2P insurer. Founded by Marnus van Heerden, Matthew Elan Smith and Ndabenhle Junior Ngulube in 2017, this insuretech startup has made insurance as simple “as snapping a picture”.

To accomplish all this, Pineapple is planning to base its business model on three key pillars:

  1. Customer transparency: How the premium is used (the underwriting process and profit use).
  2. Fairness: Enable policy holders to withdraw the unused premium.
  3. Affinity: Bring like-minded individuals together and revive the original community protection concept of insurance.

We spoke to Matthew Elan Smith the CEO on Pineapple’s journey to become one of the top insuretech startups in Africa and this is what he told us.

On naming the startup:

What many people don’t know is that the pineapple is not a single fruit – it is actually a collection of berries. Each of those knobs on the pineapple is a berry and they come together to form this structure which protects all of them.

This speaks to the way insurance works and the principles it was founded upon, people helping people by diversifying risk. The Pineapple insurance model speaks to this concept of returning insurance to a financial community, with the added benefit of a new fresh digital medium.

Inspiration for starting Pineapple:

People don’t trust insurance, they don’t like insurance and they feel insurers are out to get them. Likewise insurers don’t trust their own customers and still operate in very expense heavy / manual ways which aren’t fit for what consumers expect from modern day services.

We set out to solve these problems by creating an insurance model which still gives full comprehensive protection, but at the same time reintroduces affinity, transparency and fairness back into insurance.

In the Pineapple model you see exactly how your premiums are used and get back whatever isn’t used in cash, every single year!

On how Pineapple work:

Getting insured with Pineapple starts by downloading the app, available on both IOS (Apple) and Android devices.

You open the app and then you snap a picture of an item you wish to get a quote on. Our AI then recognizes the item and will get you a quote on what it would be to cover.

If you happy with the premium you can continue to enter a few more details about yourself and a payment method then that’s it! You’re done and you now have comprehensive underwritten cover on that item in the Pineapple way!

Because of the difficulty of taking a picture of your own phone with your phone we have already pulled your phones details and all you have to do is tap on it to get a quote.

In terms of price, our cost to insure items are market related insurance premium. But the difference with Pineapple is that this premium goes into your own Pineapple wallet and whatever isn’t used is yours to take out in cash, every single year.

You can also choose to start building your own network within Pineapple by connecting with friends and family, which could further help you save more and more money in your wallet each year.

On competition:

We see the likes of direct brands in the market as opponents but we feel that the Pineapple model is ultimately the best choice for the consumer because we designed it to be more fair, transparent and create more value for the insured.

Biggest accomplishments:

The biggest accomplishment is really taking a brand new method and business model from concept and theory to a reality and then gaining over 5000 members in just two months.

Being able to see something you’ve designed from scratch with a mission to change insurance, become a product and have live members is really a special feeling.

New features Pineapple is working on:

The work never stops! Our next roll-out will include a feature that will let people easily form groups to help them connect easily on the Pineapple system if they wish.

We are also working on our motor insurance product which is lined up for early next year!

Working with Google Launchpad:

We are extremely privileged to have been selected as part of Google’s global Launchpad program. So far the experience has been amazing and we have certainly gained a lot of learning from the sessions. Google mentors have been extremely helpful and already changed aspects of our business – From goal alignment and performance management methods to optimizing our artificial intelligence and sales methodology.

Future plans:

In 5 years I’d like to see Pineapple making significant inroads to becoming the new normal for how insurance operates GLOBALLY.

On Funding:

Our seed funding round occurred in Sep 2017, we were funded R5.2m by Lireas holdings (The VC arm of Hannover-Re Africa). The money was used to take us from a concept on paper to a working product in the market – with the main spend going towards building our system and tech.

Parting words for budding entrepreneurs:

Never fall in love with the solution you have, but rather fall in love with the problem you are trying to solve.

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