Sometimes the companies we accelerate solve significant human and societal challenges. Gaia is making fertility treatments more accessible by alleviating the financial burden of IVF.
“The Lab gave us access to an amazing calibre of people for a period of two months - that access, dialogue and input was the most valuable thing.”Ines Cheaib - COO, Gaia
Much insurance innovation has involved working on evolving product or distribution channels that exist already, but the Lab process draws in young start-ups with entirely new ideas, based on new datasets, and which can solve different problems. The story of Gaia embodies this spirit. In the case of the Gaia, the known problem was the cost and uncertainty involved in IVF treatment.
IVF is famously expensive to undertake, which makes the financial planning for anyone who faces the process demanding, exacerbated by the fact that they do not know how many cycles of IVF they will have to fund. Many have to wait to save up for second and third cycles, which also reduces the chances of success: age is an important success factor for the treatment.
Gaia’s founder, Nader AlSalim, had personally experienced the uncertainties of IVF and wanted to create a way to insure against the risk of IVF failure. The team at Gaia built a model which could predict the chances of success during IVF, and which is able to suggest how many cycles would be likely to be needed to achieve that success.
Gaia had initially raised investor funding on the back of their idea for an insurance product that would manage the cost of IVF through regular payment plans and would then pay out should the IVF process fail.
However, to design a working product Gaia had to partner with an insurer. The Gaia team say that: “We joined the Lab to work with Lloyd’s mentors, to transform our conviction about our consumer-facing idea into an insurance product. We needed to learn how to make it work in terms of shape, conduct and wordings. Through the Lab, we were able to make an insurance proof product, not just a consumer one.” The product itself ultimately consisted of an insurance package, plus a financing module.
While designing the product, Gaia’s first learning was that an insurer must start with the worst-case scenario, whereas they had looked mainly towards the positive possibility of a new baby. There was a huge amount of mutual learning on this point, underpinned by the standards of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Treating Customers Fairly rules, because for insurers to work with customers in such vulnerable personal situations it’s critical to take enormous care to build a product shaped around careful treatment of potential clients.
The insurance mentors were able to help Gaia build a full conduct plan – a way to work with customers that took account of their situation, and which would not disadvantage their hopes and vulnerabilities. Gaia were surprised: “We thought the most important part would be pricing, but in fact it was conduct planning.”
For the mentors, the starting point was a masterclass on female anatomy, to understand the complexities of fertility treatment and the bigger picture data could produce around potential success or failure. Possibly an unusual place to start, but it meant that underwriters had time to understand a highly complex issue and what new insights Gaia’s data was driving. As a result, all sides benefited. “Everyone came to us with open minds, and they came looking for innovation – that was perfect for us” says Ines Cheaib, COO of Gaia.
Mentor teams worked with Gaia from four firms across the market, and ultimately by the end of their time in the Lab, the product was close to being finalised. Gaia moved seamlessly from working with mentors in the Lab to partnering with them commercially.
For Gaia it was the people who made the whole process work: “The Lab gave us access to an amazing calibre of people for a period of two months - that access, dialogue and input was the most valuable thing.”
So much innovation is focused on evolving products that already exist but the Lloyd’s Lab process draws in entirely new ideas, based on new datasets, and so can solve different problems. This is powerful, and ultimately Gaia’s way of bringing hope to individuals wanting to start a family shows what can be delivered by focusing on change, fresh thinking and the power of ideas.
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