Delivering resilience upgrades to homes in coastal communities using insurance-based financing
Catastrophic weather events, such as hurricanes, are becoming more frequent and severe in coastal communities. This threatens the safety of residents, jeopardizes their homes and puts coastal communities at risk of economic dislocation, joblessness and unexpected economic shock. In addition, homeowners in these communities often pay a lot of money for homeowners insurance they do not believe they get much value from.
MyStrongHome (MSH) addresses these challenges by fortifying homes against hurricane and extreme weather risk, and financing the upgrades with the resulting insurance savings. As such, MSH combines specialized construction, insurance and financial services in a one-stop-shop offering to build the resilience of homeowners. Our model is the first of its kind, although we have borrowed ideas from successful solar and energy efficiency programs.
Our construction upgrades are all independently certified to assure their integrity. In most states, we use the Fortified designation of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
We are impacting the lives of the coastal residents we serve, as we safeguard their families and their homes (often their largest or only asset) from disaster risk. However, we believe our larger impact lies in our potential to disrupt prevailing paradigms in the larger insurance and disaster management sectors. There is ample data to quantify the cost-effectiveness of investing in hazard mitigation, but insurance companies, disaster recovery agencies and individuals are slow to do it. We hope our 'win-win-win' proposition for families, insurers and taxpayers will serve as an example that can ultimately change the way 'business as usual' is conducted.
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Columbia, SC, USA
What makes our solution innovative:
MyStrongHome represents a process, or business model, innovation. We combine three services - specialized construction, insurance and financing - into an offering that is the first of its kind. It is particularly difficult to combine insurance and non-services, given the unique accounting, regulatory and organizational culture of insurance companies. Incumbent companies are loathe to innovate, and the barriers to entry for new companies are high. Given the role of insurance in managing risk, however, we desperately need more insurance-based innovation to address the resilience challenges facing coastal communities in the 21st century.
How technology is integral to our solution:
MSH uses cutting edge building materials, science and processes to fortify homes. More specifically, we have 'hacked' discrete aspects of the Fortified standard of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety - such as its gable bracing requirements - in order to reduce cost. We also use technology to identify and evaluate homes, and to monitor the retrofits we perform in real time. Some of the technology we would like to use sits behind expensive paywalls, and we are looking for cheaper ways to access those functions.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:
Our goal is to continually double our number of new customers month-to-month.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:
Our vision for the next 3-5 years is to grow our core business as much as possible, to look for additional product offerings and to contribute to a paradigm shift in both the insurance and disaster management sectors. We want to have a direct impact on as many coastal homes as possible, but we also want serve as a broader example of what a 'win-win-win' approach to coastal risk management looks like from the perspective of residents, insurers and taxpayers.
Our promotional video:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:
We serve customers using a direct-to-consumer (B2C) model in which we market to them through Facebook, print mail, referral services and word-of-mouth channels. We plan to grow these B2C channels over time, but expect larger growth to come from B2B partnerships that allow us to identify and serve potential customers more quickly. We are currently pioneering a B2B partnership with a community development finance institution in Florida, and are developing partnerships with solar companies, realtors and other channels.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:
We have, to date, provided construction, insurance and/or financing (usually all three) to over 90 families.
How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
In 12 months, we anticipate serving more than 500 families with a combination of construction, financing and insurance services. In 3 years, we anticipate serving over 2,000 families. However, we hope to impact many more by serving as an example for how insurers, builders and others can strengthen and make more resilient homes across coastal counties.
How our solution team is organized:Hybrid of For Profit and Nonprofit
How many people work on our solution team:6
How many years we have been working on our solution:3-4 years
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:
Our team possesses a unique combination of backgrounds in insurance, construction and non-traditional financing. My colleague, Eleanor Kitzman, was formerly an insurance commissioner and CEO of a small insurance company. We also have 2 additional licensed insurance agents on the team. My colleague Frank Burkhardt brings two decades of experience in residential construction, renovation and resilient design.
Our revenue model:
We make money in one of two primary ways. First, we charge a management fee on the homes we retrofit. Second, we earn commission revenue on the new (mitigated) insurance policies we sell. Importantly, this commission is earned every year the homeowner renews their policy. We generally pass through our cost of capital to customers, and do not earn net interest on the loans we make. However, we can mark up the interest rate if we do not earn money on the management fee or insurance for some reason. This flexibility in monetization is important as we pursue various B2B partnerships that may require us to segment or reorganize our services.
Our average expected customer lifetime income is approximately $2,000. Approximately 1/3 of that is from management fees and the remaining 2/3 is from the future stream of insurance commissions.
Why we are applying to Solve:
We are applying to Solve because we would like to accelerate the rate at which we identify and incorporate technology and data that can enhance our ability to identify and serve customers. We are continually looking for advances in building science, for example, and in affordable satellite imagery solutions. We cannot afford to do the 'R&D' in-house that we would like, and would love the opportunity to source some of those innovations from the Solve community.
The key barriers for our solution:
It is always challenging to introduce a new product or service to the market, particularly when it is being offered directly to consumers. We face the daunting challenge of having to educate our customers before we can 'sell' them MyStrongHome, and in many cases have to overcome a deeply-held skepticism about contractors, insurers, or both.
- Margot Brandenburg MyStrongHome