Marnus van Heerden CA(SA) and the founding team entered an innovation competition run by Hannover-Re in 2016 in an effort to find disruptive models to the reinsurance/insurance space. And it was out of their little innovation spot in Rosebank, Johannesburg, that the incredible Pineapple story begins
In 2018, Pineapple was voted the best insurtech in the world by the global insurance community as part of a competition held by The Digital Insurer. It started with each continent electing their best insurtech. When this was done, the winners of all continents went head to head, with Pineapple ultimately being crowned the champion. And today it’s a roaring business!
First tell us about yourself?
I grew up in Johannesburg with two brothers. Sports and competition were a part of the day. I have a passion for sports, family, friends, and animals. I studied BAcc LLB in Stellenbosch and completed my Honours in Accounting thereafter.
I love innovating and challenging the status quo in a way that involves and empowers everyone to voice their opinions. I am passionate about the ability of South African talent to build scalable and exportable technology solutions.
Tell us about Pineapple tech?
Pineapple allows people to insure their goods (car insurance coming soon) through their mobile devices, using the camera to snap a picture of the item the user wishes to insure. The AI from there picks up what the item is, allowing the user to buy the recommended monthly premium with ease. Pineapple takes a fixed fee, ensuring that all valid claims are payable. The remaining 70% goes into the user’s Pineapple Wallet which is available for payment of claims. All unused premiums at the end of a 12-month period will be given back in cash, thus taking insurance back to its roots of being community-based − where the community would come together to protect one another.
We have also given our users full control, with the added benefit of ease and convenience − we are 100% app-based. You can insure your items, speak to a Pineapple consultant, make a claim and cancel your policy through the app, without a single phone call, if you choose − oh, and no paperwork! We have seen members get insurance in under five minutes!
Tell us more about your award-winning app?
The app was developed by our amazing team of in-house developers. We leverage the most modern technologies, infrastructures, and methodologies to develop solutions rapidly and responsively. Our agile and modular approach allows us to be rapid enough to keep up with the high demands of our partners, and responsive enough to continuously ingest and positively react to customer feedback, turning it into workable solutions that make the customer experience better. The app strives to make insurance fun, easy, understandable, transparent and rewarding. It is completely paperless, with AI guiding the user journey and allows members to redeem awesome awards from Takealot, Uber Eats, Superbalist, etc, by behaving in a way that helps the community.
You are the first insurance brand to reward our users for being ‘social’? How does this work?
We believe that good ‘social’ behaviour should not go without recognition or reward. ‘Socially responsible’, people in Pineapple speak, are individuals who go out of their way to build their own, large, trusted (social) networks on Pineapple. How? By connecting, engaging and interacting with friends, family, and the people they trust to not make frequent or falsified claims. Choosing the people who you would like to connect with promotes a close, pack-like mentality − moving, growing, earning and getting rewarded as a collective. You are also more conscious of how your own actions could potentially affect the group’s profit share − making you think twice before making an unnecessary claim that can be pinned down to negligence, such as a cracked phone screen.
What is next on your agenda?
Pineapple recently announced an extremely exciting partnership with Old Mutual Insure where we combine the best of both worlds. Their credibility, muscle, and scale coupled with our agility, innovation, and technology are going to make for one powerful insurance offering. We are launching our motor insurance product in April. Pineapple is currently underwritten by Compass Insure.
We are also entering the US market in April. Details of the launch are still confidential.
Advice to start-ups
Culture Build a strong team that is aligned with the vision, principles and way of doing things (company ideologies and beliefs).
Diversity Always think ‘small but diverse’ − different backgrounds and skillsets are an advantage (it helps you see things from a 360-degree angle).
Strategic partnerships Partnering with companies that have the expertise in areas different to your own, and even better when you cannot (as a brand) add a lot of value to the current status quo.
Passion-first sales Learn how to sell what you are doing. This includes pitching and storytelling. If you are passionate and love what you do, if you believe in your brand’s purpose, you are 95% there. The remaining 5% is how you tell the story to help others believe.
Be present Have fun, be positive, focus on solutions and not problems. Being part of a startup should be fun!
Fail fast Be open to growth − the faster you fail, the quicker you will learn!
Human first always People are the most important asset. The people you engage with internally and externally are all potential brand ambassadors: they will live, breathe and speak about your brand. Word of mouth is your most powerful tool as a start-up, so make sure you are humble, kind and positive − it will reflect in the kind of PR and talkability your brand receives.
Awards Pineapple has won
Ventureclash $1,5 million prize (held at Yale University)
First insurtech accepted into Google’s Accelerator
Travelers insurance (Fortune 500 US insurer) innovation award
Stanford University (California) Start-up Award
MTN consumer app of the year
Hartford Insurtech hub US-based accelerator
UK Government GoGlobal start-up