If you’re anything like me, you think the world of insurance is bland and uninteresting. Miranda, an insurance automation startup, is bringing a human quality to this industry.
Miranda is creating an application that automates insurance operations by integrating a chatbot framework with popular messaging apps and Customer Relationship Management Systems.
This week I sat down with the cofounders Sara Liu (Stern ‘22) and Alberto Chierici (Tandon ‘22) to learn more about the safety net that is insurance.
Tell me about yourselves.
Sara: I am a rising sophomore at the business school. I have always been interested in entrepreneurship. In highschool, the stationary shop I created expanded into a physical bookstore.
Alberto: I have been working in the insurance sector for the past ten years - first as an actuary for large insurance companies in Italy, then as a consultant. Now I am pursuing a Computer Science PhD at NYU Abu Dhabi.
How did you meet?
Alberto: When I was in New York I was attempting to recruit people for my company. I attended any and every networking event and bootcamp. At one event I sat by Sara, we chatted briefly, and I learned that she was looking for a summer internship, so I hired her.
Sara: I started as an intern, then I became more involved in making big decisions for Miranda and influencing the company’s development. Ultimately we decided that I move forward as a cofounder.
How did the idea for Miranda come about?
Alberto: An insurance agent from Italy contacted me two years ago on LinkedIn and requested that I develop a chatbot for his website. I picked it up as a side project. When I came to New York, I discovered that insurance agents in the United States experience similar problems to my former Italian employers. My fascination with their shared frustrations is what sparked the idea for developing an automation software to help streamline their workflow: from the initial stage of finding a lead to acquiring a new customer.
Where does the name come from?
Alberto: Miranda was the name of the first chatbot I built for the Italian insurance agent. Miranda is also the name of one of the first satellites that was discovered orbiting around Uranus. The idea is that the planet is an insurance agency - a traditional, grounded type of business. The satellite, our software, is something that illustrates space innovation and dynamic movement. The unit, both traditional and innovative, works to keep itself grounded and moving forward in the same way that Miranda works with agents.
Break down insurance for someone who has never heard of it.
Alberto: In theory, insurance is a common fund in which many people pay a small amount of money. If something happens to one of the members of the fund, the member will be covered (financially). The beautiful thing about this mechanism is that it has a social aspect as well as a mathematical one. The social aspect is that by opting in you are helping someone in a bad situation. The mathematical component is that the concept of insurance fulfils a statistical law - the larger the number of people who pool their money together is, the less each member is required to pay. This makes insurance viable and affordable. Unfortunately, the reality of insurance today is much more complex and confusing.
Explain what you do and why it matters to people who do not work in insurance.
Alberto: Working in insurance helped me understand the utility and the importance of having something akin to a rainy day fund ready in case an emergency happens. Miranda recognizes the importance of having professional support and is creating better access to insurance. On a business level it is even more important. Without Insurance transportation systems such as the MTA could not operate. It serves as a prevention mechanism for the business and its customers. For a business to pay less in insurance, it must have proper risk containment systems and measures in place to regulate health and safety. Insurance obliges businesses to maintain social responsibility.
Sara: It is important that insurance is simple. The marketplace is not fair - especially when you look at the statistics of how many Americans do not have coverage. We are changing that.
Talk about your audience.
Sara: Our main audience is 25 - 35 year old independent insurance agents in the United States who sell insurance to small to medium business owners and high net worth individuals owning multiple homes and properties. They are a friendly and personable bunch who are passionate about protecting their clients.
What is the trickiest part of your business or industry?
Alberto: It is a stagnant industry and we are a fast paced team. We would like to move forward swiftly; however, insurance is slow paced in terms of communication as well as innovation.
What unique challenges are you working through right now?
Alberto: There are so many problems insurance agents have. We are working through pinpointing the problems of greatest urgency.
Who have been some mentors to you in your journey? What do you look for in a mentor?
Alberto: We have mentors in the insurance space as well as mentors here at the Leslie eLab; both of whom have helped us refine our value proposition and cover our blind spots. In a mentor, we seek candidness and value former entrepreneurs’ experience. However, we recognize that many mentors have different points of view, so we work to find what is valuable and useful among varying pieces of advice.
What are your Summer Launchpad highlights?
Alberto: Having a place that holds us accountable is the biggest highlight. We appreciate the mock board meetings that have helped us prepare for real ones.
Sara: The speakers have given us tremendous business development inspiration.
What would you tell other NYU students considering launching a startup?
Aberto: Never ever ever give up!
Sara: You will never be ready, so why not just do it now?
Describe your teammate in one word.
Alberto: Sara is extremely Resourceful.
Sara: Alberto is like Family.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Alberto: We see vulnerability as a strength. And showing weakness is not weak.
The duo is big on communication. They are somewhat of a long distance startup which thrives through open dialogue, honesty, and transparency.
Miranda is also currently developing a blog called Uncover Agent - exploring the lives of the humans behind insurance. The website is intended to make the insurance world simpler and “not so boring.” Read more here.