When it comes to innovation, some old-school industries aren’t exactly the epitome of transformation.  But thanks to a number of exciting new partnerships between Microsoft and some cutting edge startups, dramatic change is coming to the insurance industry and other traditionally staid finanical services sectors.

It’s far more sexy than it sounds, according to Microsoft US insurance industry lead Colin McClive, who offers a wealth of insights in the latest episode of Series A-the Podcast.

The New York-based McClive works directly with all of the leading insurance companies across North America –  companies he says are just beginning to embrace the coming revolution, making startups relevant to the enterprise and vice versa.

Colin tells host Jim Brisimitzis his eyes were opened recently at a national industry conference where he expected mostly aging accountants.  Instead, he was overwhelmed by the number of ambitous and whip-smart young people he’d more likely run into at an incubator or hackfest.

“I said ‘why are you guys in actuarial sciences?’ And they said  ‘we’re all math and computer science majors.  It’s where the money is’,” Colin explains.

According to Colin, the insurance industry is a multi-billion dollar business organized around six fundamental areas – each one ripe for disruption: sales and marketing, underwriting, claims, actuarial, investments and financial controlling,

“Whereas Microsoft builds really cool platforms, we don’t necessarily build solutions,” Colin says.  “So it’s an ideal time to bring together the best of Microsoft with partners.”

That’s creating a world of new opportunities for startups.  But connecting the old school with the new kids on the block to come up with solutions isn’t always easy.  That’s where Tereza Nemessanyi, Microsoft for Startups Entrepreneur in Residence, comes in.

Nemessanyi is a veteran founder and startup mentor in New York City.  She’s been working closely with Colin and others at Microsoft to bring the resources of Microsoft to the most innovative startups poised to transform the enterprise.

“To me that means things like access to revenue, saving time, derisking stuff, finding ways to get to solutions you might otherwise not,” she says.

A great example is a recent trip Colin and Tereza took to Colorado, where they cemented a new relationship with Boulder-based Flyreel. The company is at the forefront of incorporating AI and big data to transform all aspects of the insurance industry.  That includes everything from sensors in cars sending accident data instantaneously to insurance agencies to automated visual identification of personal items in a home or business for identification.  Imagine being able to take a picture of your restaurant and having Flyreel rapidly determine the make, model and value of your equipment, furniture and inventory.

And it turns out Flyreel was already building its solutions on Azure, but didn’t know how to get them to the C-level decision makers at the major insurers – insurers clamoring for just such a solution.

“It’s not just technology.  It’s a whole rethinking of the business itself,” Colin says.  “The fun thing for me selfishly altruistic is I get to have something that’s of value and relevant to my customers but  I also get to help a startup get to market. ”

It’s a powerful lesson for other startups across all industries, and one Colin, Tereza and Jim detail with insightful, thought-provoking and humerous accounts in the latest edition of Series A-The Podcast.  Listen now.

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