Academics in Insurtech Innovation

DataCubes’ rapid growth shows there’s a real hunger for insurtech solutions that use sophisticated analytics to streamline and automate commercial underwriting. But breakthroughs in this field don’t come only from innovative startups like DataCubes. Academic institutions play an important role in the insurtech ecosystem. They introduce the next generation of insurance and insurtech leaders to recent machine learning methods and technologies, and expose them to current industry issues. They research and report on novel approaches to solving complex industry problems. They foster interdisciplinary collaboration.


St joes image5 (2)

Judges and students during the competition at Saint Joseph's University.

I thought of all this last week when I served as a judge for Saint Joseph’s University’s Insurance and Technology Innovation Challenge. Located in Philadelphia, Saint Joseph’s is a risk management and insurance leader that offers a major in Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) through the Finance Department of its Haub School of Business. The Innovation Challenge is a Shark-Tank style competition put on by the university’s Maguire Academy of Insurance and Risk Management and held on the Philly campus.

The competition highlighted insurance technology innovations students created to solve real-world challenges in commercial property, commercial auto, and workers compensation. Teams of students explained and demonstrated their solutions, which they developed as part of an upper-division RMI class on property and casualty insurance.


St joes image6 (2)

A team of students presenting their solution to the challenge.

The students who participated in the challenge did a great job. They had creative ideas, and it was fun to hear them speak about new data sources that could be leveraged by (re)insurance and/or insurtech companies, and new ideas on technology to collect and analyze the data. I was impressed with how they approached quantifying the business impact of their ideas.

I also thought back to my own college days. I was a first-generation student, unsure what to major in. I asked people what the hardest major was, and when they said mathematics, I decided I would give it a try. I loved it and started taking every math class I could. I finished the requirements for the major in two years, and went on to earn masters and doctoral degrees in statistics. When I joined DataCubes as Chief Analytics Officer in September, I brought with me nearly 20 years’ experience as a data scientist in large and small insurance companies and as a faculty member at institutions including Oregon State, NYU, and NC State.


St joes image8 (2)

Students field Q&A at the end of their presentation at the competition.

Academic events like the Innovation Challenge are a great way to get students excited about entering the insurtech field and tackling significant challenges. When I look at the passion and talent exhibited by the Saint Joseph’s students—and by my team of experts as we develop rigorous machine learning models that add value for our customers—I’m excited to see the what the next generation of analytics and machine learning solutions will bring. If you’re interested in learning more and/or possibly joining our team, please email me at