Do you know what your stuff's worth? Trov raises $6.5M to reinvent insurance for the mobile generation

By Michael Carney , written on February 26, 2015

From The News Desk

Millennials, the largest generation since the Baby Boomers (their parents), have almost no relationship with the insurance industry. This is in part due to low rates of home ownership --and a general malaise toward renter's insurance -- but also due to the fact that the insurance industry has yet to deliver a solution that speaks this massive group’s language the way Wealthfront and Venmo do for personal finances, or Gilt, Wish, and Instacart do for retail commerce.

You’d be hard pressed to find an industry bigger than insurance that has yet to be disrupted by technology, particularly the rise in mobile. More than $1.2 trillion in property casualty premiums alone were paid in 2012, with this coverage all priced and sold nearly identically to how it was for the last several decades. But there’s a sea-change coming.

Trov, a three-year-old company founded by former DebtMarket and C2B Technologies founder Scott Walchek, is eyeing this massive opportunity. Today, Trov announced $6.5 million in Series B funding in a round led by Geneva’s Anthemis Group, bringing its total capitalization to $13.3 million. Anthemis’ Sean Park and Facebook Director of Analytics Ken Rudin will join the company’s board of directors.

Trov offers consumers an app-based platform that allows these users to discover and track the real-time value of their belonging. Users simply upload the items they own to a digital locker, either by scanning a product UPC code, entering an auto VIN number or a home address, or looking up individual items in an in-app database. The value of these items is then tracked over time. The platform exited beta in Summer 2014 and has been steadily growing its installed base around the world, with over over $3 billion worth of item value currently stored in people's Trovs.

Walcheck’s company has partnered with proprietary data sources – like Zillow (US real estate), Blackbook (US autos), Symantics3 (global consumer products), Slice (global purchase tracking), Glass's Guide (Australian autos), and RP Data (Australian real estate) – to make sourcing real-time value for common items near-instant and painless.

“We started off going after the more esoteric, high-net-worth stuff like art collections early in the company’s life,” Walcheck said. “But we’ve since shifted our focus to millennials, in part based on the realization that the they’re just entering their acquisitive years and the majority of their purchases leave the type of digital exhaust that allows you to collect info on their value and track changes over time.”

If knowledge is power, Trov stands to empower an entirely new class of consumers to better understand the value of their possessions, and how that value changes over time. The platform offers a pseudo-gamification element around asset building – materialistic as that may sound – and should appeal to his data-obsessed, quantified-self generation. The company’s tagline is, after all, “Trov automatically collects and values your things so you can do more with them.” It’s a hopeful and open-ended promise that one can’t help but want to explore.

According to Walcheck, Trov has also entered exclusive partnerships with two of the world's largest insurance carriers (yet unnamed) and will soon be offering non-US users the ability to insure their stuff more simply and efficiently than ever before. Judging by the above data partnerships, it’s a good bet that UK and Australian users may be the first to test out the company’s insurance offerings, although Walcheck is remaining mum about the details until an upcoming public announcement of the partnership and offerings slated for the first half of this year.

Walcheck further hints that Trov will look to raise a far larger round of financing, likely in part via a strategic partner, once it’s formally launched its insurance offering and can do so on more attractive terms.

“There’s really been a bifurcation in the insurance industry between those companies that get the enormity of challenge ahead and those that don't,” Walcheck says. “There are several companies that have institutionalizing the idea that they'll be disrupted and are doing everything they can to make sure they’ll be there and have a piece of those upcoming disruptors when the time comes.”

As Walchek explains it, the insurance industry is based on a simple ratio between coverage outstanding and the value of the items being insured. Throughout the lifetime of the industry, the latter half of that equation, the value of the underlying items, has been little more than a guess. Trov’s core offering is to help insurers better identify and thus price their coverage around that value.

Auto liability insurance is one of the only categories within the broader insurance market to embrace mobile technology, with companies like State Farm offering safe driver discounts based on real-time driving data recorded to an under-dash OBD-II device. Metromile uses similar technology to offer per-mile insurance, so that those who drive less, pay less. But this is largely all the innovation that Millennials can find in insurance today.

Trov has grown its Danville, CA-based team to 25 mostly product-focused people and has plans to grow considerably in the coming year. Walchek has built an impressive senior team including former Microsoft Advanced Research Head Jim Gemmell as Trov’s CTO and serial entrepreneur Mark Dowds as his EVP of Business Development.

The Trov app works great as a digital locker in the US, but the company will focus outside the country for its early insurance products, owing largely to America’s byzantine regulatory environment and complicated jurisdictional makeup. Whether the company can ultimately summit this mountain and reinvent US insurance remains to be seen, but the "rest of the world" nevertheless represents a fairly massive market.

If Trov can succeed in organizing a generation’s belongings, there are tremendous opportunities available ahead for the company, insurance being just one of them. Walchek calls insurance the company’s “true north,” but admits there are “four compass points” of industries he thinks Trov can reinvent in the future, the sharing economy and digital advertising being among them.

The insurance industry won’t look anything like it does today one decade from now. Too much is changing in how consumers relate to large companies and how they shop and consume for the status quo to survive much longer. By shining a light on the asset value side of the equation, Trov has the potential to better inform all participants in an insurance contract. To say that makes this an interesting product is a massive understatement indeed.