How SA’s Surestart is helping e-commerce businesses distribute insurance products


South African insurtech startup Surestart is enabling e-commerce and platform businesses to distribute insurance products without the administrative and regulatory restrictions that go with it.

Founded in 2016, Surestart has reimagined insurance delivery and partners with e-commerce businesses that can offer insurance as an additional revenue stream.

“We design products to enhance their platform,” says Travys Wilkins, executive director of Surestart.

While regulations in the insurance industry, especially in the intermediary space, are so stringent as to dissuade e-commerce businesses from becoming distributors, as there is little margin available after costly overheads and operational expenses, Surestart helps its customers overcome that problem.

Partners add value to their offerings using Surestart to automate the sales and administration process. There is minimal human intervention, which ensures low operational costs, and Surestart enables full compliance with all applicable legislation. The e-commerce business does not need to become a financial services provider and risk is shared with insurance partners. 

One platform company that has included two Surestart offerings is home cleaning service SweepSouth, which makes available an optional add-on cover for damage, theft or fire via a check box option offered to clients on check out, and has also added domestic insurance to its platform. More companies like this have started using Surestart since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in fact.

“COVID-19 has rapidly ramped up the success of e-commerce businesses with whom we partner. In fact, we’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in sales throughout lockdown,” Wilkins said. 

“There’s been a marked shift in consumer demand and buying behaviour. Where insurance was traditionally sold face-to-face via brokers, social distancing meant that customers had to get comfortable buying insurance via digital channels.”

Surestart is playing a key role here, tackling the problems traditionally experienced in the insurance industry by using tech to allow a client to self-onboard instead of being sold to. Because it’s a primarily tech offering, it reduces cost, manual errors and time delays and provides complete transparency at the same time increasing the accessibility of products. Surestart’s business model is to share revenue with its partners.

Wilkins believes that the “new insurance normal” is likely to be a hybrid model, with outbound staff complemented by digital channels. The angel-funded Surestart, which earns revenue through regulated commission and fees, is carving out a niche for itself in this new world.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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