Startups are throwing us out of the comfort zone

The innovative Vigo insurance for motorcycles is the result of a successful collaboration between an established insurance company and a startup, which began at the Insuretech innovation event in Venture Factory, business incubator of the University of Maribor.

By collaborating with Movalyse d.o.o., Zavarovalnica Sava offered the most modern motorcycle insurance to motorcyclists in Slovenia, which includes theft and fire insurance, and provides an automatic SOS signal in case the worst happens.

Miha Pahulje, board member at Zavarovalnica Sava, and Rok Upelj, cofounder and CEO of Movalyse, talk about the opportunities, successes, advantages and benefits of partnerships between corporations and startups, but also about the potential traps.


Miha Pahulje, board member at Zavarovalnica Sava: “Startups are throwing us out of our comfort zone, but we still feel better with their help than without them, as they know to react faster and more skilfully.”

Startups as well as scaleups have become a valuable resource for corporations, who can use their help to ensure innovation and consequently growth. Business culture in an established company should also be raised to a certain new level with the help of startups and scaleups. To what extent has collaboration between Zavarovalnica Sava and Movalyse maybe already changed the corporate culture in the company? 

Miha: “Collaboration with Movalyse has strongly accelerated the change in our corporate innovation culture. With help of and collaboration with startups, we are successfully transferring the innovation culture to a broader circle of employees, working to implement accelerated digitalization but mostly trying to improve the user experience of insurants exactly where the insurants themselves recognize values added. This means everything from smaller improvements to significantly more ambitiously set innovation projects.

With this successful story, we confirmed that together with a startup, it is possible to create something new, innovative and useful for insurants, who expect the insurance company to make an important step on time, to introduce many best practices that put their modern needs to the forefront, and to offer solutions that answer this need at a high level of quality.”

Trust is built by people, not companies

The fact is that you come from different worlds, so – how many adjustments did you need to make and how did you manage to establish mutual trust, which is key for business success?

Miha: “There were many adjustments on both sides, but already the first steps of collaboration have triggered real chemistry between us. We have been building mutual trust since the beginning, confirmed it during the pilot project, and we continue to build it through mutual respect and excellent collaboration for the common good. We have practically merged into one team, where each and every individual is working professionally and gives his or her best to the team, where all the activities are oriented towards reaching a common goal.”

Rok: “As far as we are concerned, there were actually fewer adjustments than expected. At first, we were really afraid, especially once so many people got involved and we hadn’t had contact with them at the beginning at all. But I would like to highlight two reasons that I think were crucial in making adjustments and collaboration easier: first, there was a strong interest for collaboration from both sides, but we were all in a big hurry, so it wasn’t even possible to make things too complicated; and second – wherever possible, we communicated only with a limited number of people, who then further arranged things internally.
Trust simply had to be built, and it’s built by people, not companies – that was also the case with us.”

It’s usually the case that startups like the experience of established companies, their support from clients, resources, also finances. Rok, what was the most valuable thing that collaboration with Zavarovalnica Sava has brought you so far, and what else does it promise?

“A corporation offers an entire aspect of knowledge as well as a comprehensive infrastructure, including marketing, sales, technical knowledge and more, which is invaluable for startups. The key question is mostly whether the exchange of information and knowledge is simple and fast enough, so that it doesn’t take more energy and momentum from the startup than it gives benefits.

In our case, Zavarovalnica Sava quickly grasped how to coordinate their communication so that we would not sense their internal coordination, inevitable in a corporation, any more than necessary. To highlight the most valuable benefits we received until now: they definitely include sales and marketing channels, and the comprehensive technical knowledge on preparing insurance products.”

More confident and with legitimately high expectations

We will probably not be able to talk about the real effects of the partnership for quite some time, but what can you already say about the strength of this partnership?

Miha: “The partnership has brought numerous challenges, but we solved all of them regularly and consensually, and partially with compromises on one side or the other. The concept of an experiental partnership, meaning not necessarily on paper, gives us a good starting point for other future similar projects. At the same time, we hope that in time, more positive effects of this partnership will become apparent.

Rok: “Currently we can only say that a corporation and a startup can successfully and equally collaborate and exchange knowledge, and we believe that future opportunities are incredible. We know that both sides put all their efforts into a successful and lean product launch to the market, and this launch will also answer the question of whether we did everything correctly and whether it makes sense to continue in the same direction.”

Rok Upelj, Movalyse: Work on what you do best and find complementary partners.

Which knowledge and skills was Zavarovalnica Sava able to learn from the Movalyse team and vice versa? Or – what did the Zavarovalnica Sava team contribute to the joint innovation process, and what the Movalyse team?

Miha: “The Zavarovalnica Sava team has supplemented the excellent technological knowledge of Movalyse with its insurance knowledge, and vice versa. By collaborating on a pilot project already, we researched missing contents and added to them, put the story together in a way that allowed us to detect problems on time, to know where they were and to regularly eliminate them.

Through testing, various users contributed to the design of the final product, which is actually a reflection of their needs, offering a useful solution that’s worth something to them. When launching the novelty, we stepped on the market confidently and with legitimately high expectations.”

Conditions are changing, you need to adapt to them

The beginnings of your collaboration stem from the Insurtech Innovation Weekend at Venture Factory in Autumn 2017, where the Movalyse team was presenting a black box for motorcyclists. Collaboration ties were woven and, as said before, Vigo insurance against motorcycle theft is the result. How crucial are such events for establishing relationships between two different worlds?

Miha: “Such events are an important bridge between the two worlds. This way, we can recognize the same business interests in different publics and establish the first contact with them faster and with higher quality. We can get to know potential new partners who can help us develop new solutions, not always necessarily in their field. New partners can bring value added, both for clients and our employees.”

Rok: “From the perspective of a startup, what’s most important is to gain at least general support of all decision-makers in a corporation at the beginning. So, if decision-makers are at such events, as was the case at Insurtech weekend, this is ideal, if they aren’t, it’s questionable what can really be achieved.”

Collaboration between Zavarovalnica Sava and startup Movalyse

But still – there was an idea pivot, from a black box to theft insurance. Pivoting the idea isn’t rare in the startup world, but it’s probably rarer in the world of established corporations, right, Miha?

Miha: “That’s true to a certain extent. In the past, there was less of this in bigger, already established companies, but we have also recently started facing situations where during the development of a certain product, we realize that the direction we originally planned is not the right one, and then we need to quickly react and change the product, business model … because insisting on the preordained path would not give the desired results. Circumstances are quickly changing and you need to continuously adapt.”

We feel better with startups than without them

When it comes to mutual collaboration, its benefits, effects … what advice can you give, each from your point of view, to established companies and startups, especially to attendees at PODIM, which is an excellent networking platform?

Miha: “Probably not all big companies are lucky enough to immediately find a startup company that they want to collaborate with in the future. Zavarovalnica Sava has found exactly that. We wish to continue to collaborate with Movalyse on even more challenges and more markets.

Because lucky stories are for the brave and the daring, I believe that good things happen to those who dare and who are brave. Big corporations learn about established innovation concepts faster together with startups. Startups are throwing us out of our comfort zones, but we still feel better with them than without them, because they know how to react faster and more skilfully.”

Rok: “Work on what you do best and find complementary partners. From the point of view of startups, I would definitely say that you shouldn’t lose time if you see that things aren’t moving or that there is no support from the key decision-makers. If you are in doubt, there is none. I would like to thank Miha for the compliment but maybe correct it just a little – namely, it’s not about luck, but about the active approach by Zavarovalnica Sava, and further support and trust, which also makes it easier for us to justify trust. I believe that we are actually only at the beginning of a successful story that we are writing together.”

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