“We support start-ups and scale-ups in scaling their business”

Interview with Bessem Ayari, Head of Innovation Strategy & Scouting at ERGO

Digitalisation & Technology, 26.06.2024

At the start of this year's Start-up Week Düsseldorf, ERGO presented the new scale-up programme ERGO ScaleHub”. Together with the two partners Wirtschaftsförderung Düsseldorf and TechHub.K67, the insurer wants to provide targeted support for scale-ups in the fields of healthcare, finance and insurance in Düsseldorf in future. Bessem Ayari, Head of Innovation Strategy & Scouting at ERGO, sheds light on the details of this exciting new cooperation.

Bessem Ayari, Head of Innovation Strategy & Scouting bei ERGO

Hello Bessem, congratulations on the successful launch of the "ERGO ScaleHub"! First of all, please help us to clarify the terminology: we have often described here on //next that we at ERGO have been working successfully with start-ups for a long time, for example in the interview with you or with our colleague Hanbing Ma, Head of Innovation & Digital Transformation at ERGO. But what are scale-ups?

Thank you very much, I would like to pass this on to the team that made the new cooperation possible in the first place! Regarding your question: We define scale-ups as comparatively young companies that have already successfully completed their start-up phase – and are now aiming for rapid and scalable growth in the next step. They have already successfully established themselves on the market, but now want to offer their products or services to a much larger customer base – in other words, scale their business upwards. A great example is the Indian scale-up CamCom, which has already joined our new "ScaleHub". This young, innovative team offers an award-winning AI solution for visual self-inspection and assessment of vehicle damage on almost any surface. This allows users to instantly calculate premiums and settle claims with insurers. Their solution is already being used by some of the largest insurance companies in India, the Middle East and South East Asia. HDFC ERGO in India has also been working successfully with CamCom for over five years!

Does the launch of the "ERGO ScaleHub" mean that ERGO will be focussing more on collaborating with such established companies in future – and less on very young start-ups?

Well, the transition between these classifications is of course fluid. Our strategic direction remains focussed on integrating innovative solutions and technologies into our business – regardless of whether they come from start-ups or scale-ups. While start-ups often contribute fresh ideas and agile approaches, scale-ups already offer proven products and a certain degree of market maturity. An important aspect is that scale-ups are often better able to fulfil the high regulatory standards that are necessary in the insurance industry. Insurance is a business that thrives on trust and security, and we must ensure this in all technological solutions. Our aim is to support both phases of the company's growth in order to strengthen our innovative power and offer our customers the best solutions.

Speaking of cooperation: How can we imagine the cooperation in practice? What do we as ERGO offer our two partners and, above all, the scale-ups? In other words  with a view to our brand essence – what do we make "easier" for the others?

Well, the scale-ups have access to ERGO's internal mentoring and expert network, where they can exchange ideas on specialised insurance topics, business models or financing issues. Through the Accelerator, we at ERGO also want to give them the opportunity to come into contact with national and international venture capital and corporate venture capital investors. 

In addition, our international business and start-up network is of course also available to the scale-ups. They also test their solutions for customer satisfaction, cost-effectiveness and functionality as part of project-based realisations at ERGO, so-called "Proof of Concepts" (POC). And, of course, we also support internationalisation projects for further scaling. 

In addition to this, the Düsseldorf Economic Development Agency would like to support the scale-ups with a possible relocation to Düsseldorf. This can take the form of arranging contacts for visas, applying for funding or finding contacts for legal and tax matters. Support will also be provided for trade fair appearances and property searches. 

At our partner TechHub.K67, a community space, the participating start-ups also have access to premises that they can use for a previously agreed project duration and start-up phase of the product. Here, the companies meet a broad, regional network of other start-ups and scale-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large corporations. They also benefit from regular events and workshops to present themselves to other potential investors and customers.

And what do we as an insurer gain from this cooperation? To what extent does it help us achieve our strategic goal of becoming the digital leader in our industry by the end of 2025?

By working with scale-ups and start-ups, we can identify innovative technologies and business models at an early stage and integrate them into our company. This allows us to continuously im-prove our digital processes and offerings, and we can provide our customers and employees with state-of-the-art solutions. The "ERGO ScaleHub" helps us to accelerate our digital transformation by benefiting from the innovative approaches of the scale-ups and at the same time expanding our own expertise. The cooperation also strengthens our position as an attractive partner for forward-looking companies, which will help us to become the digital leader in our industry by 2025.

Interview: Ingo Schenk

Read more

What motivates the ERGO partners Wirtschaftsförderung Düsseldorf and TechHub.K67 to work together as part of the “ERGO ScaleHub”? And to what extent do the scale-ups benefit? We will be answering these questions soon in further interviews and background reports on the new cooperation.

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