Kristian Feldborg, CEO and Founder of Vesuvio Labs, talks to InsTech London Partner Matthew Grant about Vesuvio’s offerings, partners, and setting up businesses thousands of miles from home.
Matthew: Can you talk about your background, and how Vesuvio came to be?
Kristian: I've been working in technology for financial services for 20 years. My role has always been to work with entrepreneurs, helping them deliver whatever vision they’ve had, so it was natural for me to evolve that into a business.
I started Vesuvio as a technology partner focused on execution. Over time, Vesuvio has evolved into a true venture builder; we get involved in more than just technology; we invest in these businesses.
Matthew: How do you decide who to work with?
Kristian: We’re aiming at two types of people. Firstly, the founders – we’re interested in people with great ideas; mature, experienced founders from within the industry, who have specialist knowledge, but perhaps don't know how to build a start-up.
Secondly, the incumbents – corporates who are interested in innovation and technology but might not know how to work with, or source, smaller specialist businesses.
Matthew: Are those ‘mature’ people you mention, with industry understanding and great ideas but lack of tech know-how, underrepresented?
Kristian: Yes, it’s an overlooked space. The accelerators and VCs often prioritise the – let's call them – technology entrepreneurs. Very often a start-up needs to have the product ready to find investment.
At Vesuvio, we have 50 people, most of them are technology-people, who can assist experienced individuals or groups to deliver ideas from a technical point of view. We’re turning the equation on its head.
Matthew: In terms of your core business models, how does Vesuvio generate revenue to keep the business running?
Kristian: It’s about balance – we work with incumbents and we’re not only going to take shares in a PLC for our services. Sometimes we just get paid, and until the end of last year, we were fully funded organically that way.
We use that margin as a way to invest in other things, like our work with start-ups and also our internal R&D. As part of our growth plan, we've aggressively invested in start-ups and we’ve taken some external funding too.
Matthew: Can you talk about any specific clients you've been working with?
Kristian: Right now, we are working with distriBind who offers a SaaS delegated authority platform for insurance customers, facilitating automated real-time data exchange and collaborative error resolution. CEO Dave Connors is a great example of someone who initially sent me a message on Twitter with an idea. We talked it through, and we've gone on this journey together, including getting a grant from Innovate UK.
Now they’re ready to onboard clients and grow. Dave has a ton of market experience; he just needed help turning that into a viable business. Vesuvio has facilitated getting that knowledge out of his head and into a commercial offering.
Matthew: What are you and distriBind doing differently to the rest of the market?
A lot of other solutions in the market are bordereaux solutions. They're not really changing anything; they’re trying to process the spreadsheet a little better. distriBind has decoupled all the risk items from the spreadsheet, separating the good from the bad and processing the good automatically.
Another differentiator is that distriBind’s solution conforms to multiple standards at the same time. We're allowing Lloyds and non-Lloyds business to be processed on the same platform. Flexibility is key and we’ve used AI to ingest and sort formats. For example, columns can be in a different order, there can be custom fields, different headers, and the distriBind platform is still able to find and extract the data to place it into the relevant data model.
Matthew: Onto your other partners – what other projects are you working on right now?
Kristian: We have some very interesting ones. One we are about to launch is Veriwise, which is a business focused on providing legal support to tenants in disputes with their landlords. It provides a way for tenants to understand what their rights are, then guides them through the process of getting the issues resolved.
It’s a great example to illustrate Vesuvio’s approach. In this case, there is legal processing, there's an insurance element, and there's a credit element with costs and disbursements – we’ve built a system to put multiple issues and tasks into one simple workflow.
I’m also proud of InShare SMART Risk, which is another business about to launch. It’s a complicated piece of work aimed at risk-sharing in Mutuals, which are organisations effectively owned by policyholders and it creates a pot of money that all policyholders contribute to. When one has a claim, the money comes out of that pot. If there is potential for a very big claim, then it relies on having some reinsurance set up too.
The benefit is that customers only pay for the part they’re insuring, so technically they’re likely to get a better premium. Secondly, if there's money left in the pot at the end of the year, it’s split between contributors. With our platform, Cicero, we’re using the mutual model to look at new kinds of global risk-sharing.
Matthew: Can you tell us more about Cicero?
Kristian: Cicero is a low-code platform for orchestrating different user experiences and it’s agnostic to the user journey. Having Cicero as a starting tool, our goal is to shorten the time it takes to deliver propositions by dealing with repetitive things like managing users, designing forms, workflows, themes and reports.
Matthew: Do those Mutuals collaborate outside of insurance, or do they exist solely to share the costs of insurance?
Kristian: The thing contributors have in common, primarily, is not insurance. They might all be taxi drivers, or lawyers, or share all manner of other professions and risks. It's also likely that they are collaborating, sharing information, and have a social link too – a proper community. We help them wrap that community in some insurance protection.
Matthew: Vesuvio is based in London, but you now have people working for you in Qatar and Nepal. How is that expansion going?
Kristian: We started in Canary Wharf in 2014, and after a couple of years we set up our Offshore Development Centre in Nepal. We grew these together, fully integrated from the beginning.
We opened an office in Qatar in 2020 and we’ve been well-received there. We’re helping develop ecosystems as part of transitioning the economy into new sectors. We’ve also found some Qatari investors, which is also important to our continued development.
Matthew: What has your experience of working in Asia been like so far?
Kristian: The network in Qatar is still at a very early stage. Being right at the start of things does present some challenges, but what Qatar does have is intent and funds to put behind ideas. There is a clear sense that we’re not there to disrupt anyone, but to help create something.
I see lots of pitch decks that have more or less the same plan. “We will build this thing in the UK and then go to America.” I would encourage people to look east as well. There are interesting opportunities if companies find the right people to collaborate with. We have leads coming in, not just from Qatar, but from Dubai, Jordan and Turkey as well.
Matthew: You mentioned incumbent insurers earlier. How can Vesuvio help them?
Kristian: What we’re finding at the moment is lots of corporates are setting up innovation labs and are looking for a good way to engage with start-ups. Vesuvio has a lot to offer in that space through our platforms and partners. That is something I would like to see us doing more of.
Matthew: Finally, it's great to have Vesuvio as a member of InsTech London. What made you want to become a corporate member?
Kristian: InsTech London has such an important role to play and we get a lot of inquiries through your community. Sometimes it’s direct, but it’s also sometimes through people hearing about what we do from other InsTech London members.
We really do benefit from being a member and hopefully, we can support and remain part of the next generation of innovation.
For more information on Vesuvio Labs, go to vesuvio.io