The Silicon Review
Verikai: A Values-Driven Company, Taking Underwriting into the Future
Founded in 2018, Verikai is a machine learning predictive risk tool for underwriters and brokers across the health insurance industry. What makes Verikai different is its focus on the future. The typical way health underwriting works today puts far too much weight on the past. Rating manuals look at age, gender, location, and work industry. Most insurers use some combination of rating manuals and previous claims data to predict future risk. Verikai is the only risk tool in the insurtech space that uses behavioral data (as well as previous claims and Rx data) to evaluate risk – creating a much more thorough idea of how individuals will claim in the future. The company has created a system that views risk in a completely different scope than its competition, and the results speak for themselves.
Verikai is the first company to apply alternative data with machine learning to risk prediction in insurance. The company’s models are more mature than anything else on the market (and it would be mighty hard – probably impossible – to catch up to an ever-evolving AI system like Verikai’s). Other risk prediction tools focus primarily on prescriptions and claims data. While those are important pieces of the puzzle, they don’t tell the whole story. For example, if an individual broke their leg while skiing last year, should we expect them to break another bone this year? Probably not. For companies predicting solely from last year’s claims, they would probably give this individual a higher rate because of the injury. Verikai takes thousands of pieces into account to give the best forecast.
The San Francisco, California-based company has more than 5,000 clinical and behavioral attributes for 250+ million people in the United States that provide deep insights into these individuals’ true health risks. “When you compare our models’ analysis to our competitions (looking at historic groups), our predictions are leaps and bounds more accurate. That’s where Verikai’s innovation is. We focus on future predictors, driven by behavioral data,” said Jeff Chen, CEO.
Established as recently as 2018, Verikai has done some great work in a short time. One of the reasons for the company’s success is the unparalleled culture cultivated at Verikai. The company’s leadership has been able to accomplish so much in so little time. For a seeded company to really thrive, you need two things: product-market fit and good people. By providing a positive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated, the opportunity for success is invaluable. “Product-market fit is vital but without the smart, driven, and dedicated people we have at Verikai, we would be nowhere near as successful as we are today,” commented Verikai’s CEO.
Verikai’s leadership truly cares about the well-being of its people. While the employees have great benefits, what stands apart at Verikai is that its leadership invests an extraordinary amount of their own time into every one to ensure that they are healthy, happy, and doing the work they want to do at a high level. As the company continues to scale up and grow, Jeff Chen continues to encourage a flat-structured culture at Verikai. And when a top executive has an open-door policy and shows how much he cares about fostering great talent, the other company leaders bring that enthusiasm down the line.
“We prioritize our culture as much as we do our clients. To me, culture is like a plant – when you water it regularly it thrives but the moment you stop, it will die. We do everything possible to foster a great culture. We follow through on our values and give creative freedom, encouraging taking risks and being innovative. I don’t believe in micro-management because when you give talented people autonomy and put your trust in them, they will reward you with great work,” added Mr. Chen. Ultimately, Verikai’s culture strives to make each and every person feel valued and important. “We truly believe when you treat your people well, there are no limits.”
Jeff’s hiring in January 2020 was a game-changer for Verikai. Jeff has focused his time at Verikai on creating a strong go-to-market strategy and stronger culture. His leadership and execution has helped make real waves in the industry, resulting in accelerated success, which Verikai has had in spades this year.
Operating fully remotely, Verikai offers many of the benefits and activities that have been adopted by companies around the globe. But how do you encourage employees to get to know each other and feel connected when they are not in an office together? “For us, we have bi-monthly company-wide happy hours, as well as spur-of-the-moment get-togethers and sub-group gatherings. The happy hours have become an employee favorite, as they’re a great way to connect across divisions on a personal level,” answered Jeff Chen.
Since the onset of the pandemic, aside from implementing social activities, Verikai also places a large emphasis on the importance of mental health. In a startup environment, where everyone is working towards a goal they feel so passionate about, it can be hard to disconnect – especially when there isn’t much going on outside of work. “We decided to take our unlimited paid-time-off policy one step further by implementing company-wide recharge days. This allowed everyone to take a much-needed mental break.” The San Francisco-headquartered company also provided additional mental health support resources through its health insurance plan at no cost. “We are passionate about keeping both initiatives in place going forward.”
Also, to provide a comfortable and healthy working environment, Verikai gave each employee a stipend they could use to elevate their home office workspace. The company also initiated a weekly GrubHub allowance for all employees since the start of the pandemic. This was an option because a large part of Verikai’s yearly budget goes towards travel, and with the pandemic, no one was going anywhere. “We viewed this benefit as an opportunity to not only support our employees and their families, but also help support local businesses that were greatly impacted by the pandemic,” emphasized Verikai’s CEO Jeff Chen.
Insurance as an industry and as a societal function serves the greater common good. While Verikai might not have been able to make an immediate impact on individuals affected by COVID-19, its product uniquely solves a long-standing problem within group health insurance underwriting.
Verikai is now focused on expanding the Marketplace it launched in July. “Our primary focus is on enhancing the platform to make it the absolute best it can be as we see the Marketplace adding tremendous value to the industry. It’s the really early days for that product,” concluded Jeff Chen, CEO. The company is also constantly finding new data sources and recalibrating its models to improve precision. “No one will ever be able to predict risk with 100% accuracy, but we get a little closer with every new model.”
Jeffrey Chen, CEO
With over 20 years of experience as a management consultant and enterprise software leader, Jeff Chen brings his unique operational strategy mindset and extensive leadership expertise to continue to drive Verikai towards a vision for success.
Jeff is a unique leader that challenges the status quo with his innovative ideas and versatility, allowing him to see the company from all angles. He leads by example – always striving to be the best and encouraging others to do the same.
Prior to joining Verikai, he spent six years at Guidewire Software leading their value sales organization. Before his move into software, he worked at multiple consulting firms, advising fortune 500 companies for over a decade on customer strategy and operations. Jeff holds a BS from Penn State University, MS from George Washington University, and an MBA from Georgetown University.