Founder and CEO: Soton Rosanwo
Year founded: 2022
Centinel is a startup supported by the Northwestern Mutual Black Founder Accelerator® powered by gener8tor.
Soton Rosanwo is good at managing things. Over the course of her professional career, she has applied her managerial skills in a range of industries — media, e-commerce, consulting and insurance — where she handled everything from operations and marketing to organizational design. But in 2018, when she left her job as a case team leader with a global management consultancy for a strategy and innovation position at a national insurance company, a troubling issue inspired her to take the leap from manager to entrepreneur. She noticed that many of the common risks people face every day are not typically covered — or are extremely difficult to cover — by using standard property-and-casualty (P&C) insurance products.
Rosanwo suspected the widespread proliferation of data and increasing access to it could be leveraged to address these types of coverage gaps. So in 2022, she founded Centinel, an insurtech startup that seeks to reimagine insurance coverage by providing a claims-free service for risks that are difficult to insure in these four areas: infectious diseases, interrupted utilities, climate change and event cancellations.
Below she explains how the company’s platform works, offers some tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, and shares why her ultimate goal is to provide peace of mind on a global scale.
How does your platform work?
Centinel provides claims-free coverage for hard-to-insure risks by taking what’s called a parametric approach. We’re not focused on the level of damage that the policyholder experiences. We just focus on whether the parameters that define a risk have occurred or not. It’s a new approach to covering hard-to-insure risks that traditional insurance doesn’t and can’t adequately cover.
We use an AI-powered tool that assists policyholders in identifying and acquiring coverage for relevant risks. We lay out your personalized coverage terms in clear, easy-to-understand language. For example, if your coverage terms include a power outage of a certain duration occurring where you live, you will receive your chosen payout amount. Once you’ve activated your policy, we scan real-time databases to determine if a risk has occurred. If we find that a risk you’ve purchased coverage for has occurred, we’ll automatically send you a payment.
What do you ultimately hope to accomplish?
The goal is to provide peace of mind when traditional insurance isn’t enough. The next time catastrophe strikes — for example, a massive hurricane that leaves people without power for days or weeks on end — people will know that they don’t have to be concerned that their insurance isn’t going to cover it. Centinel will detect that a policyholder experienced this risk and immediately send them an automatic payment to help them get their lives back on track.
Insurance is an important component of a financial plan. What general advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their finances?
I often think of that quote: “What gets measured, gets done.” You have to first define your vision in order to articulate the milestone goals to get you there. Being able to track your progress against those milestones is key. I’m not saying that your vision will never change over time. It will; in fact, it should. But the process underlying it — defining your vision, articulating your goals, tracking your progress — should not.
The first thing you need to do is define your vision: Is this about paying for college for your kids? Or are you trying to get to retirement? Then you can map out the steps to get there. You may need to bring in outside counsel. Whether that means talking to a financial advisor or just somebody in your family or your friend network who is gifted when it comes to budgeting and defining visions for the future, definitely reach out. Know that it’s OK to ask for help.
Would you give similar advice to Black entrepreneurs?
Yes. When it comes to being successful in entrepreneurship, there are three critical resources: access to capital, networking, and mentorship. Those are resources that an entrepreneur, especially a Black entrepreneur, may struggle to obtain. So, my advice would be to embed yourself in adjacent, business-focused communities to give yourself the best chance to get those resources. You’re going to have to look for communities that are willing to support Black entrepreneurs. If you focus only on the community that looks most like you, you may find yourself limited in being able to obtain those three things.
Where do you see your business in the future?
Right now, we are focused on providing coverage for hard-to-insure risks to consumers and businesses within the U.S. — but this is a global challenge. As we continue to grow, we want to provide even greater peace of mind when insurance isn’t enough by not only expanding the risk areas and categories that we cover, but the geographies as well.
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