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Launch HN: SafetyWing (YC W18) – A Global Safety Net for Digital Nomads
157 points by SRasch 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments
Hi HN! We're the founders of SafetyWing in the current YC batch. We're working on a global safety net for online freelancers, starting with health insurance, which you can get here: https://www.safetywing.com

When we quit our jobs to become digital nomads, we discovered that if you are not a full-time employee, you're pretty much on your own. You lose stable income and most benefits when you earn money as a freelancer or entrepreneur, and lose the rest of your safety nets by being abroad. We decided to do something about this, and the result is SafetyWing.

We're three Norwegians: Sondre is also founder of freelancer platform Konsus.com (YC W16). Sarah is CTO, former lead engineer of ad-network Tapdaq & she’s also a musician. Hans a is lawyer and former head of legal at Auka, which is like white-label Venmo.

Our first product is $37 per month (4 weeks) for worldwide travel and medical insurance ($30 add-on for US, since US healthcare is much more expensive). It only works when you’re outside your home country, although there is 30 days home country coverage every 3 months so you can visit home (15 for U.S. residents). Covers hospital, doctor, prescription, etc.

The hardest thing about making the product has been licensing and getting trust from an insurer. To do that we hired two senior insurance experts who have been in the industry for 30 years. They helped us design it, and get the deal with insurance giant Tokio Marine.

Why is it so cheap? 1. Three major exclusions: preventive care, long-term cancer treatment and pre-existing conditions. Acute onset of pre-existing conditions is covered though; 2. The price is for ages 18-39. Other ages can buy though at higher prices—sorry, it’s the way this industry works; 3. Lower commissions compared to insurance sold via agents.

This is the first step in a plan to build a global safety net for online freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Look forward to getting feedback and hearing ideas from HN. We know there are digital nomads frequenting here, and we’d also be really interested in hearing about your experiences with health care or safety nets in general.

Hm, I have worldwide (except US) medical insurance for 60euro/month. Your product seems just like regular travel insurance (evacuation only, no actual medical cover). Not sure what it offers compared to my insurance.

So I want:

- table that compares your insurance to alternatives

- clarify "evacuation", many nomads do not have a regular home.

- short extract from terms and conditions (maximal coverage, co-payment, etc...). Web is very vague...

- fix your terms & conditions, it is branded to other company.....

Thanks for great feedback.

- A comparison is currently in the making. - We will clarify "evacuation" and also add max coverage/deductible for every coverage under the explore button on the website.

I should add that we do provide medical cover, not only evacuation.

In the past, I've used Cigna Global to provide full medical insurance to me anywhere on earth. This isn't travel insurance, it's actually full expat health cover. If I'm in Hong Kong and I need a checkup, they'll cover that. If I'm in France and I need to get my teeth cleaned, that's covered too. They even have direct billing relationships with many providers because they're Cigna. Preventative is fully covered. https://www.cignaglobal.com

Hi - I'm a digital nomad. I use Geo-Blue insurance from Blue Cross. Their system has been pretty easy and self-serve. They offer a similar plan with comparable pricing. How is this different?

One big difference is time-limit. If you go with their single voyage option, it's max 6 months, and 12 months for the other one. While we offer an ongoing monthly subscription-like service. Another big difference is that Geo-Blue requires I believe that you have a primary health plan.

Geo-Blue has options for people with or without primary insurance. We actually just switched our company over to their more expensive plan that offers full health insurance globally.

Wouldn't most people need some kind of primary health plan, regardless, for standard healthcare visits?

> The price is for ages 18-39 (other ages can buy though at higher prices. Sorry it’s the way this industry works).

No need to apologize. The young people get higher automobile insurance rates.

Hi. I've traveled worldwide for many months/years at a time, so I'm directly in your target market.

What makes your service better than this policy that I've used before? https://www.insuremytrip.com/travel-insurance-providers/inte...

[edit] Or this policy, which looks like it might be the same policy that you're providing? https://www.insuremytrip.com/travel-insurance-providers/hcc-...

The price looks about the same (~$500/yr) for similar coverage options, and I've used them before so I know that they did things like automatically email me a copy of the letter declaring coverage terms needed for stay in the Schengen Area (Btw, if you don't do that, you definitely should). Their maximum policy length is a year but I know from experience that you can easily renew for another year after expiry if you need longer.

[edit] I found your policy links, but I completely missed them at first because of the tiny buried text. Can you make them bigger and not buried so far down?

I’m exploring digital nomading from the US. I take it that there are other (perhaps more expensive ) providers that offer preventative care?

From stories online and experiences of others, it also seems that a lot of it is about maintaining emotional health when away from home for a while. I wonder if you’ve thought through providing access to counseling services, etc. In other words, safety net in terms of well being?

Yes there are country-specific ones that do at least, for expats, like Cigna global.

Yes the second biggest problems nomads cited in our surveys was loneliness / being disconnected from relationships when moving often. One thing we are doing to address this now is to build a community, with social events for our users. I think it sounds like an interesting idea to consider adding counseling services though. We haven't considered it before, but we will take a look at it. Thanks.

Interesting, I'll likely sign up for this. Are there any blacklisted countries? I'm an American currently living in Russia and do a good bit of traveling/working.

Great to hear! I'm Sarah (co-founder / CTO) : We're unable to offer coverage in Iran and North Korea.

ETA: We definitely cover your situation, unless you head to those countries.

Ok, great. Where can I view the list of providers? It's mentioned in the FAQ but I was not able to see it on the homepage.

FWIW you can see the list of providers if you sign up (you have to put in your details but don't have to pay any money). Click the hamburger button, then "find hospital or doctor".

To OP: please add an easy way to see providers from the home page without having to enter personal information!

Hi Sarah, what's SafetyWing's support email address? I need to reset my password and don't see a url or instructions for doing so. Thank you.

Sadly, this seems to suffer from the main thing that domestic US health insurance does: if you have pre-existing conditions, you're screwed.

That's just how insurance stays solvent. Imagine if car companies sold you car insurance after you'd gotten in a car crash. It wouldn't really be insurance then, would it? You'd just be paying them to pay your bills, which isn't exactly a sustainable business model.

Not really the case - insurance mainly works when the majority of the people paying the premiums (and rarely using the service) covers the costs of the few that need expensive services. In the car analogy: the law mandates that you carry auto liability insurance, which ends up lowering the costs for everyone. This is what the ACA had at its core.

That only works when it's mandatory for everyone.

This sounds so promising. Reminding me of the new fintechs which are competing against classic banks (e.g. Revolut). I want something like a perfect app and simple fees for insurance!

Thanks. We are just getting started, and an app version is coming later this year.

I get the metaphor, but these birds look so ugly.

I have the same impression as well.

The problem with their landing page is the characters have way too much detail (& distracting), and it really detracts away the overall message they are conveying

Ugly in "style" or ugly in appearance?

It might be the animation style, though it's not that different from Bojack Horseman, which I like a lot.

Maybe it's the pose of the characters. For example, the hand wave of the white ladybird feels unnatural, somehow.

For what it's worth, I disagree with lima. I love them.

Congrats on the launch by the way! Much needed product.

My general thoughts on choosing an insurance:

1) Take a high deductable (because low means you will pay it every year any way ;-)

2) Take a very high maximum. Because that is what you have an insurance for. If something really goes wrong, you need as much support as possible, for as long as possible.

I have a rather expensive insurance with 1000 / yr deductable and 1 million max (or more, depending on circumstances). I never claimed anything in the 8 years that I have it and I hope it will stay that way for a long time to come.

This is I suppose a quite wise choice given the preferences you have. Our insurance has lower deductible than yours ($250 for coverage period (not per instance), and lower max limit ($250k). We went with this after asking digital nomads what they would choose among a series of options. We have priced and might need to consider adding a higher max limit option though, thanks for letting us know.

250 is still a figure low enough to feel compelled to keep track of all expenses in a year. And the next step is trying to get a return for that effort by declaring anything higher ;-)

I never reach 1000 / yr so I do not even think of keeping track.

But for an insurance company the human emotion part ('my insurance should cover everything') is probably where the first profit is ?

This is madness (in a good way ;))

If you're in a neutral country where will you be evacuated to?

Say for instance, I'm from Syria and I get ill in Venezuela, where will I have the option of being treated?

This is a good question. If you need to be evacuated to get medical treatment you will be evacuated to the nearest hospital that is qualified to provide the medically necessary treatment.

How it works for people who are residing abroad for extended period of time.

From your exceptions list:

16. Routine medical examinations,

This surely can't compare to a full service mid-tier insurance of equal price. Other expat insurance do cover 2-3 checkups a year with conditions on checkup venue and price.

36. products that can be purchased without a doctor's prescription.

When a necessary off the counter drug is being prescribed by a doctor, will it not be covered? How this works in countries where you can buy pretty much anything off the counter, sans opiates?

41. Charges exceeding usual, reasonable and customary.

Specific limits? Especially want to know it for countries like China where where the difference in between public hospital - basic private clinic - and in a hospital that is up to international standards is like 8-10 times

More specific language for hospital stay and follow-up is needed. Say you broke a leg. You got released from hospital, but have to come for follow ups, remove the cast and sutures. Both did cost like $100 to me in Shanghai with 150 for the price of visit itself, which is more than I would've paid in Canada. Will follow ups be subject to outpatient visit limits?

My feel is that this more of an extended travel insurance, rather than a dedicated expat insurance that will allow for: a. you to remain in the country if you get in a moderately serious medical situation (on a level of appendectomy, complicated fracture treatment) and cover follow up care, b. cover your regular medical expenses

Interesting concept. It might be good to have some info on how this works in different countries, especially countries where people tend to have medical expenses covered without buying private insurance. What am I actually getting in a specific country vs not having insurance, for example?

No preventative coverage seems nonsensical. Basically all of the value I get out of my insurance is for my annual physical and full lab screens. I find it frustrating that an innovative new business model for insurance doesn't focus more on preventing high medical costs rather than simply helping with costs after it's too late.

Reading your full safety-wing-specimen-policy-0118.pdf, there's a bunch of random bold words. Seems most pronouns and many other words are bolded and I can't figure out why. It makes the document visually busy and hard to read. I would fix that unless there's some legal reason you have to do it that way.

The lost checked luggage coverage excludes literally everything of value I might have in my luggage except clothing. Feels like a scam honestly.

Congrats on launching and props for trying to innovate in the world's shittiest industry, but I don't think I'd sign up for this and I'm exactly your target market.

> No preventative coverage seems nonsensical.

I understand where you're coming from, but consider this: for things you know you are going to do, a subscription is the right product - not an insurance. Insurance is better for unforseen large costs, instead of predictable small costs. And we are in fact planning to add a global primary care subscription to address that. In the Nordic countries where we're from, most of healthcare is delivered (by the government) in something closer to a subscription than insurance.

> random bold words

I agree with this being unnecessary formatting, we will look into and fix this.

> lost checked luggage coverage excludes literally everything of value

It is true that our lost checked luggage coverage has too many exclusions and is not good enough. This is something we are working on improving, and will release and add-on that fixes it, and give people the option of a genuine stuff-insurance.

We'll work on getting this better, would appreciate if you have time for a call with us at one point. Would really appreciate getting feedback on how we can not just remove the bad, but also maybe add some good.

(If you want to, in addition to helping us build something useful, we can like throw in a $25 airbnb gift card, my email is sondre@safetywing.com)

Interesting, best of luck! What are your closest competitors? And do you intend to provide other tiers for above 39, or are “digital nomads” above that age too few?

Thanks! For digital nomads the biggest option today is Worldnomads. Coverage is comparable. Main differences is that they are 2-3x more expensive, don't have subscription-option and don't offer home-country coverage (the one we have is 30 days for every 3 months).

Yes we do intend to add more products, next one is to complete a global health insurance that includes primary care. We currentl offer 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69 as well, but at higher price points. Most of our users are in the 18-39 age-range, so this was the segment we tailored it to.

Great to see alternatives in the space. What is considered as "your home country"? I am a European, resident in a South American country. This implies that my Health Insurance System in my European Country does not cover me. Will SafetyWing still cover me in the South American Country I am currently residing in?

I'm Sarah, co-founder/CTO: Your principal residence, a place where you receive regular mail. If it's ambiguous to you between two locations then both are probably valid. Note that home country is where you won't have coverage other than health for 30 days every 90 days.

Hi Sarah, thanks for answering questions. It's great to see pricing upfront!

Could help me clarify my principal residence? I was actually looking to buy insurance a few weeks back, but not knowing the answer to this questions stopped me and I didn't hear back from the insurance company when I asked them.

"Your principal residence where you receive regular mail"

I used to live in country A, where I have a forwarding address for most of my mail. But I don't live or have health insurance there.

I'm currently in country B but will leave soon and travel to various other countries. I want to buy health insurance for after leaving country B.

What should be my principal residence?

You're posting as a representative of this company with that username?

Well, more power to you, I suppose.

Why is it targeting digital nomads? I know they are underserved in this area (and many others), but I would trust more a normal insurance, with a strong foot in my country, but offers an extended plan to digital nomad.

Off-topic: Would you mind to share who made the illustrations of your website? I really love it!

Targeting digital nomads because we are that ourselves, so we know what isn't working, and so can make a better product. We aren't innovating on the financing though. We have a Japanese giant as insurance partner, and it's underwritten at Lloyd's.

We are planning to target freelancers and entrepreneurs more generally, with our coming series of products. They will all be global though. This is just the first step.

The illustrations is made by Sean MacIsaac, our genius designer/frontend/illustrator who is on the founding team.

Thank you for your reply. I am now in "stationary" mode, but I suffered in the past when I was in nomad-mode. I think there are a lot of things to be done in this space. I wish all the best for your startup. I will be following.


It was meeeeee (the guy who illustrated it)

Congratulations Sean! beautiful drawings

Inspired by animated Robin Hood?

What are the other areas digital nomads are underserved?

Off topic, but your research may help answer a question I posed on HN a month ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16348676:

> The "digital nomads" I know fly more than anyone I know. The discounts they find make them beneficiaries of our not accounting for externalities of the pollution from flying.

> Does anyone know the carbon footprint or pollution levels their lifestyle causes? My intuition may be off, but they would seem high.

Does your research enable you to answer better than others?

This is great. I just flew out of the States and wished I saw this option. Currently bought IMG patriot travel insurance. Cheaper than world nomads but not for the adventurous.

Cool, thanks. Well, next time! Would be cool if you find something specific we can avoid/improve if you do end up having to use it.

I love the design and character of your web page.

I don't understand "Home country coverage" so maybe you could do some user testing to come up with better explanation.

Maybe a comparison to other insurances like Alianz Global Insurance. I have that and I'm not sure why yours would be better. I think it was about the same price looking at yearly cost.

Again, great web site.

I have to start giving away personal data before getting to what I hope is the meat and potatoes of what you are offering. I don't think so.

I very much agree with your sentiment. We have made efforts to put the price for most users straight on the home page, for example. We also try to say all that's included, and give a specimen of the actual policy document. But we can improve this a lot in terms of figuring out what is the most relevant information.

In order to get to the stage one can do an actual purchase, we do need a few pieces of information though. We have tried minimising this, but we'll take a look at how we can reduce it further. Any specific suggestions you would have for what we should put before registration and after?

Is there no way to find the pricing for over 39 without creating an account? I don't see it in the faq.

That is correct. You're right though, we should have this. We will add a pricing table and get it up on the page next week.

You bothered to respond, but didn't give the info I was looking for and said "I'll tell you next week."

Hmmm... makes sense that you're in the insurance business.

Sorry my mistake, I actually just didn't catch that you wanted the rates. All the age-brackets rates are: 18-39, $37. 40-49, $60. 50-59, $94. 60-69, $128.

Thanks! It looks like my insurance joke crashed.

Maybe he didn't know the information you were looking for offhand? Or maybe it's rather complex and detailed?

To be fair, he answered your question. He confirmed there is no way to get it w/o sign-up, but acknowledged there should be and commited to provide it. Edit: Looks like the question was unclear to him, it's been provided below ;-)

Signup doesn't actually work for this thing, just an error that shows a Justin Bieber quote.

Is fertility treatment covered? Do you or any company you know cover IVF or IUI?

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