Need Insurance? Philly Startup Young Alfred Does the Shopping for You
Two Wharton School classmates are aiming to bring transparency to an often opaque industry.
In the smartphone era, we’re accustomed to shopping — and comparing prices — online. David Stasie and Jason Christiansen, young entrepreneurs with backgrounds in finance and big data, found out the hard way you can’t do that with insurance.
While students at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, they were wrapping up a class project and Stasie’s phone would not stop ringing. He was looking for insurance quotes online, and his information was sold to more than 10 companies — and all of them were calling to sell him a policy. Christiansen started to laugh just as his own phone began to ring. It was USAA, wanting to verify updates to his insurance policy.
An idea was born: Stasie, 29, and Christiansen, 32, co-founded Young Alfred to modernize insurance shopping. Named for Batman’s butler, the company lets consumers shop for home, renters, auto, and pet insurance policies — not just by price, but by what type of policy you actually need.
“We’re the only online platform right now where you can fill out one form, get multiple bids, and buy without leaving the site,” Stasie said. “You’re typically saving lots of money, but we’re also matching you to the best policy.”
Young Alfred is technically an independent insurance agency, and works with multiple top-flight insurance companies, including Progressive.
What really sets the company apart is that it pulls in all kinds of public and private data — from FEMA flood maps to FBI crime statistics — to build a risk profile for your address. That can help you understand what kind of coverage you might need. For example, being in a certain area might mean you need additional flood insurance; a higher risk of theft might mean you want to pay attention to special sub-limits in your homeowner’s insurance in case you need to replace a high-value electronic device.
“If you’re the normal insurance shopper just trying to get quotes, you’re typically going to look at the price and assume everything is the same,” Stasie said. “We’re trying to help prevent some of those ‘gotcha’ moments and ensure people are buying the right coverage.
“There’s actually an abundance of data in the insurance industry, but they only use it for one thing: pricing insurance. They’re not using it to help consumers or to reduce risk.”
Young Alfred is also trying to increase transparency for consumers in an often opaque industry. It’s almost impossible for a consumer to get the same information Young Alfred can offer on her own — and that lack of understanding can leave customers fuming.
“One of the big complaints about the insurance vertical generally is that people aren’t happy with their insurance company,” Christiansen said. “They don’t trust them, they’ve had bad experiences. A lot of what we’re trying to push as part of our core values is about that transparency, so the customer has a lot better idea of what they’re covered for versus what’s not covered.”
Young Alfred is free to the consumer; the company does earn money from its partnerships with the insurance companies. Stasie and Christiansen emphasized that the company doesn’t sell customer information to anyone, which is unique for online insurance shopping sites.
They’re targeting millennials, who expect everything to be online and are moving into the era in their lives when they need mortgages — and a broader array of insurance options.
“This industry is a massive, antiquated industry that people just don’t understand,” Stasie said. “There’s got to be a better way for the new millennial consumer.”
Eventually, they want to move into other insurance markets and develop other services as it matures. Batman’s Alfred, after all, is a constant companion and a problem-solver.
“We want that same kind of digital personality for every home in America,” Christiansen said.
Photographs by Jean Goins.
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