Shashaanka Ashili was a research scientist at Arizona State University leading multi-disciplinary technology development to understand cancer with an emphasis is bio-optical systems. He was trained as an electrical engineer, holds a PhD in optical physics, and completed a fellowship in medical devices and innovation. In 2014, his wife got into a non-fatal accident due to a distracted driver, which led Shahaanka to do some research. The statistics he found were startling. In first half of 2015 alone, fatal motor vehicle accidents increased by more than 14% with drivers distracted by technology as one of the main causes. Currently 26% of all accidents in the U.S. are because of drivers on their cell phones. He wanted to build something that was affordable for everyday families and consumers to reduce distracted driving, and ultimately help reduce the number of fatal accidents. This was the founding idea behind Smart Drivinc. Shashaanka is a proud, self-proclaimed disruptor and first mover. There are many driving solutions and applications out there, but none quite with the same value proposition as Smart Drivinc.
Smart Drivinc is not a telematics or a usage-based insurance company. They don’t want to monitor and collect information about driver’s behavior, they just have one goal: to empower people to make better driving choices. They want to help insurers reduce risks, claims, and to increase their underwriting profits thereby improving loss ratios.. As for customers, the solution will help them to be safer when on the road, and give them an auto insurance discount for using the solution while driving.
Anyone regardless of age can use Smart Drivinc’s solution. Their target market will be regional and national insurance carriers, with the intent being that they will distribute to customers as they see fit. The first customer segment will start off as parents of teenagers, but will expand over time to all demographics, as awareness increases. Statistics show that all age demographics are guilty of driving and being on their cell phones. The product consists of two parts; the hardware that is installed in the consumer’s car, and the mobile application downloaded to their phone.
The technology is still being tested, but Shashaanka has aspirations of launching multiple products in the coming years. This application will be launched at the end of this year (2016), however, he is taking a “holistic” approach to new product design and development. He will start by working with national and regional carriers, and initial pilots, like he is doing with this driving app, and will move to later stages of development and testing. He wants to change the direction of auto insurance whether it be with technology or end-users.
Shashaanka is not from the insurance sector, and had no previous experience with insurance. His initial biggest challenge when launching Smart Drivinc was understanding the sector from inside. That is when he joined the Global Insurance Accelerator, which has helped him tremendously. He gained access to many executives and domain experts that helped him understand the landscape better. He needs additional man-power and technology to grow Smart Drivinc, and as a result has had numerous discussions with other angels and venture capitalists. By actively looking for additional funding for his proposed products of the future, he has big plans to innovate the way the people interact with their cars. He plans to launch a new product every year that will be built for the customers and carriers.
They are starting with addressing distracted driving, but plan to take an integrated approach toward insurance products and car personalization. Shashaanka has plans for many future product launches, and Smart Drivinc will definitely be a company to “keep an eye on”.
Shashaanka will be apart of Global Insurance Accelerator’s Demo Day Pitches on Wednesday, April 27th (2016), at the Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.
For this article I interviewed Shashaanka Ashili, Founder of Smart Drivinc