EP 134 – Sebastien Gaudin – The CareVoice – Population-Specific Health Insurance

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Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 130 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

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The Asia InsurTech Podcast was catching up with Sebastien Gaudin, a co-founder and the CEO of The Care Voice. The last time we spoke with Sebastien was in September 2019, when the company first launched its own operating system Care Voice OS. Taken the past two years into account, the team has now launched The Care Voice OS 2.0.  

Find the transcript of our conversation below: 

Michael Waitze  

Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. This is the only podcast in Asia focused on insurance and health care that gives entrepreneurs, thought leaders and investors a platform to discuss how technology is reshaping the industry in Asia. Today, we are welcoming Sebastien Gaudin, a co-founder, and the CEO of The Care Voice. Sebastien, it’s great to have you back. I don’t know if you remember but the last time you were on the show was almost exactly two years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Sebastien Gaudin  

Hey, Michael. Yeah, of course. That was the beginning of the Asia InsurTech Podcasts, I don’t remember exactly which number of episodes but , it was a long time ago.

Michael Waitze  

I think you were 24. And I feel like I knew nothing back then. And didn’t even have the right to talk to you. But now I know a little bit more. How are you doing?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, very well. I had a busy, busy summer is the year, busy past 12-15 months since COVID, especially in our InsurTech or health InsurTech space been very dynamic.

Michael Waitze  

It’s been very, very dynamic. I want to just go back a couple years when we talked the last time. I think the big news, if I remember correctly, was Care Voice. OS. And I was intrigued by this idea of like building an operating system. I think, you know, like, I believe that some of the biggest the most defensible businesses are those businesses that are platforms. And I want to talk about I want to follow up and sort of learn more about what the status of Care Voice OS is now, what’s new there?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yes, I think it was, yeah, that mid-2019 thing at the time of our series A and indeed, they were launching the first version of the OS, the first healthcare operating system for insurance. And, and the way we were designing or designing was by looking at how carriers could support health care, customer journey for insurance company, obviously, in a digital way, right. And back then was customer experience was done and delivered to carries app. But by starting to aggregate some relevant third party technology and services into different customer journey in a in a meaningful way for both end user and insurance. And that has been, I think, a very good move. I think we had a good adoption. And actually, the acceleration happened went through a lot by partnering with insurers to design and launch population-specific health insurance that say for, you know, startups, for sports enthusiasts, for white collar students. So working hand in hand, we’ve interest to design the insurance product, powered by Care Voice OS so as in terms of customer experience and using Care Voice app as a third party app for real the customer experience where they’re relevant wellbeing and health services, together with the insurance plan for those customers provided. And that I’ve been, I think, a very good way to get a number of insurers starting to work with us because we’re willing to obviously tap into new customer segments opportunity going there with the relevant product offering both handouts, insurance and health services, but also unlocking new way of commercialization. As soon as you you know, are much more tailored to specific population you can approach non traditional insurance channel. I think that has been a very good way to work with a number of insurers across markets first where we were in mainland China but also we expanded in Hong Kong we will launch product with Generali, which was a replication of the product for startups we did with Ping An Health here, we launched with Cigna for women and we had a different variation here in in the mainland China with Tai Shan Ergo. product for sport enthusiasts we did with AXA and another player in Hong Kong. And so and then we’ve started actually to work with in South Asia and some of these populations specific insurance have been also a good way to turn to some of these markets. But the to to your question about the evolution of the OS and this is one of the you know, one of the recent developments that we announced lately is the upgrade of the OS to a 2.0 version and what is the major change ultimatly, the OS now become a full API based infrastructure and health ecosystem. So that we can empower insurance company to have very flexible front end solution. And also to use an open ecosystem to orchestrate wellbeing in health services at their will and be much more flexible, versus in the past where we had our cameras up and a preset, a preset group of technology and services that were in our ecosystem and integrated with different way of engaging customers. So we are open up the platform and enabling insurers to really own customer experience.

Michael Waitze  

What was the what was the tipping point for care voice as a team, when they said, when you said, we need to move from encouraging insurers and healthcare providers to use a third party app to upgrade into 2.0 doing an API implementation of this so they could connect to all the back end services, but then get the journeys back into their own applications? In other words, it was just a constant feedback you were getting or as it continued to grow, you know what I mean? Did they say to you, wait a second, we feel like we’re losing a little bit of control of our customers, should we put this inside? And can you build the API’s to do that?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, I think was really our intent was, you know, being able to at one point to accelerate our scale much faster by being able to service insurance policyholders. And actually, it’s how we started in the very first phase of the growth of the company, we were using covers up to service, some from AXA or our other ensure that we’ve been working in the early days. But then when we launched the OS, and we had this ability to have more flexibility in creating different population specific insurance and customer journey of bespoke customer journey, this was delivered to carriers app, and it was working well. But as soon as we wanted to go, again, scale, but getting insurance using Care Voice OS, so as for servicing the equity shoulders, day, you know, the barrier was obviously the, the, using a third party app. And, and we’ve seen a number of insurers trying to make some investment in building, you know, their app, or trying to build a kind of ecosystem, but also, you know, facing lots of hurdles of, you know, just partnering with one healthtech, trying to integrate with that healthtech. Not having the foundation during services in Cielo and the omission of number of insurance to really be able to to orchestrate this wellbeing in health ecosystem, but not being able to do so. So it was a natural evolution, and we had to accelerate by moving into more API based infrastructure and ecosystem to make it happen. 

Michael Waitze  

I mean, whenever I think of operating systems, I have to think of Microsoft Windows, right? You know, when it first start, when their first OS started, right before it was window based, he kind of had all the basics that people needed. And once it got to what was it 3.0, 3.1, I can’t remember because it was so long ago, just the ecosystem around it exploded. And it really shortened and simplified product development for people that were using it, but also opened up a whole new evolution and kind of revolution for people that were using that product. Are you seeing the same thing as well for OS 2.0 for you guys.

Sebastien Gaudin  

I think that those were held see to work for us through our own, you know, controlled customer experience Care Voice app for insurance on some new product. And now the fact that we open up the platform and that also create an immutable solution that could be delivered to our customers, right, because we let third party develop on top of the platform we can in the ecosystem we can take you know, let’s say Company A for specific mental health, but maybe Campany B can be an alternativeand depending on the insurer, it can be different options. So I think to your point you also need to keep curating and driving this in the in the first phase of the adoption of this new version because you can’t as a tech company, it was also the case of Salesforce interestingly where they had to create a lot of the applications right in the Salesforce ecosystem before then you fully let anyone join and I think there’s gonna be still a transition phase. But we work on both dimension. I think we’ve signed some major partnerships also that we recently announced. Some insurers Prudential Financial or Cigna and we’ve who we kind of share the vision of of orchestrating wellbeing and the health ecosystem and we can build with them together a much broader setup solution that could be different from different markets. These markets also arrangement while in many ways Sure, you still need to have more, you know, stone out solution first, because many insurers are not ready yet to embark into this, you know, or move. But that’s, that’s going to, as you say, at one point, accelerate drastically and and also through all this technology associated with productivity, you know, john Vickers

Michael Waitze  

So Salesforce is actually a really good example. And it brings up another question for me, is it the case that on top of the care voice, oh, s 2.0, that independent developers, so not people that work at the insurance company, and not developers that work for care voice, can then build apps on top of it. So you can create this entire sort of application ecosystem around it, that benefits you know, you don’t mean so you get to build innovation, you don’t have to do all of it, you just keep building the API’s. And the operating system can do that.

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, that’s, that’s definitely the way we we’ve been re architecting, the platform, the US with four, four stars of cardinal point five, north, south, east west, and the north side goes to feeling any, any developers that we create, for them solution based on, you know, our integration with some surpasses technology and services that I do as our integration with insurance company around their product, they’re putting administration, administration system and so on. So yes, and actually, we started, we started to do it on to two different kinds of of way for now. First, we have our own consumer facing brand and company, you may have noticed that we’ve spin off in the course of series a, a company that is with a political political room, that actually commercialize population specific health insurance wave ensures as partner, but they are really driving down to commercialization in China and, and keeping driving and creating new products. So in each case, blueness is, you know, fully own from and keep developing on top of our platform that before for the customer experience. And, and we start to see some insurers where they may have worked with their own developers or from them. And this is where it’s interesting for us, because we don’t need to, you know, to do this for the front end, which is no customized UI or whatever for the insurance but, but through our API, we can fit this. The next one is more towards channels, where we see, with partner, we enable some channels, we wanted to bring more relevant health insurance to their customers. And this is where those channels can start to keep the customer inside the channel don’t need to when they subscribe to police see, you know, to be serviced by the country, you know, an app or a solution that come from the insurer, but it’s not necessary to the value they want to create for their customers, but still in a relationship and insurance companies that underwrite the product. So thing that will push the binary at one point this we start to work on it and have some some channel that we enable. And that’s referrals to an embedded insurance. Right. But I think we see at one point when we would be very strong in terms of number of insurance, we work with our ecosystem, and so on, accelerate them that fundamentally is kind of Shopify model for health insurance,

Michael Waitze  

Right, actually. Right. So that was, that was gonna be the question like, will you build a marketplace of these services so that third party developers can sit on top of the OS and then offer those services to anybody that wants them based on your operating system?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I think we’ve been within the next 1218 months, they’re going to be a gradual shift. But you need to first have a very strong position and based on the insurance because they are the backbone of your open platform, and you have the health and living ecosystem, but you need also the interest to underwrite the product, obviously, so you need to have this information.

Michael Waitze  

Do you feel like your competitors or maybe just other people that are operating this space have figured out this OSI model, the same way you have?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Not really we we spotted a few of us But usually, none of them have been dedicated to health slash insurance like health care and insurance helps InsurTech because they’re here you start to you start to add complexity to it, you need to it’s two different industry sectors, two different value chains, different sets of stakeholders and regulation. So actually, in general, there are very few health InsurTech and in need to develop a strong expertise. I think we are pulling definitely this space for now. We see people coming in and I would say that are different from different angles, but usually that people may come from more servicing employer employees with different health services that they can combine and then try to to bring together employees. But the move from servicing employees to servicing insurance is very odd, because you need to use each of the domain insurance of expertise, but also the ability from a platform standpoint, and this is where our infrastructure is, has been very solid to be able to plug and play with any insurance and to configure it any type of customer experience on any type of health plan. So I do think that that’s a tough, it’s a tough move for a player that will do that pass. What is more morbid? And this is a question, you know, most of the time is build versus buy, right? Whether that’s insurers and already dried up and supply software, trying to versus trying to build something. And using obviously, consulting and development firm. But we’ve seen a number of exam, few example that worked a number of example, that doesn’t work, because it takes a lot of time, a lot of costs, lots of uncertainty in Terminal output, and actually most interest on there to do it. So so then it’s you know, you need to embark review a number of visionary insurers. And that’s, that’s great. We we’ve been working in all these different phases of the company, with amazing customers working with us to to build this new way of doing health insurance. And now it’s a community keeping evidence so that the next wave of officers are going to on board,

Michael Waitze  

This buy versus build is like the eternal, never ending question. I mean, we we had to address this at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, 2025 years ago, whenever we started building, or thinking about building new trading systems. And to be fair, what you’re building is not that different in the complexity level from a trading system, particularly if you’re building it at the API level, but I think at the margin, and I’m not selling anything, but I think at the margin, it is easier, and probably faster, to do third party buying, as opposed to building everything yourself. Because particularly after you develop the product sold due to a couple of other partners, then there’s some there’s some credibility there that it actually works. Whereas if you build it internally, you kind of don’t know until you roll it out. That it’s gonna fly. Right? Is that fair?

Sebastien Gaudin  

With the tech advancement, right, keeping the pace with Kevin Smith, especially in the in the well being healthcare, there’s so much right, so how can you manage this internet thing? It’s super, super all. So yeah, and then then you take all their earnings by deploying with number of, of customers by growing spending your ecosystem. And, and, and we strive every day to make this as more and more valuable to ensure that their and their customers. So that’s, that’s a clear focus for the company. And very different from, you know, player, I know, I ensure we try to do something.

Michael Waitze  

I’m curious what the transition was like for, let’s say, an existing customer. And I’m just gonna pick one, just because it’s a name, but generally, let’s say generally was operating on your third party platform you built on os 2.0. And you said, let’s just transition everything over to this. What does it look like from an internal perspective? How hard was that turnover? And what does it look like for the customers? Do you know what I mean? There’s a lot there. Because transitions are hard, right?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, very good point. I think I mentioned that we had a very strong golf series around populations specific insurance that were of interest. And actually generally, in the first year, we had we generally are generally on call was around this type of product. We launched named bloom team, we generate income source specific health insurance, digital health insurance for startup and small and medium enterprise. And that’s a good way to start because then they start to realize how they can take advantage of platform like as even though it was two cameras that back then but in a way that they can be more relevant set of products, you know, insurance service for for customer groups, and so on. And this is how you can start to create obviously, trust between between big insurer and InsurTech. Working from there we’ve been working with some other entities have generally Mainland China, more recently in South Asia. We’ve also now in in talks or in works with some European entities optionality. And then you start to, in the case of the of the team in Hong Kong, right, you start to, obviously, they realize the value of that type of customer expense on the way of doing health insurance for a specific population. But then, what about bringing this to our customers, right, they have large corporates accounts, and they are struggling with number of things, because it’s not digitized, they are not necessarily driving you to zation of valuable services, right, they have some health services that are outside their customer journey. So then you can start to become inside work together with that team, and try to plan this transition. But obviously, it takes time. And what is interesting is, to some extent, when, when the case of Prudential financial here, it was really set in their plan, you know, two, three years ago really to build a total wellness ecosystem, across markets and be able to support Prudential entities or jayvees in different markets for for wellness. And they started the experience with all the study to do have the first nation with vitality in Brazil and Argentina, which is a first way of bringing health service together with insurance. But quickly after they don’t say okay, now we want to expand our our wellness and health ecosystem, but how from a technology standpoint, we can execute on that, right? So there is a full alignment on the vision and then you start to work with them across markets we’ve just produced for for for China, whether the person and we are preparing now for other markets with them.

Michael Waitze  

How long is the turnaround time, let’s say an insurer identifies a new population, or they want to build a population specific thing for something they hadn’t considered before. And they want to pick and choose services or pick and choose configurations to do that, how long does that take them on the new OS?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, so for that to you refer first to just looking at a new population and design new insurance. So you have also the fact in the design itself of insurance product that could have some segmentation. But we’ve been able to, I would say short term to two to three months at a time for partnering with an insurer and starting to get a pre design of the product. And then add another two months to get to delivery in the shortest was here in mainland China with one of the company in which our goal, you know, the military group insurance invested in Tai Shan I think we partnered in six weeks, six weeks later, we were alive for a new generation of critical illness for white collar professional woman. That went pretty fast. But I would say if it’s really by laying adopt solution, what we’ve worked on, on on with financial and the person team here was to be able, within within 45 days was the first sprint to get a first version. But I would say it was the kind of minimal version. The next question comes in the another 45 days, so three months in total, and the design before two plus one months enough, although it’s moving quite quite fast,

Michael Waitze  

You know, insurance remains uniquely local. Right? So even if Company A operates in Hong Kong, and then they operate in Indonesia, or if they operate in Thailand, the regulatory environments, as you know, are just completely different. And the nuances are different in the subtleties, right? is are you building that into the operating system as well, so that companies don’t have to go back and reinvent the wheel to deal digitally with the regulatory environment?

Sebastien Gaudin  

So I think the first thing is more through the through the infrastructure, I think this is where we have our domain and, and and built in all the logic of different types of insurance product, but also the flexibility to to amend and upgrade that infrastructure so that labor markets, we can change the parameters of the local type of health insurance box. And I think now we have enough models that usually it’s fits pretty well but you may have always had marginal upgrades. So I think it’s a three to one infrastructure across across markets across insurance type of product in apps, insurance, product and, and end markets. Then the other piece is more as part of the health and wellbeing ecosystem, right. You have a number of Iser functionalities core functionalities we have for a digital health insurance experience or Around accessing or navigating people to hospital doctors and so on that could be replicated across markets, then we have a number of third party technology and services that are inside the ecosystem, that also valid across market because they are purely digital, let’s say AI based symptom checker, a stress assessment and meditation, activity or casual tracker, these can work and be deployed across markets, but then you have more, you might have some regulation, let’s say even on the symptom checker, for instance, there could be some variation of where you can lead the customer, you know, throughout telemedicine to our home care to our pharmacy delivery to this you may have some some regulation which some change, but that is part of the of the of the ecosystem, you need some localized service in telemedicine is one example. Right. So you have a few payer that costs market, but most of the time, local players, pharmacy delivery is typical in other markets. So this is also the interesting as an open as an open platform and ecosystem we can, you know, bring in as needed, what is most relevant for local markets and triple the insurance to tap into a ready built in ecosystem that is functional across markets, but also then further localize that as needed?

Michael Waitze  

Yeah, I’m just thinking about home age that just announced a capital raise in Singapore, if I don’t know 37 40 million bucks, right? In the pharmaceutical space. That’s everything in the healthcare space is just changing radically all the way from insurance, to reinsurance to, to the delivery of medicine. Is there a play here as you expand the operating system? For the reinsurance side as well?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yes, so reinsures we’ve been working with with some of them for some time. In the early days, mini crate help us to get to one of our first ensure customers. Then lately, we worked on on some functional he is weather insurance helps to validate the impact that that functionaries may have on on the pricing of insurance. So this is around the network of of pharmacy, that could be a first layer before going to a general practitioner. So where are you, you you triage the patients that are the policyholders to access to your pharmacy network where they can get a consultation, but also the OTC drugs, right as part of a package. And then you’re the other insurer that helps to evaluate the saving that could be and so a discount on on on premium that they could they could cover where we see really more coming up and we we have different outline of collaboration, then it’s a matter of financials, Weaver ensures that they want to very much support insurers to launch new insurance product, new house insurance product, and definitely have the ability to combine the product with services that could also impact upon point, the risk that they cover and insurance with to be on the risk and bring these inside channel. So enable channels where the customer experience will will happen in the channel. So it’s really well aligned with what we want to do. But we insure them alone, usually they don’t put money upfront, they don’t pay, they want to have an insurance backing, so they can play roll off more, again, endorsements and then get some of the insurers into this. So this is what we we were a bit reluctant to do it up to recently. And actually, with the additional capital, we just also announced as part of the round, it’s easier for us to take on this type of partnership, because then we can also put more investment on our side along the way with the rancher to facilitate this. But before the before the before this capital, we were more saying okay, you need to pay, you know, as an insurer would pay if you want to bring this into your insurance.

Michael Waitze  

How much money did you recently raise? Can you say?

Sebastien Gaudin  

No, I can’t really disclose to you because it’s just part of the offer. And I’m going to be wrong. Yeah. So that’s, that’s why we disclose the full amount.

Michael Waitze  

Yeah, no problem. Congratulations. And the ongoing be round is great. And it’s funny, because that was gonna be my last question to you. I mean, all this tech development cost a ton of money to build. So having fresh capital on hand just makes that a lot easier. What what kind of innovative stuff can we expect from care voice? 3.0?

Sebastien Gaudin  

Yeah, so not to your point about that. But he’s also, I think, interesting in our model and how we’ve been running the company. Actually, we’ve been able to hit a first positive EBITDA milestone. It’s Very affecting the fact that we tripled our revenue in 12 months time with marginal increases our expenses, also reflecting the capital efficiency of the company, and the future, positive financial output of what we will be able to generate. But that said, obviously, we, we, we need to be able to support our current customer deployment and accelerate and speed up the delivery of the of the 2.0 platform. And that’s why we were happy to take a first tranche on these on these be round and, and then head over seeing some important nice tones that will, you know, trigger the cool. But the 3.0 is really around more profiling. policyholders I think the the ability now to use the number of data that we collect, generate, through the ecosystem, through the different health and wellbeing functionalities allow us to start to support improvement of risk assessment and predictive elements in terms of then underwriting for insurance. So that would be the next area of of work.

Michael Waitze  

So is there a data accumulation part of the care voice business? And, you know, how do you manage building a data science team and all this sort of machine learning and ml ops stuff that goes along with it? Because that’s non trivial as well, right?

Sebastien Gaudin  

No, so again, I think there are steps and the first step was obviously, in the way we’ve been designing the US and partnering with a service technology and services was to make sure that we concentrate or centralize any valuable that could be meaningful for to better service either the end user for insurance but also the insurer themselves, right. So, this is being a continuous at fault. Now we are in a phase of, of scaling up meaning like getting more ensure working with us, servicing their population of policyholders accumulating more data so that we can then work on on as you say, using that’s the analysis and support that exists. So that would be come next and actually thought of higher on this on this show.

Michael Waitze  

Perfect. Okay, Sebastian, unless there’s anything else you want to talk about. I think that was a great episode and a great way to end. I really want to thank you, Sebastian Gaudin, co-founder and the CEO of the Care Voice for doing this again. Let’s make the next time not two years from now.

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