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Are You a Candidate for On-Demand Insurance?

A brand new product concept covers on-demand workers only for the period of time they are working. Tim Attia spent much of his career orbiting the traditional insurance sector, working for companies that offered software and technology solutions to insurers.

He knew enough about the industry to spot the cracks. The sharing economy, he noticed, was a big one.

"In the on-demand economy you're a person one second, then you tap a button and you're a business, and then you tap on the button and you're a person again," Attia said. "The insurance industry is broken down into a commercial lines tower and a personal lines tower. When you're in this new economy, you're squarely in the middle of the way the insurance industry is structured."

Attia's solution was to create a whole new type of insurance. In 2015, he and Ernest Hursh founded Slice Labs, an insurance technology startup that offers on-demand insurance for the on-demand economy.

"We built a new insurance form," said Attia, the company's CEO. "We're insuring the period of time, or slice of time, they're in business."

Slice launched its first product in 2016, home-sharing coverage for hosts who rent their homes on platforms such as HomeAway and Airbnb. It also is developing ride-hailing coverage. But its ultimate goal is to offer a range of products that fill the gaps created by the broader societal shift.

"You used to work for IBM all your life, and now there's a big shift to no longer working for the big corporation," Attia said. "It's a shifting of the social contract.

"The corporation did things like schedule workers' time and training, and it provided everything around trust, protection and safety. If you blow apart the corporation--and some of these on-demand platforms have done that because the cost of finding a customer or finding a service has been reduced to a click--all of the protections and things that the corporation used to do for the people are gone. It's now up to this new worker to get those protections on their own."

Slice intends to help them. The company is focused on serving workers who use on-demand platforms. They might be driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering goods for Instacart, UberEats or Amazon Flex, or offering professional services through Thumbtack.

With the tap of a finger, workers can buy property and liability coverages through a smartphone app.

"Everything happens with a tap in that [on-demand] economy," Attia said. "You can't expect them to tap on a button, fill out five pages, call a call center and then wait two months. You can't reintroduce the friction."

Coverages also can be turned on and off as needed, mirroring the way the sharing economy itself works.

"If you're a business for three hours a day or 15 hours a week, buying a policy that assumes you're a business 24/7/365 ends up being expensive," Attia said. "Small businesses, and these are very small businesses, want to spend money the way they make money. That's why they're on Uber. If they had a taxi license, they'd pay $1,500 per month. They'd rather pay 20% of every ride. So why would they buy insurance for times when they're not acting as a business?"

(By Kate Smith, senior associate editor, Best's Review)