Note: This article is based on an interview with PainWorth’s Mike Zouhri and Aaron Budnick on “The Insurance Podcast.” You can listen to the full podcast here.
Some edits have been made for clarity and brevity.
Pete Tessier: What do you see happening in the future for PainWorth? And what are the next steps? What are the long term goals and visions that you have?
Aaron Budnick: Our growth plan initially is certainly to get as much of Canada as we can, start moving into the US, start looking at other Commonwealth nations who have similar basis of law, where our system will easily be able to scale into and work with the courtroom data that exists, and then start going to other international markets as well.
So that's just within the bodily injury vertical, specifically. There may be an opportunity to take that same data set and use it in other ways, like you're talking about on the sales insurance, sales side or underwriting potentially.
And there's and like Mike talked about, there's ways to take it into other areas of law that have similar adversarial processes and similar data structures that can be solved using a similar learning algorithm.
Mike Zouhri: Yeah, it really is a global problem, as Aaron said, and even when we check our usage for like claimants who are accessing the platform today, we see a lot of what's expected, which is Canada. We see a pretty high degree of USA usage, especially from states like Florida and Georgia. But we also see users coming from as far away as Australia. Now the really interesting thing to us is that platform as it stands today is only catering to Canada. We're a bunch of friendly Canadians who built this in our backyard with very, very meager resources. We're a tiny little team. It started as a passion project.
We're reaching people as far away as Australia. And when we talk to them, they're finding value, just by just following the procedural steps and the logic that we present in front of them, obviously, the underpinning court data. And obviously, the actual values are different, because the rates over there are going to be different. And the rules are a little bit different.
But the framework is so similar, that they're still able to derive some level of value. There's comfort to those users just being able to know the process. So it really is a global problem., and these people are really crying out for it.
There's so much opportunity to be had just fixing this justice system problem. The justice system here in Canada, and even in America, where we talk a little bit about this as well, is just buckling under the pressure and the constraints of all of this stuff.
It basically handles a bunch of things that it was never designed to handle, we throw everything into the justice system now.
Pete Tessier: The justice system and case law are the foundation of it. Our judges and our legal system are from the 1800s, and they were never equipped to deal with the problems and the legal ramifications that we deal with today.
We've changed laws, we've updated them, we've created subsections and regulation, but we've never updated the court system.
I never thought of that until you just said it right now - it's a fascinating reality. And you're actually linking in to do the updates forum that should have been done anyways.
Aaron Budnick: 100% - our legal basis of law is based on a time when kings ruled kingdoms. It goes back that far. So that is a very problematic issue.
Mike Zouhri: Just none of these are court problems, it shouldn't be in the courts to begin with. And by removing it and bringing it into the direct negotiation, mediation and arbitration system, we're going to make this entire industry way more efficient.
And that's going to bleed into other areas of law I already touched upon a little bit earlier. Other areas where we think we can derive and add value with this generalizable platform. Later on, after we land and expand.
Today, we're really just focused on personal injury in the immediate future. It is really just growing that across the USA and Canada. We have some really cool opportunities. Aaron, and I just finished a call with a representative from the United Kingdom, who wants to find a way to bring us over into the UK.
I'm looking forward to hearing more about that proposal.
And then just watching and learning how existing users are using it on the professional side, they are surprising us. We're learning about insurance adjusters that we work with using it for training, using it for reserve setting. We currently work with a couple national insurers here in Canada.
We've been approached by international adjusting companies. One of the ones that is the most surprising to me, but also kind of the most awesome if I'm being honest, is people who work in claims management. So think of places like Disney World. I probably can't say the name.
But one of the world's largest candy companies has approached us and said: “Hey, listen, you might not realize but we have our own internal claims managers”. I was like: “Wow, I never imagined myself, with this product, helping out a Candy Company. But once they shared that with us, it became very evident. Of course Disney World, of course candy companies... not just insurance. And there's all these applications, and it's so cool that you can see it.
Pete Tessier: Is a future for what your applications do to deal strictly with property and loss in that capacity? I know it's a little harder when you've got replacement costs. But there are other things, like actual cash value, and things that come into play when a client doesn't want to settle or replace their damaged or lost belongings.
Mike Zouhri: In general, the philosophy in technology is land and then expand. Focus on one thing. Make sure you nail that thing. Absolutely hit it out of the park, do it right. And then you can focus on other areas.
So right now, the majority of our focus is honestly just like making sure that this thing is an absolute home run. It absolutely works. The good news is that the very first version of the thing with all the third party calculations and data and blah, blah, blah, has been out there for a little while now. We're, like I said, on our one year anniversary, even though we're a tiny team, we've validated that, and that's good.
Now we're moving on to the next part of our vision, which is the actual platform that connects the adjusters and the claimants together. That to us is the Grail of this vision.
It's been a very step by step, piecemeal approach to get here. But now we're finally getting to the part where we get to launch this. And actually, we're expecting to do an alpha rollout of this, this new platform by the end of the month.
And that new platform connecting the two parties together with all the calculators and data built right in so they can negotiate immediately on that platform is really generalizable. That platform is generalizable. I do believe, even though we're not focused on it right now, that it's generalizable to any form of dispute resolution. Especially ones with quantum, so small claims, spousal employment, web tenant divorce, but also like you said, things like property damage.
Pete Tessier: The quantum aspect of having that data and those things is very key to this. And I think that's really, really intriguing when it comes to your fit in this industry and what expands out by it.
Certainly, the one thing that we have in Canada that's very different in the insurance landscape is we have government workers compensation. This is a big insurance product in the United States. And I know a lot of my US listeners often talk about the sales cycle and going after WCB business, or WC worker's comp business, because it's a huge revenue generator and a massive thing for employers to carry for their employees that they may have to by law, depending on state. So there's probably a huge opportunity there. And with your datasets that you're pulling from, you're eventually going to have an amazing database of information that you can also work and tweak as well.
I keep coming back to that, because I'm so fascinated with the API's and how it all fits together, because everyone wants accessibility. So when you are talking then about the adjuster and the client coming together, is there a level of transparency for them to see?
What's been done in the past is that they're using for reference points on settlement. So if the client enters is the date in which the machine learning and algorithms work, and they sort of spit out some information, the adjuster sees it and says, "yeah, I can operate in this framework". How does the client trust that that framework is fair to them?
Mike Zouhri: So the biggest thing for us is making sure that we document and showcase the how and the what. So when people go into the system today, we don't just show them numbers, we actually give them links to the underlying case. We say where those numbers are based out of, and we actually show them the process of the calculation. So, if I say x times y equals z, I will show you x, I will show you where x value comes from, I will show you why I will show you where y value comes from, and then I will explain how those two get multiplied to create z value.
We figured that the only way to be trustworthy was to be completely transparent with everything.
So just like a good scientific paper, we provide citation notes everywhere throughout the entire platform. So there is no there is no real deep secret, the deepest secret we have is how we do our relevance searching for case law.
And we have a patent pending for that. So even that, to some degree, is not really that big of a secret.
It's really in front of everyone. Because the power is not how to do the calculations. The power that we have over other corporations or industries, or even the insurers themselves, is the fact that we can be so transparent and trusted by virtue of our story, by virtue of our philosophy, and then by virtue of the fact that we demonstrate that we have nothing to hide for anybody. We want you to know how it's done.
Aaron Budnick: So each of those cases, we do provide a link directly to the publicly available case information. So our users on either side of the platform are able to go in, read a case, see how relevant it is or is not to their particular situation, and inform themselves about that as well.
In some ways, it's a higher level of standard than even a scientific paper where that information tends to be paywalled.
Mira Soullen - March 24th, 2021