In an increasingly digital world, traditional health insurers have been slow to transform. Here however there are opportunities for start-ups with digital expertise. ottonova is the first German health insurance company to set up all processes digitally, design a contemporary customer experience and integrate innovative healthcare concepts, such as telemedicine, into its range of services. In this interview ottonova Founder and CEO Roman Rittweger explains what drove him to start the Company, the impact of the pandemic and how the Deal with SevenVentures is driving the business forward.
How did you come up with the idea to start the first digital health insurance company ottonova?
It has always been a goal of mine to introduce more digital services into the German health sector. Especially from the point of view of the insurers, there was and still is a lot of room for improvement. That's why, before ottonova, I founded a service provider for health insurance policyholders that sold services to health insurance companies. The insurance companies were interested in it, but could only implement it for the customers to a very limited extent because of their complex processes.
It was then that I realised: if you really want to make a difference and offer policyholders added value through digitalisation, then you have to be the health insurer yourself. And so the idea for ottonova was born. The company was founded in 2015 and since 2017 we have been offering the digital services in our tariffs ourselves. In doing so, we are primarily targeting young, digital-savvy people who - like us - prefer to contact their service providers via smartphone and online.
Are you satisfied with how ottonova has developed? How has the pandemic affected business?
Yes, I am very satisfied. ottonova has a firm place in the private health insurance market. After initial scepticism, the long-established insurance industry also accepts and respects us. During the Corona pandemic we were able to benefit from our digital business model in particular. Customers can reach us online via chat, email or phone. We didn't have to change anything or set up new processes. But we have noticed since the beginning of the pandemic that customers are even more aware of their health. We are happy to take the time for detailed consultations and support in the event of illness. That is the least we can do for them as a health partner.
You began a cooperation with SevenVentures in September 2019. How did the initial contact come about?
Of course, we had known SevenVentures for some time and were also aware of the very good results that other young companies had achieved with a cooperation. When SevenVentures approached us with more details about the cooperations, we realised what potential there could be for the ottonova brand, especially for our data-driven business model.
Why did you decide to enter into a media-for-equity deal with SevenVentures?
Quite simply, we have very similar ideas about how a brand is built and strengthened sustainably. Since we were a start-up that had to be cost-conscious between financing rounds at the time, we were still able to build our brand in a cash-saving way and strengthen people’s trust in us. SevenVentures' analytics capabilities allow us to automatically incorporate the data gained from advertising into our analytics model and understand the impact of TV on other marketing channels. For us as a data-driven company, this measurability is crucial.
After 18 months: would you make the same decision? What insights have you gained in relation to the cooperation and TV as a marketing channel?
The cooperation is an integral part of our marketing strategy that we wouldn't want to do without. We extend the customer journey from TV into the digital world and notice a significant uplift in the performance of our online marketing in our data analyses. After only a few months of cooperation, we were able to significantly increase our brand awareness and sustainably reduce our customer acquisition costs through the cooperation as well as numerous other measures in channel management. TV has particularly contributed to the awareness of our brand as well as the recognition of our products and services.
During Corona, when we had to pay close attention to our expenses, the media-for-equity deal allowed us to continue running TV advertising as planned. This was not only reassuring, but above all very helpful for continued brand building during the crisis.
What do you see in the future for ottonova and what role will SevenVentures play?
We will continue to work in the coming years to raise our profile among the general public and to show that digital health should be a matter of course. We will continue to drive this forward together with SevenVentures and use precisely those channels and formats for our advertising that resonate well with our target group.