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South African Insurtech Pineapple Plans to Setup its US-Base in Hartford

South African insurtech Pineapple is planning to open an office in Hartford where it will base its U.S. operations in the first quarter of this year.

The firm took this decision after participating in several startup accelerator programs in Hartford.

Pineapple has developed a peer-to-peer insurance app that allows users to buy insurance for valuables that aren’t traditionally covered — think bicycles, electronics, etc.

A user takes a photo of the item they want to insure, inputs the cost and within a minute Pineapple automatically calculates a premium payment. (Policies are underwritten by South African insurance firm Old Mutual Insure.)

The company has raised about $2 million since its founding, mostly from Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture capital investor.

That’s part of the reason Pineapple wants to open a Hartford office. It also recently announced a partnership with Travelers Cos., which is using Pineapple’s image-recognition technology for a new mobile app called Traverse that offers coverage for nontraditional items.

“I think it’s sort of a combination of us being welcomed into the ecosystem [in Hartford] through an accelerator program, … and the fact that we’re working with one of the big insurers in Hartford,” said Pineapple co-founder Matthew Elan Smith, referring to the reason he plans to open a Capital City office.

Pineapple has also been taking meetings with other large Hartford-based insurers interested in its technology, Smith said.

Smith, who launched Pineapple in Johannesburg with co-founder Marnus Van Heerden a little over two years ago, said he’d originally planned to establish a U.S. base in Hartford in the middle of 2020. However, when the pandemic hit, he flew back to South Africa.

But that hasn’t derailed Pineapple’s Hartford ambitions, Smith said. The company now plans to establish a Hartford office in the first quarter of this year, and hire up to five people, mainly in marketing roles, he said.

Pineapple’s team of about 20 programmers in Johannesburg will continue developing and testing products there.

Smith said he first considered Hartford as a locus for U.S. expansion when he was approached by a recruiter from the city’s Insurtech Hub accelerator.

After traveling to Hartford and completing that business-development program, Pineapple won first prize and $1.5 million at Connecticut Innovations’ 2019 VentureClash pitch competition. Then it participated in Hartford’s Nassau REimagine accelerator.

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