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Startup Story

Nigerian startup Curacel is driving insurance inclusion across Africa

Curacel team picture

How the Accelerator alum uses AI to reduce fraud and speed up claims

For the many people living around the world without the safety net of health insurance, just one emergency, natural disaster, or accident can mean financial ruin. Only 2.8% of Africans are currently insured—less than half the world’s average of 6.3%—making it even more difficult for communities to break the cycle of poverty. Determined to drive insurance inclusion across the continent, experienced entrepreneur Henry Mascot founded Curacel after graduating from the Google for Startups partner program Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana. Founded in Ghana in 2008, MEST is an Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs that provides critical skills training, funding, and support in software development, business, and communications to Africa’s tech entrepreneurs. “MEST transformed me from an ambitious software developer to someone who understood what it takes to start and run a successful tech startup. Without the support of Google for Startups and MEST, that journey would have probably taken a few years and I may not have been as well equipped to make the most of the opportunity with Curacel.”

Henry originally launched the Curacel platform as an electronic health information management system for healthcare providers, envisioning the platform as an easy-to-use web application that helped clinics digitize and manage paper records, appointments, patient communications, billing, and reporting. However, Henry and the team quickly found out that cash flow was the biggest issue facing African healthcare providers. Hospital insurance executives estimated that up to a quarter of all insurance claims in Africa were fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive. “We understood that we had found the right opportunity to demonstrate the power of intelligent software to transform how entire industries operate,” remembers Henry. So Henry pivoted Curacel from an information management platform to an insurtech platform designed to address the cash flow issues affecting healthcare providers. Curcael’s cloud-based tools and APIs help insurers automate claims seamlessly and track fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA). The platform charges a per claim fee for processing and is moving toward a value-based pricing model for its fraud prevention business. By helping insurance companies operate efficiently, Curacel ensures that only claims for the correct treatment, appropriate medications, and recommended patient therapies are paid—and that legitimate claims are processed quickly. “We believe we can make it easier to safeguard lives and livelihoods across the continent, as well as increase the level of insurance penetration,” said Henry.

By digitizing the claims process and using AI to detect patterns and anomalies, Curacel enables insurers to confidently automate and settle a greater number of legitimate claims, only requiring human involvement for quality assessment. And since Curacel was born from a client request, Henry and his team enjoyed a built-in customer base from day one. But Curacel’s steady growth has not been without its challenges. They needed help navigating constantly-changing local regulations and staying ahead of the latest AI technology in order to constantly optimize their booming business—support they found in the form of Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa. “We joined the Google for Startups Accelerator to access the wealth of experience and expertise available,” said Henry. “From product development to brand building, we wanted to work with mentors that would help us achieve our dreams as a company and develop the most effective product that will offer real value and solutions for our target market.”

With the support of Google product experts and mentors, Curacel has been able to accelerate their business—literally. Platform usage has doubled since their time in Accelerator, now averaging about 800 monthly users. Henry and his team worked with Google experts to launch a Mobile app component to its web offering on Android and other platforms. Curacel also scaled the quantity of claims processed by 200 percent by using Google Cloud SQL, and Google Webmaster tools decreased the load time of the platform frontend by 65 percent. “Google Cloud products are essential to how we build our products and services, at every step of the way” said Henry. “From Dataprep to BigQuery to Cloud Composer, Google’s products make it easier and cheaper to collaborate with our employees and partners across the world.”

To date, Curacel has processed more than 750,000 claims and helped their clients—including some of the biggest insurers on the continent, such as AXA Mansard, Liberty Health and Old Mutual—reduce fraud, waste and abuse claims payouts by 25%. While they are focused on the healthcare insurance market in their home base of Nigeria, Curacel just completed a pilot with a multinational insurer in East Africa. Now with a full time team of 30+ and growing fast, Henry’s next goal is to have a presence in new African countries by the end of 2021. ““The startup environment in Africa is quite exciting at the moment,” says Henry. “We are seeing a wide range of innovation from across the continent, with various ideas and solutions emerging from every corner. From fintech and ecommerce to healthcare and logistics, Africans are developing tech-enabled solutions to various challenges that affect lives and livelihoods on the continent, and they are achieving great success.”

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