Yesterday, Tech North hosted a Northern Powerhouse reception as part of London Technology Week. There we highlighted technology companies from Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland.
To tie in with the event, we’re talking to a company from each city to find out why they’re based there.
Vehicle insurance premiums used to be based on informed guesses about how likely you were to be a safe driver. Now the industry is taking a more data-led approach, and Sheffield’s The Floow is leading the way.
The company provides telematics services to insurers and vehicle manufacturers. If you’ve installed a data collection device in your car or engaged with an app to lower your premiums over the past few years, there’s a strong possibility The Floow have something to do with the ‘scores’ you receive.
While there are other companies in the space, The Floow’s approach to software and analytics has helped to take the insurance telematics market mainstream. It’s all about better informed insurers and better informed, safer drivers. As well as sending information to your insurer about how you’re driving, the company offers advice that helps you make better choices in the future – economically, environmentally, and from a safety perspective.
The Floow works with major insurers around the world, including Direct Line Group and AIG. It also deals directly with car companies like Renault and Nissan, in addition to many other deals it can’t discuss. In the four years since it was founded, the company headcount has grown from three to 70. It’s on track to reach 100 this year.
The Floow was founded by Aldo Monteforte in 2012, and being based in Sheffield was no accident. The insurance industry is based in London, Singapore and New York, but serial entrepreneur Monteforte was convinced the South Yorkshire city was an ideal home. Cost of living, quality of life and a pipeline of local graduates with the right skills were strong deciding factors.
The choice of Sheffield has paid off. The Floow has no problem attracting staff to relocate from around the world. Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Sam Chapman (pictured top) says that one team member moved from working on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland because the problems that The Floow was solving were more interesting. Some workers even commute from London and Kent, such is the company’s appeal.
“We frequently have visitors from around the world and we can easily travel. We have staff who fly out to countries where we do business. Being in Sheffield offers us everything we need,” says Chapman.
Echoing the sentiments of Sunderland’s Leighton Group, Chapman says that staff retention is much better in Sheffield than it would be in London. “In London there’s so much competition for staff that people would be changing jobs all the time. In Sheffield we don’t need to keep replacing staff so we have much more stable growth.”
A reliable workforce is something The Floow really needs as it’s growing quickly. It’s focused on growth in the USA and China right now, and the latter market is particularly huge. Chapman notes that a single Chinese insurance company can have as many as 100 million customers.
The Floow is transforming a staid market with a fresh approach. That it specifically chose Sheffield when it could have been based anywhere says a lot about what the North can offer.