Tautona.ai, a Sandton-based insurance claims automation solutions provider founded by well-known South African technology entrepreneur John Holdsworth, is using artificial intelligence to try to overhaul the way the insurance industry works.
TechCentral spoke to Holdsworth about Tautona’s AI platform and how it uses advanced automation tools in the insurance sector.
“Tautona is named after the big mine in Western Deep (called TauTona, it’s on Johannesburg’s West Rand). It was the second deepest gold mine in the world. The analogy is that AI and data mining are similar to gold mining; the deeper you dig and the more you excavate, the greater the value you extract,” he said.
Holdsworth is no newcomer to entrepreneurial adventure, having founded and sold three technology businesses prior to creating Tautona. His first venture, Digital Signature Corporation (DSC), used digital signatures to develop authentication technology that made secure e-commerce transactions a reality. DSC was later sold to US Encode.
Holdworth’s second business, a mobile payments company called Paym8, was sold to Radiospoor in 2004. Radiospoor later rebranded itself to Paym8 and the company is still operational today. His third venture, ECN, used voice-over-IP technology to lower the cost of communications for companies.
“I saw a massive opportunity with voice-over-IP and I was the guy that introduced the technology to South Africa’s corporate sector. That was me, it’s true,” said Holdsworth.
Holdsworth’s business escapades are not without controversy, though. After selling ECN to Reneurt for R172-million in 2011, he went on launch AppChat – seen by Reunert as a direct competitor to ECN. Reunert accused Holdsworth of breaching a restraint of trade agreement, poaching ECN employees and soliciting its customers in what it termed “corporate sabotage”. Holdsworth eventually lost a protracted legal battle with Reunert.
Tautona’s core product
He founded Tautona in 2017 – a business with a focus far from telecommunications. “I am not wedded to any vertical market. What I like to do is to build companies around new technologies. I am excited by new technology and what it can do for markets.”
Tautona’s core product is called Policy GPT, a generative pre-trained transformer model that automates decision-making procedures in the insurance industry to save insurers time and money while helping to improve customer experience. Using AI as opposed to mere robotics process automation, said Holdsworth, makes it possible to automate complex tasks that would otherwise require human judgment.
Toutana is the first insure-tech in the market to use this technology to automate the insurance value chain. It is designed to understand and interpret the intricacies of insurance policies, claims and regulatory requirements to automate complex decisions that generally take people a long time to reach and are usually filled with errors.
“Typically, an insurer will contract with an AI company, the AI company will ask for lots of data – say five years’ worth of historical data, and then ask for 10 000 documents. They will then put a team together, spend six months analysing that to produce a result. Policy GPT completely transforms that. So, insurance companies can simply go onto our platform, upload documents, upload data without any form of pre-training, and get the exact same insights,” said Holdsworth.
The results are notable, with a local Tautona client – Telesure’s 1Life – having reduced its claims process “from two days to 15 minutes”, according to Holdsworth. 1Life claims a three-minute processing cycle for certain cases in its marketing.
Success in South Africa is helping Tautona reach international markets, too.
“We entered an incubator called Lloyd’s Lab, which selects the most innovative insuretechs to work with over a three-month period. They get anywhere between 200 and 250 applicants. Trying to penetrate Lloyds of London is almost impossible; those guys are unbelievably traditional. We did exceptionally well on that cohort, we made some good relationships. We are now established in Lloyds of London, which is one of the biggest insurance markets on the planet. That has helped us get into the US,” said Holdsworth.
He said a decision by Tautona to focus on property and casualty insurance was strategic because “in international markets the competition is really fierce, so you have to be very niche and very focused to have an impact”. Given the broad capabilities of the AI tool that Tautona has developed, however, the company plans to expand its horizons in the near future.
“Where we’re going next after insurance is financial services broadly; there is no doubt that we will start to offer this technology to financial services companies in the general sense,” said Holdsworth. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media