Sara Horowitz has been fighting for the rights of freelancers for decades. The self-described “auto-didact” founded the Freelancers Union, the largest organization serving freelancers in the U.S., in 2003. When she realized how much freelancers needed better insurance options, she also created the Freelancers Insurance Company, which eventually grew to become a $100 million business, in 2008.
Though the insurance company shuttered due to new provisions under the ACA, Horowitz is now back with a tech-driven insurance product that caters specifically to this growing class of workers — and today, she’s launching it first in Georgia.
The product is becoming available when remote work, the gig economy, and market forces are bolstering the already-strong freelance industry. Currently, 57 million U.S. individuals, or one-third of the workforce, are classified as independent workers. By 2027, that percentage is set to look more like half of the workforce.
Trupo provides short-term disability insurance to freelancers to make sure they are covered when the inevitable accident or illness happens. The product fills the gap between long-term disability insurance, which tends to be costly, and the short-term insurance usually available only through employers.
“One of the problems freelancers have is this terrible episodic income,” explains CEO Horowitz. “If you have an accident or an illness, which happens to everybody at some time, you need to get paid so you can pay your rent, buy your groceries.”
After answering a few basic questions on the data-driven Trupo platform, an algorithm provides the potential customer with their custom insurance plan. The plans start at $11 per month, and can be adjusted based on the freelancer’s preferences.
“If you’re nervous [about your future income] you can dial it down, and you can change it throughout the year. We do that because we know freelancers are just too scared about their income,” shares Horowitz.
Should the Trupo customer need to take a break from work that lasts longer than a week, once their issue has been verified by a medical provider, the insurance covers 50 percent of their income up to 12 weeks.
Not everything is covered — Trupo policies don’t include maternity, and there is cap on income. But it’s a lot more than has ever been available on the market before, says Horowitz.
That innovation led top Silicon Valley venture firm Sequoia Capital to provide seed funding to get the Trupo platform off the ground.
“In Trupo, we see a company with the complete vision and know-how to solve a real problem in our economy that’s only going to grow,” said Sequoia Partner Alfred Lin in a statement. “We’re excited to support Trupo and its vision for providing a critical insurance product to a completely untapped segment of the U.S. insurance market.”
The product is officially available in Georgia as of today. Horowitz says that she chose Georgia because of its strength as a hub for freelancers, largely spurred by the state’s robust film, entertainment, and digital media industries.
“I have always been aware of where the difference freelance groups are, so when Trupo started it was really clear that Atlanta has a really vibrant freelancer community. We really wanted to go to a place where people were really open and excited about the next new thing,” Horowitz says. She tells Hypepotamus they already have hundreds on a waitlist.
Horowitz has created an advisory board of local freelancers to spread the word and help build partnerships in Atlanta. Following the launch in Georgia, Trupo is slated to expand into six additional states in 2019, 20 states by 2020.
Horowitz says that, although disability insurance is not really affected by the politically-driven healthcare debates, the Freelancer’s Union has advocated for some sort of backup plan for independent workers for years.
“We’ve been waiting to long for the government to do this, and they’re not doing it. So we need to do it ourselves,” she says.
“I am building this because America needs a new safety net.”