Last August, Y Combinator-backed Leaky had one of those “good news, bad news” startup launches. The good news — the launch got plenty of attention, and (thanks in part to some coverage from TechCrunch), the site attracted 10 times as much traffic as expected, according to co-founder Jason Traff. The bad news — that attracted the attention of the insurance companies, who sent Leaky cease-and-desist letters.
The problem? In order to compare the insurance prices you’d pay with different providers, Leaky was scraping the data directly from the insurance companies’ websites. It sounds like Traff wasn’t entirely surprised by the letters (“We understood their objections and complied with them,” he says now), but he thought Leaky would have more time to fly under-the-radar while it figured out the best way to get its data. However, the high-profile launch made that impossible, and the site went offline after four days.
Now Leaky is back, and it’s offering price comparisons based on a new data source — the regulatory filings that car insurance companies have to file with the government. Using those filings, the company has created a model that predicts, based on your personal details, how much each insurance provider will charge.
That means Leaky is no longer getting its prices directly from the providers, but Traff says the new model is making predictions that fall within 3 percent of the actual prices. And he says the new approach has actually improved the site, allowing it to create new predictions in real-time as you input more data or update your information. If you’re going to switch from a truck to a Nissan, or move from San Francisco to Palo Alto, Calif., the Leaky model can predict how your insurance costs will change. The data is based on California filings for now, but Leaky plans to expand to other states.
The company also says that by looking at the data and using the model, it has uncovered some random-but-interesting facts about insurance costs:
- Getting a hybrid car will cost you about as much as if you got divorced.
- Marijuana possession is worse than a hit-and-run resulting in death and a separate count of ‘illegal transportation’ of explosives.
- Driving while your license is suspended/revoked has the same weight as vehicular manslaughter.
When asked which companies actually sent cease-and-desist letters, Traff declines to say: “Our relationships with the major carriers has gotten much friendlier and we’ve moved past all of those issues.”