How Nigeria’s Curacel evolved from an e-health startup into insurtech

Nigerian startup Curacel is helping African insurance companies by supporting rapid claims management and accurate payouts. But it started out in the e-health space.

Formed in 2017, Curacel automates the insurance claims process, allowing staff to process claims volumes quickly and efficiently, and automatically vets claims to detect fraud, waste and abuse. 

Founded by Henry Mascot after he took part in the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) programme in Accra, Ghana, Curacel has been on an evolving journey that started in the healthcare space.

“Our aim was to understand how intelligent software can free up huge value to deliver better healthcare systems,” Mascot told Disrupt Africa. 

Initially, Curacel was an electronic health information management system for clinics. Its web application helped clinics transform their paper records into digital form, manage their records, appointments, patient communications, billing and reporting with an easy to use dashboard. But it soon realised it was targeting the wrong customers.

“When we spoke with insurance executives who estimated that up to a quarter of all pay-outs they made were for fraudulent, wasteful or abusive claims, we understood that we had found the right opportunity to demonstrate the power of intelligent software to transform how entire industries operate,” Mascot said.

“The best thing about Curacel was that it was born from a client request. So aside from being guided to the market gap, we basically had our first customer signed for the initial pilot and have since signed further partnerships.” 

Investors have been impressed too, with Curacel raising VC backing after taking part in the Startupbootcamp AfriTech programme last year. The company has also done the tour of accelerators, taking part in MEST, FbStart, Startup Chile, Dubai 100 and the Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) incubator. Mascot said this level of activity in different markets is the result of its “broad outlook”.

“We are focused on the healthcare insurance market in Nigeria where we are based, but we’re also just completing a pilot with a multinational insurer in East Africa and transitioning this into a contract that should give us a foothold in five countries in East Africa,” he said.

“The challenge we are solving is omnipresent across much of the continent, so in future there’s plenty of scope for Curacel to grow to many different countries but also to different verticals, such as car insurance.”

The startup, which charges a per claim fee for processing and is moving toward a value-based pricing model for its fraud prevention business, aims to be cash positive on core costs by the middle of this year, but this steady growth has not been without its challenges.

“There’s no such thing as a smooth startup ride, and ours definitely had its ups and downs. I find that with starting up it’s more about getting into the right frame of mind about how you approach challenges or difficulties, because they will always keep coming. Many times it will be about your ability to innovate a solution, because the challenge will most of the time be new,” said Mascot. 

“Many times your ability to see and innovate that solution, to have that right frame of mind, will be about a battle with yourself, your circumstances, your doubts, and overcoming all of them. Very often this is the root cause to the biggest challenges you’ll find starting up. Then the biggest blessing – and often a challenge to achieve itself – is to share these times with the right team and the right mentorship.”

Curacel has certainly had the latter, and now looks set for pan-African growth.

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Written by Sekyen Jessica

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