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Game changers: Sam Chapman

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As part of our Game changers series we meet Dr Sam Chapman, who is on a journey to make the world of car insurance fairer using telematics and big data. Sam’s Sheffield-based company, The Floow, is spearheading the move into the world of autonomous driving.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, do it for the interest, do it for the excitement, and find every day a challenge. - Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

Insurance telematics: making car insurance fairer for all

The Floow specialises in insurance telematics. The company analyses data from various resources – including devices placed in your car or apps on your phone – to understand risk and inform people about their safety while moving.

This helps makes insurance fairer, as premiums are calculated on how and when you drive your vehicle rather than informed guesses based on your age or postcode.

This year, the company received £13m in equity investment and is fast expanding at its Sheffield base.

You make your own luck. You have to look for where the opportunities are, look for where there are gaps and explore those edges. You have to work out if there is something that can be challenged or something that can disrupt or change. - Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

Jack of many trades

Sam Chapman, The Floow

Sam didn’t immediately launch into a world of technology and data at the start of his career. In fact, he didn’t finish his A Levels first time around.

I left home to explore the music industry – I travelled the world. In that time I started to settle down and re-evaluate my life. I was still unsure what I wanted to do and I think that uncertainty is something that many people have and that drew me to explore a wide variety of things.

I ended up working on DNA analysis for Kew Gardens and found several new species. I also did lots of work in international disaster relief and I used to work running the security at festivals.

All of those things had a common thread: how can you use more information and more data and what evidence do we have to make things better? - Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

Sam says this varied background has been vitally important in his subsequent academic achievements – including a PhD from the University of Sheffield – and the success of The Floow. 

Having experience in many areas has been really helpful and that leads to the ability to spot things that other people don’t necessarily spot. [By] having opportunities that other people haven’t have, that brings in innovation.- Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

Sam says that “everything you do in life” has elements of risk about it.

Whenever you’re building something or challenging something or pushing on the edge of what you’re trying to do, things don’t always work as expected. You just have to learn the lessons, move away from them and go with what works.

Insurance isn’t the most exciting of subjects to me - what’s exciting is changing that market, the ability to apply new data to transform the way that it works. Data for me is a way of uncovering the truth, it’s giving evidence to a situation. Starting The Floow was a new and exciting challenge. It was something to do that hadn’t been done before and was breaking new ground. - Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

  • 2007: PhD from Sheffield University
  • 2012: Launches The Floow
  • 2015: Prince Michael International Road Safety Award
  • 2016: Queen’s Award for Enterprise and innovation
  • 2016: Part of a consortium awarded £5.5m to develop driverless cars in the UK
  • 2017: The Floow receives £13m equity investment

Location, location, location

Many tech companies choose to base their operations in London or California. But The Floow chose Sheffield, partly because the staffing potential could benefit the type of company they were starting.

The Floow was formed after some debate. There was London, Silicon Valley and Sheffield. We selected Sheffield because there is huge access to talent. This presented us with an opportunity to get people with great staff retention and helped us move the business forward far faster.

Telematics is the science of gathering information about movement remotely, understanding exactly how people drive, the thing you are actually underwriting. If you insure people for that, you are paying directly for good behaviour. You’re not encouraging bad behaviour on the roads, which makes everyone safer. - Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

The future of driving

Sam is honest that the road of the entrepreneur can be a long and arduous one but is adamant that you shouldn’t simply do a job for the money.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t do it for the money, do it for the interest. Do it for the excitement, and find every day a challenge. Find the niches that invigorate you and that you take great interest in and other people find appealing. As soon as you do that, you find something that is unique, something that has value to other people and that’s where you build a market and unique proposition that creates a world for yourself that is amazing.- Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

The transition to autonomous driving is one that excites Sam and a position at which The Floow is at the forefront of; the company is part of a consortium that’s received an Innovate UK grant to develop telematics technology in readiness for this brave new world.

The future of driving is changing, embracing new technology. As it does so the way people drive is changing and for that we are involved in all sorts of projects, from smart cities to predictive policing and driverless cars. There are many things that can be done with this type of data. This is my playground now, this is where I like to explore. This helps to create new jobs, new opportunities and new markets, which is very rewarding. Dr Sam Chapman, co-founder, The Floow

Sue Nederhorf, data scientist, The Floow

Sam is a really interesting person to work with. He’s expanded the work into areas such as pollution, working with public services and to self-driving cars. All these things are related to telematics, but not something that we’d necessarily have thought of. - Sue Nederhorf, data scientist, The Floow

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