Steve Pretre stood on the Hawthorne Bridge at 6 am today, handing out free coffee and bananas to bicyclists—to advertise for car insurance.
Pretre is the CEO of MetroMile, a new pay-per-mile insurance company launched yesterday in Portland.
Aimed at those who drive less than 10,000 miles per year, MetroMile sets a base rate, and then drivers pay a few cents per mile for use. MetroMile, Pretre tells WW, rewards those who use transit, bike or walk, but would otherwise still have to pay just as much for car insurance as those who drive to the corner store and back.
"The people that we really connected with from early on were people that were living in the city, and started making lifestyle to drive less, but then saying, 'Wait a second, I'm not paying any less per month for my insurance,'" he says.
First reported yesterday by Bike Porltand and Portland Afoot, MetroMile customers plug a transponder into their car's diagnostic port (cars from before 1996 don't qualify for MetroMile because of this), which tracks mileage. Insurance prices are based on factors including, age, gender, credit score and level of coverage.
MetroMile is the first company of its kind in the United States, Pretre says. Though he lives in Redwood City, Calif., Pretre says he picked Portland to launch his company because Portland attracts those with low-car lifestyles, and because Oregon's more-flexible insurance laws permit a new company like his to launch.
The transponder is similar to one that Progressive offers customers, except Progressive's data tracker monitors what time of day and how a person is driving, like stopping short or speeding. Pretre says MetroMile's transponder will just track mileage, although he hopes to expand it to allow people to compare fuel use and other information.
Individual data will never be sold to outside companies, he says, although MetroMile does plan to share aggregate data with selected outside groups.
Started with $4 million from venture capitalists, Pretre says his goal is to expand throughout Oregon and then go wider. He's hiring three people in Portland to start.
"We're hoping it becomes a partnership with customers that changes the status quo for this industry, and it's in desperate need of it," he says. "No gecko for me."