They may have a good idea-using the Internet to improve claims processing-but timing isn't helping them.Many claims services dot-coms-like other dot-coms-are financially or operationally struggling.

ClaimsDesk, a Seattle-based firm that provides an aggregation of information sources for adjusters, has 2,000 registered users on its site, but has yet to sign on a carrier.

"We're 98% there with one company," says a company spokesperson. "But there's no doubt that it's very difficult right now. We're trying to raise more money."

Another venture capital-backed Internet claims service provider, Ensera Inc., Redwood Shores, Calif., recently has gone through senior management changes. And this April, online insurance hub CLAIMPlace, Wilmington, Mass., closed its doors and moved development inside The Hartford, its primary financial backer.

"Venture capital firms are not looking to make investments, so carriers may have to create some solutions in-house rather than going to venture-backed tool providers," says Todd Eyler, senior research analyst at Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

Other carriers are turning to software suppliers or consulting firms with proven track records in the industry.

Several software suppliers, including Applied Systems Inc., University Park, Ill., The Freedom Group, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Chicago-based Accenture and Toronto-based Castek Software Factory Inc., are developing claims capabilities based on XML and browser technology. An at least two firms, Chicago-based CCC Information Services Inc. and Mitchell International, San Diego, have launched collision repair sites.

"We decided to partner with a software company that already has a distribution channel in the United States-instead of trying to raise capital and hire people-to move into the U.S. market," says Rob Gow, vice president of e-business solutions at InsuroCity, a Toronto-based Internet claims services firm. "If there's one thing I've learned, you can have the best technology, but you have to have the right partnerships in order to get into the insurance industry."

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