Insurtech CEO Interview
By Financial Technology Partners
You ran an insurance agency prior to founding TechCanary. How did that experience inspire you to start a software company?
As an agency owner, I needed things for my company that other systems could not provide. I decided to build my own system on Salesforce because I wanted a running start on building the solution. Salesforce provided me a front-end sales and marketing automation program which I then built an agency management system functionality on top of. We deployed this solution for our agency, and a couple years later Salesforce approached me to partner and bring the product to market. I never intended on starting a software company – the stars just aligned, and it happened.
What is the problem TechCanary is solving for agencies, and what is your overall mission?
First and foremost, our mission is to help our customers better leverage technology. To do so, we are bringing customers into a completely flexible environment that allows them to truly automate their day to day operations. For example, we are building workflows with conditional logic that walk our end users down a path by asking all the right questions in the right order. This method streamlines operations, allowing customers to bring on employees with little to no experience. This is just one very basic example, and there are hundreds more. I believe that technology should really drive ROI for the customer, otherwise there is no value.
You’re building a next generation of technology to enable agents at a time when some other ventures are betting against agents and trying to disintermediate them. What is your perspective on the future for insurance agents?
My perspective on the future of insurance agents is, while their traditional role is evolving, there will always be a place for them in the insurance lifecycle. Insurance transactions are becoming more and more digital, meaning consumers want to access and conduct all their insurance business online. This is why TechCanary is such a great fit for this transition. Our platform, being on Salesforce, allows an insurance agent to handle customer requests anytime and anywhere due to the limitless mobile capabilities of TechCanary and Salesforce. If a customer contacts their agent to make a policy change or request information, the agent can access it on our platform in real time as opposed to on a legacy system which often requires a day or so turnaround. TechCanary enables agents to deliver a better customer experience while giving customers the ability to access important information directly through our portal. This combination of empowering both agents and customers to handle any insurance issue quickly and easily is where the future of insurance and the role of agents are heading towards.
What is the profile of the typical client you’re signing up, and what are the main drivers of them switching to TechCanary from their current agency management systems?
TechCanary works with a wide range of customers including agencies, brokerages, carriers, and MGAs. Our customers range from small companies with five employees to large ones with thousands of employees and offices across the country. Frustrations with the lack of innovation in existing legacy agency management systems is the main motivation for insurance companies moving to the TechCanary platform. Traditional insurance company set-up requires multiple disparate systems. Clients are drawn to TechCanary because our platform can replace these separate systems and create a unified platform where data flows freely and processes and efficiencies are dramatically improved. Another major factor influencing new clients to choose TechCanary is their desire to improve the customer experience. Insurance companies are looking to modernize and enable their clients to address their insurance needs digitally.
Tell us about your decision to build the TechCanary product on the Salesforce platform and the benefits and challenges that have come with that strategy?
As I briefly mentioned, I originally built my product on Salesforce because it is a scalable platform and comes with features and functionalities we could leverage out of the box. As a software company, it has been technically challenging to build our solution on top of the Salesforce platform. Building a product of our size on Salesforce is more of an art than a science. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation if we didn’t truly embrace the platform to its fullest. Our customers are able to take advantage of a worldwide software solution as opposed to a solution for one sector in a single industry.
The dominant AMS providers have invested in cloud versions of their platforms in recent years. What are you finding about the dynamics of competing with established incumbents in an industry that isn’t known for being quick to embrace new entrants?
First and foremost, our competitors have not built cloud solutions, all they are doing is hosting the legacy software on a remote server. That is very, very, very different than a true cloud-based solution. It is correct to say our industry doesn’t adopt new solutions, especially at the top end of the market. But keep in mind we have been doing this since 2010, and our first product was released in 2013. Now, as we continue to add customers including larger logos, the industry is calling us the “third option,” though it has taken us years to get here and develop our reputation.
TechCanary is also working with carriers and MGAs. What capabilities are you providing them?
MGAs use a system in-between an agency management system and a policy administration system. What we have done is taken the agency management system and added additional features and functionality – like a rating engine – that enables the MGA to run their business. Carriers use our system in a few ways. Historically, carriers used our solution for their internal agency. Now, with our recently built distribution management system for carriers, what we provide is essentially a software solution that manages their distribution channel. Carriers use this system when they are out talking to agencies about their book of business to help them sell more products.
You raised initial capital from several experienced insurance veterans last year. How has their involvement as advisors helped you in growing the business?
The same people who invested in this Company are the ones who founded the agency management industry. For example, Dennis Chookaszian founded AMS while he was the CEO of CNA Insurance. He then brought on David Wroe, who was CEO at one of the incumbent companies for many years and is now also a personal investor in TechCanary. They immediately recognized the potential of our product and its ability to disrupt the market and challenge incumbent systems which have dominated the industry for decades. Some of our investors have experience running agency management systems with huge market shares while others came from insurance carriers with premiums in the billions. They all saw the potential in TechCanary, which is why they personally invested. Their experience and industry connections have been invaluable in helping steer the direction of the Company, recommending key product enhancements, connecting us with talented individuals to join our team, and helping us get in front of potential customers who value their insights. Their involvement has been and is still integral to our success.
What can you share about where the business is today in terms of clients and revenue?
TechCanary is currently the number one insurance solution on Salesforce, with over 500 customers and adding roughly 15 new customers per month. We have grown over 300% year-over-year and rank 393 on Inc. 500’s fasting growing companies in America. We are also the third fastest growing company in the state of Wisconsin and the fastest growing in the Milwaukee area.
How many employees does TechCanary have today, and what are the highlights of your future growth plans?
Today, TechCanary has close to 100 employees, and we will be over 150 employees in 2019. We have a conversion ratio of over 60% on everyone who sees a demo of the product. Our growth plans are simple: we want to continue to take market share, and we will continue to add more valuable people to do so.
What advice would you offer to other lnsurTech entrepreneurs?
Bootstrap as long as you can. Always be innovating. And most importantly, honor your word.