Why Creating an Insuretech’s Prodcut is Like Being an Insurance Broker – Part 1

I barely could hear the buzz of my cellphone as it endlessly buzzed. Gradually pulling me from a deep sleep into a barely groggy consciousness and constant denial of the phone’s persistent reminder that I needed to wake up and answer it.  As each buzzing call cycle would gratefully end, 30 seconds later, another would mercilessly begin.

In my determination not to wake up, I began to lose the battle of hopeful denial as another cycle of buzzing finally crushed my resolve and I angrily tried to grab the phone off my nightstand.  “Is this Lawrence Lipman?”, the person on the line asked.  The caller sounded European or even from England (which I guess is still European until they figure out Brexit), which alerted my Robo-Call antennae.  My suspicion was that they were attempting to sell me something I’d never buy.  I paused, hoping either the computer-generated call system would hear nothing and auto-shut-off.  But, to my bewilderment, this time the caller asked in a firmer, less salesperson-like voice “Is this Lawrence Lipman, the Insurance guy?”  After, more than 37 years of training myself to sell Insurance Services and Products to anyone who called and asked, I instantly and Pavlovian-like, changed my entire demeanor and I went into self-promotion mode.

“Yes, you can call me Larry.  I’m an Insurance person.”

The voice at the other end introduced himself as Sondre, the Founder of SafetyWing.  “I found you”, he said “on Upwork and LinkedIn.  Did you receive my Instant Messages?”.

I admitted that I was just waking up and hadn’t read any emails or messages yet.  And, could I call him back in a few minutes?  He graciously confirmed the phone number on my cellphone’s screen and hung up.

I, because in my sub-conscious, felt defeated by giving into the phone’s buzzing demands, immediately fell asleep for another 3 hours.  When I woke up, I hit the start button on my PC and waited for it to cycle through the Windows re-boot cycle (how after almost 40 years, this hasn’t been fixed and they haven’t invented an “instant-on” like a TV set boggles my mind).

I clicked my In-Box icon and sure enough, there were three emails from Sondre and when I clicked onto my LinkedIn, there were a ton of Instant Messages from him.  And, indeed, on LinkedIn he was listed as a co-founder of Safetywing located in Norway with an office in Palo Alto!

 

For a guy who I had never met he was sure trusting me with a ton of information and we hadn’t signed to customary NDA!   This, by the way, is very common for most Insurtech Founders and staff.  They’re brand new to business, in many cases, and have very little in the way of process or formalities.  Because they operate on a shoe-string (until they get funded, then it’s the normal VC funded Friday parties and unmitigated or unbridled cash flow drain on anything and everything you can think of), there are very few checks and balances or lawyers influencing how to vet potential allies or threats.

 

After reading the first sentence, which stated what Safetywing was going to insure, I realized that I wasn’t exactly the perfect person for them to be reaching out to.  But, based upon the information and documents in their emails, I was directed to respond via Upwork’s consulting system. I logged onto Upwork and created a profile.  I didn’t spend a great deal of time creating that Profile.  As, it does require a great deal of thought and preparation if you are setting yourself up as a consultant that is soliciting future business. (and, later, I did go back and completely complete their Profile section.  I’m glad I did. It has lead to almost 10 different consulting engagements with either startup Insurtechs or Businesses seeking independent insurance brokerage advice – everything from policy review to actual policy sales!)  I focused on old resumes and profiles that I had created on other business sites and took data about me found on my Facebook and LinkedIn pages and my website and did some “cutting and pasting”.

 

I’d never been on Upwork before.  But, after searching around, I found several companies from ALL OVER THE WORLD looking for consultants with Insurance expertise.  There were “advertisements” asking for someone to review a basic Renters Policy to people yearning for expertise in assisting with re-filing medical or even homeowners claims.

After about an hour of research on the site, it hit me that almost every entry, even those from Insurtech Startups asking for Blog Posts and Expert Articles defining basic insurance terms, was a plea for basic insurance brokerage expertise.  Any broker, who happened upon Upwork could easily find new clients who were in desperate need for assistance.  Either they didn’t trust their current resource or they didn’t have a relationship with anyone in the insurance industry.

Any insurance professional with a modicum of experience and a bit of service culture who knew enough to log onto Upwork would find that there were at least a dozen pleas for assistance every day on that site.  The Upwork Site allows posters to either pay a consultant on an hourly or per milestone or per project basis.

 

Writing an article would pay as little as $30 per entry to as much as $.50 per word.  I can’t help but insert my own personal bias when I say that there are dozens of Insurtech startups where they ask for expertise and articles to help improve their sites and make them more credible.  This tells me what I’ve always believed:  Most of these Insurtech’s founders have very little knowledge of our industry and even less knowledge about the areas they’re working to disrupt!  What they do have is the ability or connections to obtain funding!

 

After completing my Profile, I followed the process to propose terms to assist Safetywing with their desire to add additional products to their initial incredibly successful (and growing) Travel Insurance product.

 

According to Upwork, if Safetywing and his co-founders (including Hans and Mads) liked my Proposal, they’d set up an interview (non-paid) and follow up with me.

 

I waited a couple of days until I saw a text come in on my Upwork IPhone Icon.  A little “!” up on the corner of the Icon (or 2 or 3 etc) let’s you know when someone wants to speak with you about a project.

I clicked on the icon and it opened to a message from Hans that he and his co-founder, Sondre, wished to speak with me.  Awesome! I thought.  I had an interview!  We spoke for about an hour.  They hit me with about every question you could think of.  They wanted to know about my career.  Did I have experience working with Insurance Companies.  Did I have any C-Suite connections?  How long would it take me, if they engaged my services, to accomplish the tasks that they needed completed.  Unlike most job interviews I have been through during the last decade, they hired me immediately towards the end of the call and we agreed on an hourly rate for a maximum number of hours per week.

My job?  My job was to set up meetings for Safetywing’s co-founders and myself to speak with carriers or risk bearing entities (like MGA’s and MGUs’) that would be interested in underwriting two new products that Safetywing felt their community and their business plan needed to launch or be available.  These two products spanned the industry’s two main disciplines:  P&C and L&H.  So, the carrier I’d need to talk to for the most part could do one, but not the other product I needed to have underwritten.

Leaving this on a cliffhanger, Part 2 will continue the story of Safetywing!

About Larry Lipman

Larry is a long-time agent who has sold both the biggest and the smallest of insurance policies. Consultant for www.getcarvi.com (the best Telematics provider on the planet), www.Safetywing.com (Insurtech leading the way for Digital Nomads and Startups with out of country people that they care about) and www.Suretys.com (I'd tell you, but then I'd have to.....)

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