Arach Tchoupani, Breathe Life’s Chief Technology Officer, shares his journey into the business of life insurance and thoughts on how the industry can – and must – better serve the needs of consumers.
Q: Why did you decide that the business of insurance, and Breathe Life, was the right next step for you?
Like many career paths, there were a number of circumstances that ultimately led me to Breathe Life. For starters, when I was living in New York City 7 years or so ago, I crossed paths with the founders of KnowItOwl, the company that became PolicyGenius. While I was confident that this team would be successful, it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time. I kept an eye on them though, watched them build the business, and got to understand tech opportunities in the insurance industry.
My focus in those days was on e-commerce, and I continued to build my skills across several different businesses including ticket sales, wine marketplaces, and children’s clothing. When I moved back to Montréal and considered my next steps, I packaged all my e-comm experience and built a small consultancy focused on helping non-technology companies solve business problems through technology. My biggest client was the e-commerce business unit at Starbucks, and we had a great run until they sold retail rights to Nestle, and I found myself ready for my next challenge.
I won’t go into every detail, but many roads in the Montréal tech scene lead back to a select group of movers and shakers, including Diagram Ventures. One of my first networking meetings was with Ian Jeffrey – I knew of him and his reputation as a successful innovator, but we had not crossed paths before. Ian was working with Diagram then on an insurance-related business, and I found myself ready and eager to tackle the business of insurance, so here we are.
Q: What does the Life Insurance Awareness Month theme — Reality Check: the Time for insurance is Now — mean to you?
I know the campaign is meant to target consumers with messages about why they should purchase life insurance, but from my perspective, it’s also a reality check for the industry: the time to step up is now. People need life insurance products now more than ever. The pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives. Consumers are worried, have a lot on their plates, and need life insurance companies to serve them more effectively.
There is a reason companies such as Lemonade, Ladder Life, and Root have gotten a lot of attention – they’ve made it easier – i.e., faster, less cumbersome, more intuitive – than the rest of the industry to buy insurance products. And yet, while this new breed of insurance company is often seen as a “reality check” for the industry, I think the industry has even bigger competition. What happens when the tech giants – the Amazons and Googles – decide to get in the insurance game? Amazon and Tesla are already offering auto insurance in some markets, and Apple is increasingly investing in health data collection – and all these guys already have a pretty good handle on the data, e-commerce and consumer experience problem.
If the life insurance business wants to remain a standalone, mission-driven industry, then it has to figure out how to serve consumers more efficiently and effectively – and time is running out. Look at what Uber did to the taxi industry. Unless the existing industry can get its act together, big tech will eat their lunch, too. That’s one of the many reasons I am so excited about what we are doing at Breathe Life: we are on the front lines of a big, transformational moment in the industry; the stakes are high; and we have the right solutions, people, and methodology to help legacy insurance providers thrive!
Q: Are there lessons from your e-commerce experience that the life insurance industry should take note of?
The main lesson is this: don’t waste a decade re-learning the lessons of e-commerce – so many answers are already available. When I was a CTO for e-commerce companies, I began to realize that we were continually building new platforms to solve the same problems. Rather than building its own platforms, the insurance industry has the opportunity to leverage existing technologies and platforms to fast-track solutions today to many of its problems.
I find it ironic that the insurance industry – an industry founded on managing risk – is often scared to take any. I urge the insurance industry to remember its history as the original risk-takers, embrace that legacy, and make the transformational leap now!