Startup on a Mission: Delivering Financial Peace of Mind with InsurTech
Over the course of the next couple of months, we’ll be sitting down with each Founder and asking them some top of mind questions on the progress of Breathe Life, what gets them out of bed each morning, and what the future holds. To kick this off, we sat down with Ian Jeffrey, our CEO and Co-Founder.
Q: Why is it so important to Breathe Life to be a “mission-driven” company?
A couple of years ago when I first began telling people of my interest in launching a startup to sell insurance online, they thought I was crazy. And these weren’t just any people, they were people I cared about, respected, and had worked with successfully over many years. So I needed to take their reaction seriously and quickly learned that “the why” of launching an InsurTech – i.e., “our reason for being” – was going to be just as important as the “what” and “how” of the technology.
Insurance is important. Being covered when you need it, as one of my co-founders learned at a young age, is literally a life-changer, and I knew that message had to be front and center in everything we do as a company. When I began to frame Breathe Life in terms of bringing a life-changing benefit to many people who don’t have it, people bought in. That made forming the founding team, attracting initial investors, and building out operations – the great group of folks we have designing, coding, developing, and selling the Breathe Life platform – much easier and more natural. They all wanted in!
Our mission today is to bring financial peace of mind to families worldwide, and I can’t stress enough how important that mission is to our success. Working at a startup can be really hard – the pressure, the hours, the pace. Selling into a well-established industry such as insurance is difficult, too. Our rallying cry can’t be “let’s work harder, everyone, the operational efficiency of insurance companies is in the balance!” But it sure can be, “Our work is going to help families around the world in their moment of need.”
There are many well-documented cases of how central “mission” is to successful companies like Apple, and how having one helped elevate them above the pack. And while these themes are important to us at Breathe Life, too, I’ve just really come back to how important it is for the people working at a company to have a shared mission and vision that they believe in and can rally around.
I’ll be honest, amidst all of the things that happen at a startup, from product development and implementation to fundraising and hiring and outgrowing your office space – and all the time selling, selling, selling – it’s sometimes easy to forget about the mission. But whenever we’ve lost sight of it amongst the pure busy-ness of our success, we’ve always come back to it. It’s central to who we are, and it keeps us all honest and on track.
Q: It’s kind of hard to believe, but 2019 flew by so quickly. What accomplishments have brought us the most satisfaction?
This past year was a whirlwind. We learned a lot as a company, and I learned a lot as a CEO. I’m really proud of the fact that we raised our seed round and used it effectively to grow our business and stay on track. We more than doubled our headcount to 35 employees, and not a single person has quit or moved on to another company. Part of that is the mission that we’ve discussed, but a lot of it, too, is being passionate and careful about who we hire. We are very particular and look for a strong cultural fit.
I am also proud of the diverse company we are building: we have 11 women on our team, many of whom are developers; we’ve got folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s; and at last count, eight or nine languages are spoken here. This diversity is important to us, not only to buck the ‘bro culture’ of tech, but because it enlivens our culture and workplace, creating a collaborative, positive dynamic that is translating into a great product, a great team, and a great work environment.
I think we’re all going to remember 2019 as a seminal year at Breathe Life. We raised our seed round, launched our platform, won new business, and delivered on our promises to our customers, all the kinds of things we have highlighted in our press releases and that signal our strong growth, momentum, and leadership in the InsurTech space. Behind the scenes, we worked very closely with insurance carriers and their advisors to really understand their pain points and sharpen our value proposition, which is why today we are the Insurance Industry’s Enterprise Commerce Platform of choice for driving new business.
Q: Given the progress we’ve made in 2019, what do you see ahead for Breathe Life and the industry in 2020?
The InsurTech industry is white-hot right now with large amounts of capital flowing into it. The fact that companies such as Ladder, Ethos, and Lemonade have raised so much money has really shaken things up in the insurance industry.
And that’s a good thing for us because it’s forcing traditional carriers to get serious about their modernization efforts and make a move. Eighteen months ago, many carriers we talked to were still on the fence about whether they wanted to lead their own digital transformation or outsource to providers like Breathe Life. Today, they are off the fence and almost uniformly ready to engage.
That means we have to be ready to go, too, and we’ve built a platform that is easy to implement and drives results quickly. That’s key because there are a lot of companies that have raised the money but don’t really have the technology or the ear of the customer to capitalize on the opportunity.
Change has been a long time coming in the insurance industry. The online habits of a new generation of buyers, and the disruptive threat posed by a new breed of digital-first insurance carriers, is forcing the industry to move. Breathe Life is in an ideal position to help the incumbents become digital insurers quickly and intelligently so they can win business and delight customers in the 2020s.
It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity, and I’m not expecting much sleep this year!