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Q&A: A tech startup’s experience at InsureTech Connect

Brian Anderson

If last week’s inaugural InsureTech Connect conference in Las Vegas was not your typical insurance conference, it would stand to reason that the people and companies at the two-day event would not be your typical crowd, either.

It was a lively, energetic mix of entrepreneur/CEO/founders pitching or promoting their startups, venture capitalists looking for new opportunities in the currently hot insurance space, forward-thinking carriers/incumbents looking to partner with innovators, and everybody sharing thoughts and ideas about how insuretech companies have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the way the insurance business serves the needs of today’s tech-savvy consumers.

Here’s a Q&A with the CEO/founder of one of the companies that was making the rounds among the 1,500-plus people at the event, intended to provide some insight into the event as well as a snapshot of a startup in its first years finding its way into the future of insurance.

First a little background about the company…

Belleview, Wash.-based Agent Review brings the review model made popular by Yelp, Avvo, Zillow, Angie’s List, etc., to the insurance space. The platform empowers consumers to easily understand the consequences for a lack of coverage, the ability to review an agent’s professional makeup and then allows them the ability to review agents that fit their search criteria. The search criteria can include zip code, type of insurance, agent experience, performance ratings, language, testimonials, military service, charities, states licenses, and more.

In addition, consumers can post reviews and performance ratings about their agent experience, offering reliable social feedback to guide their peers’ future decisions. Agent Review is free to the consumer and provides them two high-level search option features. The first is a dedicated cluster of search tabs and the second is a search bar. The search bar feature is optimized with each agent’s profile allowing a consumer to fine-tune their search.

For example, a consumer looking for a female, Spanish-speaking agent in California that sells life insurance, could search: “life insurance, woman, Spanish speaking, Orange County. Another unique feature the platform offers is its Translator Tool. The platform translates into 72 different languages supporting the consumer whose native language is not English or the agent trying to market themselves to specific ethnic groups.

Jonas Roeser
Jonas Roeser

Q&A with Jonas Roeser, co-founder and CEO, Agent ReviewInsurance Forums: What prompted Agent Review to attend InsureTech Connect 2016, and what was your impression of the event?

Jonas Roeser: As an insurance startup the conference provided an environment we were looking to take part in – from the ability to meet potential investors, see possible competition and to be inspired by new tech products for the insurance industry. The environment was just hands down awesome! I have been going to insurance trade shows for over a decade and never have I viewed attendees spirits so high, a genuine interest in others and true captains of industry coming together to make an industry stronger.

Insurance Forums: What did you get out of the event?

Jonas Roeser: A look into what the future of insurance tech looks like, face-to-face meetings with investors and incredible presentations from forward thinkers and industry leaders.

Insurance Forums: What makes now an exciting time to be an insureTech startup?

Jonas Roeser: The insurance tech industry is booming. Insurance technology attracted around $2.6 billion in investment dollars last year. In the first quarter of 2016 more than 45 insurtech deals were sealed, with funding totaling $650 million, according to researcher CB Insights. This is the most deals in any quarter and the second highest amount of investment for such a period. Anytime an industry is this hot, it is exciting.

Insurance Forums: How do you see the industry as being ripe for disruption?

Jonas Roeser: Disruption is good and disruption is growth. Our product Agent Review is a first-to-market product for the insurance space, but is different from many of the other new startups to the space. We are one of the ONLY insurance startups that believes that insurance is not simple and agents do matter, in an environment of tech and refinement that believes the agent will go the way of the dodo bird. It seems as though we are one of the few insurance tech startups that is looking to disrupt the disruption of the forethought of investment bankers and so-called visionaries that are outside the insurance space. Agent Review was one of the only platforms in attendance that is innovating on behalf of the insurance agent. What the investment bankers don’t realize is the business submitted by an agent vs. a direct-to-consumer platform places far higher on larger premium products. With 15+ years in the industry and multiple insurance companies engaging us about our platform, we know that agents will remain a part of the equation, especially in the less-transactional verticals. Insurance is sold and not bought; websites that sell on price alone have massive persistency challenges and insurance companies value the quality of business that is received from agent distribution. According to Michael Ginsberg, Cigna Vice President, Supplement Health Sales U.S. Individual-Broker Channel, “Agent Review brings value by allowing the public to view the agent information in a very public forum, which benefits both the agent and the consumer. This gives the agent a very unique way to promote their products and services that is different than any other way I am aware of.”

Insurance Forums: What’s next for Agent Review?

Jonas Roeser: We are growing rapidly and our growth requires more capital. So as of now, we are supporting just under 200k agents on our platform and continue conversations with investment firms to fund our next round. We continue to focus on technology, training and online brand management agents need to survive in the digital world.

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