Match made in heaven: New platform connecting startups with business insurance brokers

- February 3, 2014 5 MIN READ

RiskAdviserMatch.com can be seen as an encounter between eHarmony and Lloyds of London. Launching on Valentine’s Day, this new online ‘matching making service’ has one prime purpose: to connect startups and SMEs with the right insurance brokers to meet their business needs.

The startup was co-founded by Melbourne entrepreneurs Geoff Stooke and Nga Nguyen who spotted an alarming trend where the younger generation of business owners are purchasing insurance directly online without understanding the gaps in coverage or having access to a claims advocate.

In April last year, the duo decided to develop a better offering, one that overlays contemporary online practices onto what is considered an ‘old school’ industry. As such, startups and SMEs are able to experience the convenience and efficiency of an online crowdsourcing model, without missing out on the critical advocacy component of traditional insurance.

“Online insurance is very automated and off-the-shelf; it’s a commoditisation of products. Many businesses are missing out on the benefits of customisation. Our drive is to bring the advice model into the online insurance space,” says Stooke.

So how does RiskAdviserMatch.com work? On the site, users simply select their location and the industry they work in, adding further details such as years in operation, business structure and turnover, and either post a tender or let the site find their perfect match. Posting a tender means users can select up to three advisers to request quotes from, and their algorithm will rank matched advisers based on various factors such as industry experience and customer feedback.

Stooke emphasises that the platform is connecting startups and SMEs with individual brokers rather the company they work for.

“Much like the company RecruitLoop, who focuses on the individual recruiter, we focus on the individual adviser. We make sure they have a full profile. It’s very much a relationship-driven business and people will generally buy from you based on who you are, your interests and your attitude towards life. If you’re good at your job, that’s just a bonus,” he says.

RiskAdviserMatch.com is free for the end-user, and the company generates revenue from the insurance brokers featured on the platform who have to pre-pay for credits. One credit equates to one customer connection; and according to Stooke, the price for each credit will be confirmed at a later date. In the mean time, the startup is offering 50 credits to the first 300 brokers to sign up.

Advisors will also be given endorsements from satisfied clients. Their reputation will rely heavily on client-authored reviews – meaning that clients have the opportunity to research their adviser before connecting.

From concept to commercial reality

Stooke and Nguyen have been friends for 10 years and shared twin passions for insurance and entrepreneurship. Together they have 20 years of experience in the insurance industry, and it is this common bond that created the fertile soil for the gestation of RiskAdviserMatch.com.

April last year marks a changing moment for Stooke and Nguyen. Their careers converged; and Nguyen, who has a background in insurance, from both the business and IT side of the fence, approached Stooke with an idea. Stooke, who currently also runs brokerage firm Modern Risk Solutions, was quick to recognise the potential for RiskAdviserMatch.com to become a globally adopted insurance platform.

Whereas Lloyds of London was built in a coffee shop, RiskAdviserMatch.com was born in an underground bluestone brick tech co-working space – the York Butter Factory. After 10 months deep in development, the duo are fully focused on seeing the vision for RiskAdviserMatch.com fully realised on its current trajectory to being the largest insurance platform for startups and SMEs globally.

Stooke and Nguyen believe RiskAdviserMatch.com is the “first and only genuine link the insurance industry has at this juncture to this emerging scene of new digitally driven startups serving the next generation of business consumers.”

Since their BETA launch mid-January, they’ve signed up almost 90 Australian insurance brokers, a number that is expected to grow in the lead up to their Valentine’s Day launch.

“We received 30 signups within the first 24 hours of our soft launch, so we’ve generated revenue right from Day One,” says Stooke.

“I’m very proud of how well RiskAdviserMatch.com has been embraced by insurance brokers. It’s obviously a two-sided marketplace, but we’ve already proven demand on one side. Brokers and advisers feel like they need an online presence that is credible, and we’re offering a way for them to achieve that.”

Push vs. Pull sales

Stooke says the best part of their business model is its pull marketing structure – as opposed to push marketing. This means that people are searching for insurance brokers on their own accord, and connecting with them based on personality, track record and expertise.

“Our platform brings interested business owners to the advisers, which means they should have a 50 percent strike rate. We’re bringing business back into the advocacy model.”

“The biggest challenge for insurance brokers is that customers are going to direct online insurance providers. Our mission now is to get some of the stakeholders in the industry to appreciate the value of our offering. If we don’t make changes now, the threat will be felt by the whole insurance broking industry.”

But wouldn’t it cost more to have a middleman, whether or not it’s a push or pull sale? Stooke says this is a misunderstanding. A younger generation of business owners think that buying insurance directly online is the cheapest option, when in fact, insurance brokers have various customised products for different industries that cost significantly less than automated online products.

Triple Aussie threat: 99designs, Freelancer, and RiskAdviserMatch

Stooke reveals that he’d like to see RiskAdviserMatch.com become the 99designs or Freelancer of the business insurance industry. Similar to these Australian companies,

RiskAdviserMatch.com has implemented crowdsourcing-like model where business owners have platform of advisors that they can tap into at any time on their own terms. This means that business owners can post a job at any time of convenience, and have a range of advisors return with a quote.

“We really want to target startup businesses, because they’re early adopters of technology – especially if it makes their lives simpler. Wouldn’t it be great if you’re an early stage startup and you got your business logo designed on 99designs, got your website built with Freelancer, and purchased your insurance through RiskAdviserMatch? Anyone can get their basic business functionality up and running using three Australian tech companies,” he says.

“We want to be considered in the same context as 99designs and Freelancer. A lot of startups use their services; and we think if we can get some early adopters in the tech startup space, RiskAdviserMatch.com will be able to gain that momentum.”

According to Stooke, the other reason why startups are the perfect market for RiskAdviserMatch.com is because they’re out to disrupt an industry.

“If you’re disrupting the market, challenging the status quo, chances are people are either going to try and acquire you or litigate you. You need to have the right business insurance to protect any liability. A lot of startups don’t realise this until much later on,” says Stooke.

Expanding to the US

Though it’s still early days, Stooke and Nguyen have global aspirations, with their eyes firmly set on expanding throughout the US at the same time as launching officially in Australia.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response from insurance brokers globally – particularly the US. We didn’t think we’d expand into the US market until about six months from now, but it seems they want RiskAdviserMatch.com immediately.”

Stakeholders in the US have also shown interest in investing in RiskAdviserMatch.com, though Stooke and Nguyen haven’t made any formal arrangements to date.

All in all, it looks like blue skies ahead for this startup.

For more information, visit www.riskadvisermatch.com