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So many traditional industries are being shaken up by entrepreneurs who previously worked in the sector, and insurance is no exception.
One of the latest disruptors is U.K. insurtech startup Neos, whose connected home technology enables policyholders to insure and actively look after their home via a smartphone app.
Founded in 2016 by Matt Poll, who had spent 15 years working in the insurance industry before taking the plunge and going it alone, Neos was ranked 11th in the world’s 100 most disruptive brands in 2017.
Over the last three years he has grown it from scrappy startup to a globally recognized brand that has won the backing of insurance industry giant, Aviva.
Although he spent most his career in corporate circles, in roles ranging from business development to commercial management, Poll was passionate about innovation and had always aspired to be an entrepreneur.
He says: “Innovation is something that has been lacking in the insurance sector for some time, so setting up Neos was a chance for me to change that. It also enabled me to move away from the corporate world and really challenge myself.
In truth he had become frustrated at customer perceptions of the insurance industry and felt that it was ripe for disruption.
“The whole pricing model was, and still largely is, based on customer inertia,” he says. ‘I disliked the fact that customers felt that unless they had a claim, their insurer wasn’t offering them any value.”
Sensing that the time had come for the insurance industry to harness digital technology to give customers real value, rather than a piece of paper and a promise, Poll left his role of managing director at insurance company MoreThan in early 2016 to found Neos.
His vision was to significantly enhance the relationship between insurer and policyholder and create a product that people would want and value, using connected home technology as an enabler.
“Our proposition allows customers to protect their own homes, while also offering a great insurance policy,” he says. “In other words, the customer is happy as they have peace of mind that their home is safe, while the insurer experiences fewer claims.”
In 2016 Poll raised £1 million ($1.3 million) of seed funding and the following May closed a £5 million ($6.4 million) Series A funding round. In 2018, Aviva, one of the investors in that round, took a majority stake in the startup, providing investment and valuable resources to accelerate growth.
“When we launched in 2017, insurtech was still very much an emerging industry,” says Poll. “However the substantial level of investment into the sector was proof that we were on the right track. As in the fintech space, insurance customers were expecting more from their providers and technology was the perfect way to deliver this.”
The timing may have been right, but the venture was not without its challenges, particularly for someone new to startups.
“Initially I was a bit naïve,” admits Poll. “Coming from such a corporate background, I didn’t realize just how hard setting up a business from scratch would be.”
It was a steep learning curve, as he had to get involved in every part of the business, from making sure that the technology was right – without having a tech background – to raising finance and partnering with a large insurer.
“In spite of the challenges I’ve enjoyed every minute and it has enabled me to have a different perspective as we scale,” says Poll.
The transition from small startup to a recognized and established brand gained momentum as Neos began securing business-to-business deals overseas, particularly in the U.S., and getting its first 10,000 insurance customers on board, which happened quicker than Poll had expected.
“More recently, getting backing from Aviva has really taken us to a whole new level,” says Poll.
Today Neos employs 50 employees based across offices in London and Brighton, with further office locations being planned in Chicago and possibly Madrid.
In another development the company is selling its smart home technology to consumers, independent of its insurance policies. The Neos SmartCam, currently a bestseller on Amazon, sold over 20,000 within its first two months of retailing. The company is on track to turn over $10 million in this, its second year of trading.
Poll anticipates 2019 being a big year for Neos, with two international partnerships already signed and more in the pipeline. “Establishing Neos as an international player is my core focus right now,” he says.
His advice to other budding entrepreneurs with designs on launching their own disruptive startup is to keep customers at the heart of their proposition and to surround themselves with a team of great people.
He says: “Both of these things have been central to the success of Neos and they have enabled us to offer great technology and great value alongside market leading partners.”
June 12, 2019 at 11:27AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs