Talage Inc. is an insurtech to its core – both in function and name.
The Reno, Nev.-based software platform designed to help small business owners compare and quickly purchase a range of commercial insurance policies announced this week that it has secured $1.5 million in funding from its first institutional investment round from partners Merus Capital, Battle Born Ventures, Acceleprise and Western Technology Investment.
Described as a Kayak-type platform that offers price comparison and shopping, the firm has partnered with eight insurance carriers including Chubb, Employers, Travelers and Markel and is gearing up to expand from 44 states into all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.
Small businesses can go online and purchase property, liability or workers’ compensation insurance. The firm’s software then identifies other needs the buyer may have, and an agent will then make contact to talk about other polices.
“We’re fully committed to the insurance agency model,” said Adam Kiefer, who founded the firm in 2015 with partners Matt Donovan and Zachary Draper. “We just want to make it more efficient and bring it up to speed.”
Kiefer previously worked for Employers, a large workers’ comp carrier in Nevada and one of Talage’s carrier partners. He also has a background in banking. Donovan and Draper both have a tech backgrounds.
Kiefer said he made the decision to launch an insurtech after he realized it was getting harder to sell policies to small businesses, which he felt were no longer being well served by agencies.
“Over the last 10 years we stared the watch the channel deteriorate,” he said “The small business owner was kind of being left behind in the process.”
He described a small business’ core suite of professional partners as bankers, lawyers, accountants and insurance agents. However, over the last few years LegalZoom, QuickBooks and online banking platforms have begun to replace these people, he said.
He didn’t want to be replaced as an agent, so he decided to launch Talage, a name that indicates the firm’s identity as a digital agency.
“Tal is the back end of digital, and age is the font end of agency,” he said.
Talage is entering an increasingly crowded space with insurtechs emerging regularly.
XL Catlin and new insurtech-focused program administrator Bamboo Insurance announced on Thursday they have entered into an underwriting agreement to provide property insurance in California.
Insurtech investment deals reached a new high in the 2018 first quarter, Willis Towers Watson reported earlier this month. There were 66 insurtech investment deals during the quarter at an investment volume of $724 million. That’s up 155 percent from the 2017 first quarter, according to Willis Towers Watson.
Despite the all the activity, Kiefer believes they are different enough to be set apart and to be successful.
The firm provides a “smart quoting platform” through its web portal, which welcomes visitors with the words “Search. Compare. Buy.”
Those looking for a quote can start typing a keyword to best describe their business and a dropdown list appears.
Start typing an “a” and choices like “Apple Orchards,” and “Animal Specialties” appear. A following page requests the business name, your name, an email address, a legal entity, whether the business has a DBA and a ZIP code. That yields a long list with checkboxes to chose from along with annual payroll. Following that visitors are offered a choice of business owners policy, worker’s comp or both.
Visitors are also asked business details, such as gross annual sales, whether they have filed any workers’ comp claims in the past four years, as well as rating questions, and locations, then they are presented with a choice of policies.
Agents will follow up with customers to offer quotes on other polices, such as errors and omissions, or directors and officers, based on a customer’s specific need, according to Kiefer.
“We don’t just send everything to everybody,” he said.
Kiefer said the software’s machine learning feature uses information from every application that comes in to further customize the platform, which they built in house.
The firm currently has eight employees, but they are in an expansion phase. They have been operating off of a small round of funding from friends and family, and followed that up with the funding announced this week.
Tallage isn’t immediately planning on another round of funding, but Kiefer does expect to eventually seek more capital.
“We’re kind of targeting 12 to 18 months from now,” he said.
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