As an almost four-year-old InsurTech, Coterie is no longer in the stage of trying to make our idea of simplifying the small business insurance buying process feasible. The company has been around long enough to figure out what works well, where we want to go, and start establishing more processes and procedures around our work.
This is what we wanted all along. Growth is great, and we’re thrilled to be lucky enough to have made it this far. We’re seeing more penetration in the market, our teams have grown, our partnerships have increased, and overall, we’re now in a totally different stage as a more established player in the industry.
It’s a great thing to build a company to get big enough for mature product roadmaps and a vision on where to take the company. The leadership is directing teams to dig into what’s working and build out from there.
What Was Missing
Many people join startups because they want to experiment, try new things, and implement creative ideas to drive the business forward. However, as a startup successfully grows, which is what everyone wants, the company will inevitably move away from that initial phase and more into finding repeatable processes that work.
Enter the decision to create a startup within a start-up at Coterie Insurance. This new division, called Innovation and Expansion, focuses solely on cutting-edge innovative ideas and plans. The team and their work are purposefully kept segregated away from core Coterie work so experimentation can be done without direct impact to Coterie’s main operations and resources.
“Insurance is a heavily regulated industry. Accordingly, there are parts of our business that require more rigor and process, especially as we grow and the cost of mistakes increase, said David McFarland, Coterie Insurance co-founder and chief executive officer. “However, we don’t want this to stymie our innovative spirit, so we dedicated time and resources to a place where we can move fast and break things in a way that won’t compromise our core business.”
David saw that if the company is constantly trying to prioritize based on return on investment and biggest near-term impact, we will inevitably be pulled towards enhancing your existing products. To truly believe that new tools, processes and products can change the way the business is conducted, there is a need to deliberately break free from the gravitational pull of the core business.
How This Organizational Model Drives Our Business Forward
The Innovation team’s mission is to launch into new markets, expand Coterie’s footprint, experiment, and learn. The team does this by quickly testing new ideas and standing up strategic partnerships that evolve the business model and ultimately represent significant revenue potential.
The startup within a startup enables a keen focus on developing, testing and evolving new products and business models with the goal of ultimately building the next generation of core products for the enterprise.
Here’s what this looks like in practice. Recently, the team decided to take a fresh look at policyholder notices. Each state has specific guidelines for notices regarding changes in the policy terms, coverages, premium or cancellations—with variations around what must be communicated to policyholders and the number of days in advance the notice must be received. The existing industry tools for determining compliant notification lead time for policyholders involved very manual work and customer support interaction.
By approaching with an innovative mindset, the team quickly realized this inefficient process was ripe for automation. So, we opted to design and build our own API-based tool to enable batch runs. We went from spending 10-15 minutes on one notice to running a month’s worth of notices in less than two minutes.
Taking the time to improve an inefficient process that isn’t core work is likely a luxury for most start-ups. Our Innovation team is empowered to look at inefficient existing processes and customer pain points to find digital solutions that remove friction.
Not only was the team able to create a tool that saves our company a lot of time, but we shared the new tool and found a larger need. While we’re still working out how the tool can function externally, it’s clear there is a larger need for streamlining industry processes such as this one.
Creating this new division is an experiment in and of itself. The next 10 years in the commercial insurance space are going to see significant changes and Coterie strives to create some of that change, not just chase after it.
As a company that’s out to transform small commercial insurance, we’ll keep innovating and trying new things. The ability to test out new ideas without disrupting our core work puts us in a unique spot to take on work that may seem risky or crazy. However, as we can see by looking backwards, it’s often those risky, crazy ideas that truly change an industry and serve customers best.