As part of The Startup Magazine founder interview series, we talked with Travis Batiza, the co-founder of AssuredLeads. He, along with co-founder Taylor Stinchfield, built an innovative sales and marketing platform serving the insurance industry.
Describe the AssuredLeads product/service in 10 words or less:
AssuredLeads optimizes sales production for commercial insurance agents and carriers.
Explain what AssuredLeads does with a little more detail?
AssuredLeads generates and sells the highest quality commercial insurance leads. In addition to providing exclusive, premium leads, the AssuredLeads platform offers training resources and data insights to insurance companies to help them make more informed decisions. We help commercial insurance agents and carriers save time by no longer having to waste it prospecting.
What inspired you and Taylor to start AssuredLeads? (Share with us what problem you’re solving)
As other insurance industries (e.g. personal auto insurance) encourage consumers to shop and switch their insurance to save money, it leads to unsustainable losses in the industry. The commercial insurance industry has become the focus for insurance companies to make up for these losses.
My co-founder, Taylor Stinchfield, and I helped build a rapidly-growing insurance agency prior to founding AssuredLeads. At our previous company, we saw the effectiveness of purchasing insurance sales leads to further empower well-trained salespeople, yet we couldn’t rely upon high-quality, commercial insurance leads to scale our success. Originally being in the shoes of our current customers, we realized we could provide the necessary tools for success by building AssuredLeads.
What are the disruptive factors in insurance that make it so promising?
Countless startups and established companies are currently hoping to bring innovative solutions to the commercial insurance industry, yet many have failed. The problems are clearly identified and widely agreed upon, yet many recent solutions have missed their mark. Unlike other industries that also warrant disruption, the insurance industry has a relatively slow customer adoption rate for new technology, even if it’s the right solution. There is a fine line between releasing an innovative product that solves the problem, yet does not result in market adoption, versus being realistic about solving current customer needs while building a bridge to market innovation. AssuredLeads encompasses the latter, and we’ve proven the ability to direct meaningful change without losing sight of our current customers.
Did you have to raise funds from outside investors? If so, describe that process, and, If so, how?
Yes, we have raised several rounds of capital from investors that have substantial exits under their belt, especially in the insurance industry. We are currently raising another round to scale even more rapidly.
Has going through the process of trying to raise capital impacted the vision and strategy you and Taylor have for the business?
Raising capital is a necessary component to high-growth businesses, and the fundraising process is a welcomed and an integral part of testing product viability.
As you moved to a scaleup, what were the primary challenges? Hiring? Quality control? Capital?
Hiring is a primary challenge given the current, low unemployment rate, however it’s partially self-inflicted. We aim to hire candidates that share the same standards of excellence that we cultivate in our products and company culture, which further narrows a limited talent pool.
The challenge of quality control while scaling is fundamental to the founding of AssuredLeads, as most competitors don’t care about or can’t control product quality. As we connect business owners with a specialist for their insurance needs, one of our major value propositions is optimizing their insurance-buying experience while maintaining the high-quality service and coverages they deserve. Focusing on quality control as we scale is intrinsic and we’ve developed and proven the ability to retain premium quality at scale.
What will AssuredLeads look like in another 3 to 5 years? Do you see a particular exit for the business?
AssuredLeads is expanding rapidly and will continue to do so for the next several years, with several hundred employees forecasted by 2020. Commercial insurance as an industry will continue to exist and the need for AssuredLeads’ products and services will only grow. We must constantly learn and refine to realize our goal of optimizing sales for the commercial insurance industry.
Going back to your early career decisions, tell us what factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur?
I started a company with friends when I was 13. Although I didn’t know it then, looking back I have been enterprising ever since, so it’s easy to say, “I knew it all along”. However, that isn’t accurate. In hindsight, what drove me to be an entrepreneur is the fact that I did not know what I wanted to do because I wouldn’t be satisfied with trying to become the best in one field. Solving problems makes me happiest and I get to do that daily.
It’s definitely good to be able to do what you love. What characteristics do you have that particularly contributed to your ability to jump from a startup success to a scaleup success?
Failing and learning as much as possible along the way. I’ve learned that a variety of factors impact the success of a company, especially for startups that try to solve new, dynamic problems. AssuredLeads solves problems in a major industry that has been ripe for change.
At the same time, having similar backgrounds to our customers helps us stay cognizant of the market reasons that have prevented progress thus far. Knowing how rare the alignment of market, problem, solution and timing can be, I’m humbled that our company combines the requisite industry experience making us the right team to execute.
As you have a history of building early stage companies, what is the most important thing you tell startup founders?
Fail early and often and identify how to learn and improve.
Great advice. Thank you Travis.
Travis Batiza’s experience in founding startups started at 14 and hasn’t stopped since. He helped launch one of the fastest growing and most successful insurance startups in the country, QuickInsured. After seeing an opportunity to help commercial insurance agencies grow, in 2017, Batiza and co-founder Taylor Stinchfield started AssuredLeads, a Madison, Wis., based company that optimizes commercial insurance production for brokers, agencies and insurance carriers.