Looking back on 2020
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
At the end of 2019 Chris and Aidan founded Exante with the support of Shipyard Technology Ventures. A little over a year on they look back at some of the highlights so far, and forward to what is coming in 2021.
What were your highlights of 2020?
2019 was the first year of Exante so our main task was concept validation and feedback. We talked to insurers, reinsurers, brokers, potential clients, regulators, government agencies, individuals, VCs, and more across the USA, Europe and Asia. I loved the feedback we got from them and I am excited to work with them going forward. 2020 was the year we turned those positive meetings into action. I am proud that a concept that only existed between two people in 2019 is shared by hundreds in 2021.
Secondly, hiring a fantastic CEO, Kristine Ung, and appointing a Chairman, Andrew Economous for Exante Asia in 2020 was a massive achievement. To do all of that completely digitally without ever travelling to pitch or interview is something that was unconscionable a year ago. I get on brilliantly with both Kristine and Andrew and I am excited about the possibilities for Exante in Asia.
Finally, I am proud of the progress we have made with regulatory and reinsurance partners. In both cases we are asking them to do something that has never really been done before. Our solution powered by Mastercard has gone a long way to give them confidence in our approach, but I respect their willingness to step with us into an unknown.
The 2019 Christmas break was well needed. After 3 months of fast paced product and business development, there was a new energy and focus arriving back to the office in early January.
I don’t think you can ever know with full certainty the right direction for a startup to go, but after some time to reflect and recuperate, our progress felt clearer than before. Of course, a pandemic that effectively shuts down the global economy makes whatever goals we set harder to reach. Despite this, while working fully remotely for the majority of the year, I think we managed to achieve a great deal.
I can talk about the software we built (Trigger system. iOS, Android, web apps. APIs. Regulatory compliance. Machine learning for receipt validation) and I can mention the obstacles we overcame and learned from (integrating real world data sources, onboarding users from different sources, managing insurance policies, payments and payouts, third part integrations and more) but in all honesty, none of these things would have been possible without the team that has been formed.
Twelve months on, we have all had a very different Christmas holiday. Mine wasn’t particularly recuperative this year, but I am thankful that it was marked by inconvenience rather than tragedy.
I am fortunate to be wishing “Happy New Year” to 5 full time engineers as they return from their break. 5 people who are focused, diligent, and experienced in their respective domains. At the start, we were a collection of people who had never met each other face to face, working with seat-of-the-pants plans, deploying ad-hoc, and testing as we demo. Now, after a methodological gear change we are a team of engineers and colleagues with a robust communication protocol, building well planned features in a structured and robust framework – who have still never met each other face to face.
Here’s to a face to face Christmas party in 2021. (Or mask to mask?)
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I am excited to scale our first product in 2021. I believe the Exante Hurricane product makes a difference to those who have it. It reduces financial stress and frees them from a perceived danger. So I am excited to provide that to as many people as possible. I hope there is a quiet Hurricane season and Exante never pays a claim, but I also know when we do it'll be our most positive touchpoint.
Aside from hurricanes, we are working with some major insurers to use our trigger engine and disbursement mechanism to power up more fast paying or predictive products. The level of innovative thinking in the incumbents we deal with is strong, and I am excited to see where they push us to take this product.
We are naturally building out a team and building out more use cases internally in 2020. We have already got a solid team who are excited by predictive parametric insurance and I take great joy from adding to that. In 2021 I want us to truly become a large team of world experts in this space.
Our tech and our team have come a long way in 2020. But our plans for 2021 will blow that out of the water. Our effort has been focused on foundational tech and product basics. This year we start to scale the product we took from a dream to reality.
Any startup playbook will tell you to get your product into the market as soon as possible and validate early. In insurance the financial, regulatory and legal requirements mean you can’t just slap an app together, stick it on the app store and hope for the best. We have done the groundwork to overcome those hurdles, and now we have the freedom to distribute this widely.
In 2019, our team consisted of two Irish lads and a pitch deck. Anybody who has founded a startup knows that it requires a jack-of-all-trades approach. This works in the early days, but it doesn’t scale. Now our full-time team is 300% larger (plus a few percent to account for Christmas bellies), focused and experienced in their domains. Oh, and majority female too.
I don’t know exactly what the team will look like by the end of 2021, but if the positive trend continues, we will be in very good company.