Brokers Launch First Distribution-Focused Insurtech Accelerator
Brokers Holmes Murphy and M3 have partnered to found BrokerTech Ventures, an insurtech accelerator dedicated to broker-focused solutions. We sat down with the heads of both founding companies as well as initial partner Conner Strong & Buckelew to get the details.
After we put it on the shelf—this is the awesome part—Dan gave me a call about four or five months ago. He said, “We’d like to do this, but we want to pivot from standing up a fund to standing up an insurance accelerator, a broker tech accelerator, learning from what we’ve learned from the Global Insurance Accelerator here in Des Moines.”
Many of the things we had talked about in the fund are going to be accomplished in the accelerator, so it was a very easy pivot.
Keough: We were involved in supporting the initiative by M3, but separately we were working on a relationship with Brian Hemesath at the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines, and we were thinking about bringing him into our company. And timing just worked out. I called Mike, and I said, “Hey, I’m going to still support your initiative, but I want you to be made aware of what we’re doing.” And he said, “I think yours is a better approach. We are in.” He said, “Just run with it.” So we have just run with it.
It took leadership. It took us to step forward. It took Mike Victorson and M3 to have the idea around what could be done. If you think about most great things, they’re usually pivots off an original idea.
Through the culmination of our relationships from the agencies around the country, we just felt like there was a group of people that were yearning for the insights. We called hand-selected agencies that we’ve worked with in the past, and we picked very strategically who would get involved and why, and everyone we’ve asked has wanted to be part of it.
Tiagwad: We had been approached before, in the last couple years, really more about investing than some of the things that are being contemplated here that I think are really more valuable. It’s consistent with a lot of what we’re doing, which is being really thoughtful about trying to be more efficient and deliver more value-added solutions.
Victorson: But I would say this is a little bit of a work in progress. I don’t think we were ready for all of the interest we’ve received. For us, it speaks to why we were excited about this four years ago. But at the same time, we’re going to make sure we’re really tight in moving forward so that we can proceed really carefully with who becomes a partner and who becomes a sponsor. The thing that we are still going to absolutely be able to thread the needle on, though, is that the original founding premise is one of abundance, not scarcity. When the industry comes together, things are made better. Part of what I believe is going to happen over time is firms that want to participate are going to have an on-ramp that allows them to do that, even if they aren’t technically a partner.
Tiagwad: We can get a number of our folks exposed and make an impact by providing insight that the most technologically proficient person may not really have an appreciation for, because they’re insurance people, they’re not technology people and they have a totally different way of thinking and working.
It is going to be the way of the future, and the sooner we start figuring it out and demonstrating to the workforce that we do get it—we’re going to be thoughtful about it. … You’ve got a lot of busy people, and they don’t have enough spare time to be pulled away from other things that were clearly priorities. I think, when we do something like this, our group knows we’re really serious about getting these real opportunities.
Two, if you think about the next generation and how they expect technology to serve them and meet their needs, we as an insurance community have a long way to go. So this puts an exclamation point on it, and these agencies want to get there faster. They want to send a strong message to their employees that they are intentional and strategic about how they move down the innovation curve.
And then lastly, we’ve had a big challenge with diversity in this industry. As I walk around here [InsureTech Connect], this does not represent a normal insurance industry conference.
Victorson: I do believe that insurance is going to become even more of a technology business. When you think of the technology space, I think it does attract a more diverse workforce than insurance historically. If we do this right, I think this is going to be one of the most complementary efforts that our industry has in making real strides on the D&I front. Technology will be a terrific venue to expose this incredible industry to a whole bunch of people who’ve never really thought of it before.
Keough: I’ve actually not even gone to where I think we’ll target, because the whole idea of disruption is it comes from areas you don’t think of. We want to have as wide a lens as possible. We want to be open-minded on all areas of opportunity.
Tiagwad: I don’t really necessarily think we’ve got the breadth of knowledge just in our operation to be able to pick all the right ones. But it’s a handful of the right brokers collectively being able to pick among the group where we want to spend our time, collectively providing insight into some of the modifications and tweaks that should be made to the product to make it most effective. What would have to be done to really make a big difference? What are those differences? And that’s another thing that was in the back of my mind, something that would really be of value. It may be great if a few of these things we made a decent mark on, and then at the same time we’re really difference-makers in terms of servicing our clients.
An accelerator, mid-stage investment hub, innovation hub, capital hub, and potential media hub for building technology-based solutions for insurance brokers.
Partner: $100,000 annual investment for a three-year term. Partners have been identified as agency leaders in this area. Their commitments include participating in the selection and mentoring of accelerator participants.
Sponsor: $50,000 annual commitment. Sponsors gain access to trends, insights and projects unearthed through the accelerator.
Startups: Participating startups receive $50,000 initial seed funding, a built-in mentoring network, and access to capital, among other benefits.