Insurance policies are a highly politicized issue. And while every pseudo-politician yells and posts annoying statuses about how they can fix the situation, this company is going about their business making sure that, regardless of what is going on in Washington DC, you are getting the best insurance for you. PolicyGenius, the online insurance information engine gives you the unbiased facts about insurance policies so that you can easily navigate the many options. With their UI that offers side-by-side viewing options and sortable statistics, you’ll be pleased that you will not have to speak with customer service reps to discern which policy is right for you.
Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO and cofounder of the company, talks with AlleyWatch about their newest round of funding as well as how they started up.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We, at PolicyGenius just closed our Series B round at $15 million, led by Revolution Ventures and with participation from Karlin Ventures, Susa Ventures, AXA Strategic Ventures, Transamerica Ventures and MassMutual Ventures.
Tell us about your product or service.
PolicyGenius is the only place online to shop for life, long-term disability, renters and pet insurance through its highly accurate quoting engines that offer side-by-side comparisons of tailored policies from dozens of vetted insurers. We provide unbiased educational content, the most accurate online quoting engine, and a streamlined application process to help consumers find and purchase the coverage they need and feel good about it.
What inspired you to start the company?
As consultants at McKinsey, my co-founder and I saw how the poor experience of shopping for insurance left customers dissatisfied. We knew that there was an opportunity to bring the process into the 21st century and improve it for both insurers and customers. So instead of continuing to consult major insurers on how to fix the situation we decided to build the solution ourselves.
How is it different?
Our company makes it easy for customers to comparison shop for life, pet, renters and long-term disability on their own terms and provides apples-to-apples quotes on an easy-to-use platform, so customers know what they are buying and don’t have to waste time going from agent to agent looking for the best deal. We want customers to have transparent and unbiased information at the start of their shopping process so they can make the best decision for their individual needs.
Our 360-degree Insurance Checkup provides a holistic view of your insurance needs based on your family and financial situation, so you know exactly where your gaps are.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We’re focused on the U.S. market right now. It’s the largest in the world, with more than $1 trillion in net premiums written every year, so there’s a huge opportunity to reach underserved customers. It’s amazing to think that 30 percent of Americans know they need more life insurance but have given up on the shopping process – that boils down to more than 70 million people.
What’s your business model?
PolicyGenius receives a commission for each insurance policy that’s put into force; since the commission is baked into the price of the policy, we offer the same policy price you’d get straight from the insurer, with the added benefit of comparing policies and the ease of shopping online at your own speed.
You are one of a few female founded companies to reach a Series B funding. Tell us about your experience building a company as a woman in NYC.
There’s a constant feeling of needing to prove yourself, so you rely on data and hard facts in VC meetings so there’s no refuting what you’re talking about. That helps a lot during the funding process; quantifiable data about your company and your growth is hard for potential investors to argue with. You also learn to rely on some of your basic instincts like empathy and focused listening to connect with your audience, whether it’s investors or other startup founders.
What was the funding process like?
It’s a long period of planning followed by a big rush of everything happening all at once. You work on your product, grow your business, set up meetings, and perfect your pitch – which can feel like a lifetime – and all of a sudden when you begin getting offers and term sheets you feel the pressure to act immediately. You need to remember to keep your head and think about the long-term instead of being caught up in each offer.
Raising our Series B was much faster and easier than raising our Series A because our company was further along and the results were able to speak much more loudly for themselves.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge was making sure we had the right funding partners before committing. Aside from things like terms and the amount of capital, you want to make sure you’re dealing with someone who understands your vision and understands the opportunity that’s available. The right strategic fit is just as important as the amount of capital or valuation you obtain.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
There’s a huge opportunity to modernize the U.S. insurance market and we’ve already shown that we know what consumers are looking for. We’ve provided transparency and ease of use to customers while growing our month-over-month business, so our investors have seen that we’re in a great position to expand further into the market.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months? Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’ll use the resources from our Series B funding to grow our team to keep up with our customer volume. We’ll also continue improvements to our site based on customer feedback, roll out new insurance products on the platform and make tech and operational investments in the site to ensure we’re delivering the best customer experience in the industry.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on before you should even start thinking about outside capital. My co-founder and I took a leave of absence from our consulting jobs to really test out PolicyGenius and put together some minimal products so we had a roadmap and proof of concept before we went to market. That was before we had any funding, but we ended up with something to show investors.
And remember, you don’t always have to go to VC firms in NYC, there are a lot of experienced angles in early stage companies that can provide capital and business support.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
I love dog friendly dives for an after work drink so I can bring my pup Ruby along with me. My top two favorite bars are Luckydog and Levee in Williamsburg.