Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farill.io network. This time, it's the turn of Cameron Shearer, Founder and CEO of Digital Risks. Get to know Cam better below...
1. How would you sum up the concept behind your business?
Digital Risks is a specialist insurance provider that focuses 100% on the needs of digital businesses. Partnering with leading underwriters, we’ve developed cover for today’s complex and evolving technical risks, such as cyber attacks and data breaches, with a pay-monthly subscription model that’s ideally suited to start-up and small businesses.
2. What were you doing before you set it up?
I was working for a technical advertising company in Australia when I realised there was a need for a new type of insurance brand. I was trying to organise the professional and cyber policies that our big brand clients were demanding, but couldn’t find a provider that understood our business, could explain what we needed and advise us on the best options. It was at this point that I met my co-founder Ben (the insurance genius!) who worked for the company we eventually bought cover from. Together, we came up with idea of starting an insurance brand.
3. When did you realise that you wanted to run your own business, and what led to you achieving it?
I’m from a very entrepreneurial family. Being surrounded by ambitious people growing up inspired me to run my own business – if not several!
Saying that, I never expected it to be in insurance...but the struggles I had buying cover sparked the realisation that there was a gap in the market for an insurance brand that understands the needs of digital businesses and makes buying insurance easy and accessible. We knew we’d hit on something, but decided that the big opportunity was in London, so we decided to move here. Soon after, Digital Risks was born!
4. How did you find the process of launching the business?
It’s been quite a journey over the last three years and while it’s not been without its challenges, we’ve loved the process of building something that we both truly believe in. From initial gradual changes to bigger, more significant ones, it’s great to see that what we’re doing is positively impacting our customers.
We’ve also gained the experience of building a team, having brought in a marketing manager and two account managers last year. When our latest funding round is complete, we’ll be looking to double, if not triple, our resource by the end of 2018 – so exciting times ahead!
5. What is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
The biggest learning curve has probably been around sourcing funding, which is very time consuming and you need to build up your confidence in dealing with investors. You can end up being approached by a lot of time wasters who don’t have any intention of investing, so knowing how to spot the serious players is something I’ve got better at. If we were to do it again, we would also try to source funding right at the outset rather than waiting, so you have more resources to work with from the get-go. But this can be difficult if you have no track-record starting a business.
Personally, I’ve also learned the value of working with a mentor, who can help you take a step back from the day-to-day and look at your business and leadership challenges more holistically. My mentor helps me be a better leader, which ultimately helps the business too.
6. How are you disrupting the insurance industry?
When people think of insurance, they usually think of complexity, confusion, jargon and poor customer service. In a world where customers have become accustomed to getting what they want at the touch of a button, it seems unnecessarily clunky and convoluted.
Insurance has been particularly out of touch when it comes to serving businesses, failing to provide products that meet their digital needs or cover the risks they face today. With so many businesses based online, issues such as cyber attacks and data breaches have replaced fires, thefts and floods as the biggest concerns. Meanwhile, co-working and the gig economy have brought other new risks. Yet insurers have been slow to respond to these threats, or do so in a way that suits fast-growing businesses.
That’s where Digital Risks comes in, as we’re on a mission to make insurance simple and straightforward for startups and SMEs. Our digital-first offering removes the complexity of buying insurance, while our policies have been designed to protect against new risks coming to the fore.
Our products are also designed to be as flexible as possible, with a monthly subscription model that allows customers to change or cancel at any time. So you have more accurate cover and only pay for what you need. We also provide ongoing advice and support, so startups and SMEs can reduce their exposure and the chances that they’ll need to claim.
7. How do you see the insurance services market changing in the next 3–5 years?
Despite the disruption so far, insurance still has a long way to go, with opportunities for providing ongoing risk management support, enhancing the customer experience through mobile, and using data analytics to better understand customers’ risk profiles and price premiums more fairly. Business insurance needs to become real-time and interactive, just like the world we live in and the services we have become accustomed to today. In a few years’ time, I’m confident that this vision will become reality.
8. In your view, what does it take to be a winner in this sector?
Being a winner in insurtech requires striking a balance between innovating and pushing the boundaries, while also operating in a highly regulated and traditional environment. We’ve learned that you won’t get very far without playing the game in the insurance industry, as it’s a very slow moving, complex and interconnected world. You can’t fly solo; you need to build your network and understand how all the parts work together.
9. Everyone's talking about AI and automation. How important do you think people in customer-facing roles are and why?
The developments in AI and automation are astounding and it seems inevitable that machines will start to replace humans in all sorts of ways over the coming years. When it comes to customer-facing roles, I think that customers will adapt quickly to interacting with machines rather than humans regarding simple, day-to-day transactions. However, I believe people will still have a role to play behind the scenes, so they can step in when customers have problems or require more specialist advice or attention.
To give insurance as an example, selling standard policies to straightforward businesses doesn’t require much human intervention, as it’s a predictable process that can easily be automated. However, we believe the future of human brokers lies in advising niche businesses where the risks are more complex and unpredictable. In that situation, the personal service, creativity and problem solving offered by human experts will still be hugely important.
10. What does the future hold for your business?
Our goal for 2018 is to become a real contender in the UK market. With more funding on the horizon, we’ll be launching some exciting marketing campaigns this year, as well as joining forces with some new delivery partners. In the next five years, we’ll have expanded the business internationally and be established as a serious player in the insurance market.
Are you inspired by Cam's journey? Why not Tweet about it using the hashtag #MVPtoVIP.