Having identified several key pain points for SMEs when it came to buying insurance, Calum MacLeod had come up with the idea for Teddy, an online platform that allowed small business owners a way to get the insurance they need quicker, cheaper and without any unnecessary hassles. When he received a CreativeHQ newsletter detailing the upcoming the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator, he knew his opportunity had arrived.
We spoke to MacLeod to find out what goes on in an accelerator, the value of extensive networks, and just what goes into creating an SMB insurance platform that gives customers the service they deserve.
Idealog: How many times have you gone over your elevator pitch in the last few months?
Calum Macleod: Heaps.
Alright, let’s hear it. What’s Teddy?
Teddy is an online platform for business owners where they can source, buy and manage all their business insurance, all online, all through an easy process. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Where did the idea for Teddy come from?
I got into the insurance industry twelve months ago, becoming a registered financial advisor, and I quickly learned – after speaking with all of the major insurers, major banks and brokers – that the industry had a lot of challenges. There was a huge amount of small businesses that were under-serviced with poor service and little to no advice.
We found out that there was a huge amount of small to medium businesses that don’t have adequate cover in place for their risk. We saw this in the aftermath of the quake – certain businesses did not have the right cover. Then when disaster strikes you either have to foot the bill yourself or you just go under, so we saw that and we wanted to create a platform with ease of accessibility for any business and to the tech-savvy business.
So how does the solution actually work?
It just makes it more accessible for them to get the right cover in place. The platform makes it an easy journey. After we get their details we map out the risk for that business, customising the journey for each industry specifically. We can help the business owner understand the major risks across their business as they come through.
How did you come to get involved in the accelerator?
I’d thought of the idea already and wanted to start it. I’ve always been on the newsletter for Creative HQ for quite a number of years, so I’ve been plugged into the community for a while. This is the first time I’ve had something that made me want to leave the job and give it a good crack.
I wanted to pursue this idea. Just when I was considering leaving my job and the newsletter came out saying applications were open, and I thought ‘Wow, okay. That’s a pretty clear sign that the opportunity was there. So I signed up and we quickly got a team together.
Was quitting your job still a difficult decision?
Yeah, it wasn’t easy. It’s never easy leaving the comfort of an income, leaving that security and going to something that’s unknown.
Are you still feeling that anxiety now?
A little bit, but I’m pretty passionate about what we’re working on. It’s going good.
Looking back at the accelerator, what does a programme like this actually offer you?
It offers huge networks across the startup ecosystem across New Zealand and the world. That’s been hugely valuable to us. Also, having constant mentoring from people who are very qualified in certain areas. That’s been really important helping us move forward avoiding mistakes we’d make on our own.
What was the most helpful aspect of the programme for you?
The structure of the programme was really helpful. Fast tracking through a three-month programme you’re really pushed and that’s difficult to replicate on your own. It’s almost like having a trainer at the gym. You could go to the gym on your own and if you’re disciplined enough you could get good results, but if you have an amazing coach driving you nine times out of ten you’re going to do better.
Now that you’ve come out the other side, are you managing to maintain that momentum?
We’ve taken the week to recoup and to go over our direction from here and we’re looking forward to taking the next step.
And what’s that step going to be?
We’re looking to build direct integration with the major insurers through our platform. That’s going to create a much smoother experience for the customer coming through.
Who would benefit from going through a programme like the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator?
Probably anyone who feels that they could benefit from a huge network and from expertise in areas they might be weak in. For someone who thinks they know it all it might not be for them, but I can’t think of many people in that situation.
Kristen Lunman, programme director for the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator at Lightning Lab, says:
Calum knows first hand that the insurance market lacks transparency and has inefficiencies. He came up with the idea for Teddy when he noticed a gap in the market for SMEs being able to get the insurance they need and getting it on their terms. A ‘smart’ online platform means that business owners can get the insurance and advice they need more efficiently, and cheaper. Insurtech is one of the hottest and fastest growing FinTech verticals and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. Start-ups are set up with a goal to disrupt the less technologically-savvy corporations with the use of big data and powerful analytics tools and will find there are a number of viable investment opportunities to scale.