John, why did you start InsurTech Canada?
“I started InsurTech Canada, first and foremost, for founders. As a fellow founder, I identified a gap in the Canadian marketplace, which jumped out at me because we lacked a community. InsurTech in Canada did not have a community or vehicle that formally united founders, carriers, investors and service providers with other members of the ecosystem (like brokers and MGAs ) into one community to collaborate, share ideas and transform the insurance industry. Without a formal vehicle to do that, we're essentially going to remain stagnant. Another reason was that we have a brain drain problem in Canada, which is how we refer to losing a lot of Canadian talent to the south. I say that with affection towards InsurTech Ohio and my American counterparts. We're not against expansion into the US, but we do feel that Canadian-based companies, especially early-stage companies, should get their first round of funding in their home market. They should get their first customers in their home market and be able to demonstrate feasibility, get their POC (Proof of Concept), and then expand and scale into other markets like the US. The US is an ideal place to go, but instead, we see a lack of financing available in Canada for early-stage companies. Then they just leave the country altogether.”
What impact are you seeing from these geographic insurance communities like InsurTech Canada?
“Our original goal of bringing members of the ecosystem and stakeholders together, into one collaborative community, has proven itself out. When we launched the community two years ago, we started with the founders. We had an overwhelming amount of demand from them in the first year. Then, in the second year, we saw many different partners and stakeholders from other parts of the ecosystem stepping up (like brokers, MGAs, technology companies and investors) saying they wanted to get involved. There have also been a number of people that have come forward, like carriers, decision-makers at carriers and thought-leaders that have said that they would not have known about a certain company, new technology or new insurtech solution without InsurTech Canada as a voice for innovation in the community.”
Where would you like to see that impact grow into the future?
“We have big aspirations for the future. Now that we've engaged community members, formalized the community and have regular dialogue, we want the community to run itself. We want it to be run by the stakeholders. We’d love for all the members of our ecosystem to play a part in running the community, determine the objectives and the long-term vision and goals of the community, and fund it. We envision going to even greater heights through collaborations with sister communities like InsurTech Ohio to create designated tools, such as incubator programs, and formalized vehicles for bringing Canadian talent into other markets. We believe that the opportunity and demand are there. I've always said from day one: we don't have a shortage of talent or ideas in Canada. But, we do have a shortage of funding and engagement. Now that we're solving the problem of engagement and we're slowly solving the problem of funding, we can start formalizing programs to export Canadian talent into other markets, like Ohio, through designated, cross-border programs.”
How has the time and effort you've put in personally enriched your love for insurance and the people in it?
“At times, it's actually frustrated my feelings for insurance. But I say that with affection. I always say it's like criticizing members of my own family, but, genuinely speaking, it's enriched my love for insurance because insurance is a people business. Insurance is all about people. I believe founders also focus on people because they're closest to the problem. It excites me when you can solve a problem that eliminates and removes a pain point for the end user (the policyholder). That gets me energized because we're making insurance more accessible for people. I believe insurance is a people business. Ultimately, insurance solves problems and prevents tragedy in the lives of people, our policyholders. Making insurance easier, more accessible to people, and democratized – all through technology and community – energizes me about the future and each stakeholder’s part to play in the transformation process.”