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InsurTech Ohio Spotlight Interview with Gloria Guntiñas Vanzo

Gloria Guntiñas Vanzo is the CEO and founder of MLTPLY. MLTPLY is an insurtech focused on launching products to market extremely fast, both through partnerships with entrepreneurs as well as established companies who wish to expand. Gloria was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.

Gloria, why did you start this journey?

“After founding Pouch with Steve, we recognized there was an opportunity to leverage a replicable model to do insurtech reliably and faster. As an industry, we have struggled with true coverage and product innovation. We're a little bit different from FinTech- on average it takes us 18 months to get a product out to market costing roughly $3 million. That seemed unsustainable to me. I felt like there was an opportunity to leverage an architecture to go to market faster and more cost-efficiently. Our investors and our reinsurers thought there was an opportunity to validate this model. When we pitched we had full alignment from everyone in about 2 months and that's always a good sign. We set out to help entrepreneurs and companies have a structure to be successful in this new capital-strapped world”

So what are some of the things you look for when you're building a strong strategic partnership?

“Alignment on the long-term goals. In the near term, it's easy to get enamored. We have an opportunity in Texas where we need the partnership. But you want a long-term fit for as many as three years. For us, that is a differential because, from a capital perspective, we're on the books for the risk. We're not your traditional sort of capacity. We have the joint capacity effort for fronting and reinsurance, so we see that as more of a long-term prospect. Another consideration is its P&L health. We are sensitive to having a P&L for new business and renewal capacity. We are thinking about what the targets should be at six months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. I think that alignment is very important.”

Secondly, we’re looking for a modern expense structure: the right team is built for the right budget. If you have multiple contractors doing repetitive actions in the market, is that differential? Is that money well-spent? I think expense is now priority one. Lastly, we look for complimentary teams. For example, at MLTPLY we have a rate quote within a few weeks and we've been recognized by the industry for that. If we are not as well-positioned to support the other critical components of the offering - can the partner do that independently? We look at the entire value chain of what is being built, identify partners with complementary capability. If either party has a huge gap, that's not a showstopper. But, having that awareness is important from a fit perspective.”

What is one thing that you think entrepreneurs should know?

“You are about to enter the most rewarding portion of your career. The direct connection to truly help people and drive real change resides only in start-up enterprises. It is going to be hard – the hardest thing you've ever done. You need to get up in the morning with a constant itch to do it. If that is not what you're doing and you don’t think it’s fun, maybe this is not the path for you. It will have moments where it is exhausting and stressful. To endure and hopefully succeed Entrepreneurs need a good support system, strong coping mechanisms and their own work-life balance equation figured out. Historically, I have always been very comfortable with working long hours in my own structured way, where you would not find me in the office between two and four o’clock because that's my recharge time. Having visibility and honesty with yourself about this added complexity is perhaps the most consistent thing entrepreneurs bring up during the first 6 months. Grit is often used as a key skill, I think working smarter is a much more practical way to use your grit. Recently the founder of Instagram was talking about his new offering and he said, paraphrasing here ‘the reason why I work from home is that I work for 16 hours and that's how I get to see my family. That's just the way I am.’ This is a proven guy who built a couple of unicorns. I think that's an important truth. These folks are brilliant, well-positioned and connected and are having to give their all, it should be a big signal to baseline expectations.”

So what is your investment strategy and how do you measure success?

“Measurement is in everything we do. We're incredibly data-driven. Our investment strategy is three-pronged. We invest in markets that are underserved and mismanaged. For example, when we looked at commercial auto, we had an affinity because of the Hispanic founder behind the company. We also saw that they are embedded in the same states as we are. The Hispanic community has an over-proportion of small businesses. Then we saw that it had an over-proportion of immigrants. To us, that is a calling. It’s important to us as part of our investment strategy. Second, we look for sectors that have a lot of upside. That isn’t different from any other venture capital. If you have a really big TAM and you hit a small piece of the TAM, you have more places to go.

We then look for misreading or capacity mismanagement, such as books of business that are not using data. Most people tend to steer clear of that, but that’s our favorite sector. Most would be afraid of that hundred-million-dollar opportunity, but we consider the data elements and the writing criteria that we want to apply, and we find that to be a great place for us.

The third aspect of our investment strategy is how nimble we are with our money. Speed is the reason why we're effective with our cash expenditures. If we find that a team has some prolonged launches or the launches were way too tight, knowing what we know, that's not an investment strategy that fits us because we have longevity to our dollar. I think that's a trend for 2023. All tech companies are assessing their employee per revenue number. We were a little early to that because of our construct. But I don't think it’s unique; I think it’s a new normal.”

What are the top three things that you learned this last year?

“Number one is that the hard work does pay off. I don't know if we talk about that enough. Absolutely hard work pays off. I think of the number of hours to output that we generated and measured and we have found that hard work pays off. Second: even if you have strategic alignment with a vendor or a partner, if there is not a deliberate roadmap alignment, you're not going to get where you are collectively going. I have many positive examples where we have reached out to vendors and we have said, ‘here's why we think this is good for your business. This is what we need.’ They in turn aligned their roadmap and delivery against those goals and we both saw a lot of success. It's beyond having strategic alignment; we moved it into roadmap practicality. For example, Chargebee, which is our billing feature partner, had zero insurance experience. However, every time we went to their product management team, they became available to us. Second, they pointed out that they have a similar feature, they did a quick adjustment and turnaround. In a month we would see a feature that allows our agents to see their entire book of debt to do billing on one screen, which not even the big carriers do. I find that to be a very valuable lesson”

Number three is less of a lesson. It was facing the reality that how dollars get spent has changed. In November of 2021, my premise was that we cannot continue to spend at this rate because capital was going to dry. Insurtech results were not quite there and then interest rate hikes came. I believe that's the new normal. How much does it cost to build a company? What kind of staff do you need to do it, and how do you prove the value to market at seed level versus growth? Average time to series A and to potential IPO has gone from 5 years to 10 years - return on capital and invest to grow revenues is going to take much longer”

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