I grew up in a happy household of immigrant parents who came over to America in search of a better life through hard work. Because English was not their first language, I was often asked to help resolve many issues to overcome their language barrier, and this forced me to grow up quickly and understand how the world works.
Starting in middle school, I took phone orders at my parents’ business; by college, I had negotiated with phone companies to lower our bills, refinanced our mortgage at near zero rates, and submitted many a claim form with less-than-friendly insurance companies. I cut my teeth negotiating with 40-, 50-somethings as a teenager, fighting for thousands of extra dollars in my parents’ wallets.
Over time, I realized that this stuff is difficult and cumbersome not because my parents weren’t native speakers, but because these products are complex by design. Financial services and other contract-based products are so profitable because there is no virtually no marginal cost besides labor (cost to sell an extra unit of a widget) and, more often than not, the terms are tipped in the contract seller’s favor. You lose your rebate if you miss a form. Insurance companies make more money the longer they hold out on you.
Sure, senior liquidation preference, conditional performance, and other complicated tools are necessary means of reducing risk to incentivize enterprise. But does sophistication and profits always have to come at the price of confusion and intimidation? What Apple did with silicon, chips, and electricity, we are only beginning to see applied elsewhere: Simple for banking, Robinhood for investing, and Earnest for student loans. As a proud millennial and a technologist, I am convinced there is a gold mine at the midpoint where “big & boring” meets “essentialism & impact”.
At the venture firm, I was exposed to thousands of companies at the frontier of innovation in every field, which honed my ability for pattern recognition. I learned a lot from awesome examples of creativity and success, but I was unsatisfied to idly spectate the great endeavors. I decided to build out a future I would love to see, one corner at a time. The first victim in my crosshairs just happens to be personal auto insurance.
If a native English-speaking college graduate such as I find this stuff intimidating and stressful, probability is high that thousands of others also face similar problems and could benefit from a simple and modern solution. If only I could codify my logic gates and scale empathy to others. Hm.