Watson started an agency from scratch in 2016 where he focused on automating as many processes as possible and generating leads from social media and search engines. However, when he met his business partner, things took off.
Executive Vice President
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Watson first got a taste for independence while working for Farm Bureau Insurance as a contractor. This inspired him to start a scratch agency in 2016 where he focused on automating as many processes as possible and generating leads from social media and search engines.
“But I was struggling as a first-time business owner," Watson says, noting that if he could turn back time, “I would focus on relationships, being part of my community, advising on coverage and making sure that I am seen as a trusted advisor."
In 2018, he merged with Mappus Insurance. There, Watson was not only able to hone his risk advisory skills, but he was also able to integrate his lofty ideas for automation. By 2020, he had founded RiskAdvisor, a smart form software program that makes the application and renewal process more efficient for independent insurance agencies.
What impact has RiskAdvisor had on the agency?
Within the first year, we submitted 1,500 quote requests through it, and it significantly decreased the amount of time it took us to get them out. You can see how quickly that's adding to the bottom line for the agency.
Being an InsurTech founder and working for an agency?
It works out really well. The relationship is really good because it's easy to see how much the software has impacted the agency. We've started using it in our hiring pitches and talking about how it helps simplify account management.
Advice for aspiring InsurTech founders?
I'm a non-technical founder. I spent a day with a local firm going through a road-mapping session where we talked about everything I envisioned and wanted RiskAdvisor to be. We cut that down and then cut it down again to define a minimum viable product.
What made you start your independent agency, BlueLake?
For the first five years or so of my career, I spent time working at State Farm, Allstate and Farm Bureau. At Farm Bureau, they have you set up as a 1099 employee, so I started getting a taste of being a little bit independent, doing my own taxes, keeping up with loan expenses and having more freedom. It just kind of hit me one day: I'm early in my career. My daughter had just been born. She's not going to remember if we're struggling right now, but she will remember 10 years down the road if I have to start over. I just kind of made the decision.
How did BlueLake merge with Mappus?
I met my business partner at an innovation conference in 2018. I was doing a lot of things with automation and technology, and it started out as, “Hey, can you help my agency with this? My agency was not very successful but it was like “Hey, why don't we just do this together?"
What did you learn from starting a scratch agency?
A lot of my time was focused on trying to automate everything. There are plenty of courses about generating Facebook and Google leads or using automation where the client sends you everything you need for a quote and you can turn it around and never have a conversation with a client. That's kind of the route I was trying to go. I was trying to automate the entire process and it wasn't until I joined Mappus that I started learning to be a risk advisor, which is where long-term success is going to come from.
What made you start RiskAdvisor?
I just felt like the way we were currently doing things could be done a lot better. I don't want to be paying a producer $150,000 a year to be doing $10-per-hour tasks like data entry. Also, our agency is heavy in coastal business, so we have to utilize personal wholesale brokers a lot.
How can InsurTech go a step further?
I'm starting to see more local representation in each state's Big “I" associations on tech councils. I think that's really important. I'm working with more and more companies on integrations and they talk about open application programming interfaces (APIs), they talk about the ability to work well with others, but when you start working with them as an integration partner it can be difficult. Being able to work together with other ecosystems and products to make our clients' lives easier should be the goal. Organized conversation from Big “I" tech councils is important to be heard.
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.