Insurtech Startup Bold Penguin: 2017 to Prove, 2018 to Grow

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For Insurtech company Bold Penguin, 2017 was the year to prove their solution that brings technology to the world of commercial insurance. 2018 will be the year to grow.

“We are laser focused,” says Founder Ilya Bodner. “Bold Penguin, the purpose of it existing is to reduce the time that it takes to go from quote to buying in commercial insurance.”

The platform’s technology solution focuses on the labor-intensive process that goes into finding and presenting a client with insurance options – something that can take days and weeks.

“We’re trying to reduce it to as close to hours and days as we can,” Bodner says.

The “A-ha!” moment that took Bold Penguin to growth mode first took overcoming the very label that signifies the company’s industry.

“When we got labeled as an Insurtech company, it was very unclear to insurance companies and big insurance brokers whether we’re a friend or foe,” Bodner says.

Is their technology here to replace or embrace? Bold Penguin showed it was a friend by actively recruiting some of the biggest names in insurance to join the platform.BoldPenguin_Logo

They got a top 10 insurance company to join. Then some big-name brokers. Then several smaller startups. And when the more mom-and-pop insurance agents joined, it all came together, “This actually works for the small guy, the medium-sized guy and the really, really big company,” Bodner says.

When many technology solutions are out to disrupt, “We’re actually trying to build something that’s non-intrusive, that is trying to enhance and enable, and help the day-to-day go a little bit faster, a little bit smoother,” Bodner says.

Enhance and enable will be the message in 2018 as the company continues to grow. They’ve nailed down the problem, gathered their team, are bringing in a spectrum of customers.

“This is the year where we have to not have good execution, but great execution,” Bodner says.

The goal by the end of the year is to have customers coming to them to buy the solution versus having to pitch and sell.

There are two sides to Bold Penguin’s technology, each with their own appeals. On the back end is its rules engine, Emperor. (After the biggest, baddest penguin of them all.)

It’s what makes Bold Penguin tick. Insurance agents or companies enter some key information into the rules engine and are returned with a list of insurance companies and their offerings that are a best fit for the business. One thing agents or companies won’t find as a determinate in the rules engine? Price. Bodner says they don’t want to commoditize or compare. They simply want to find the best options.

“The real asset of what we’re building is a programmatic way to map all the different insurance offerings through all the different state lines that are out there,” he says.

It’s a commercial insurance agent’s Kayak.

The front end of Bold Penguin is also bringing a technological solution to another practice agents have largely been doing in an analog way.

Bonder says they went around to professionals in the insurance industry asked, “You quote x amount of people a day, you end up writing a small amount of those policies – what do you do with the rest of that business?”

Whether a policy is too small, too big, or just not in an agency’s niche, instead of letting that application drop or referring it out to friends or colleagues, Bodner asked agents and companies to load that information into the Bold Penguin Marketplace where it can be exchanged between professionals.

Bold Penguin incentivizes agents by compensating them for adding a business’ information to the Marketplace, paying out a few dollars to a hundred for a full application. With thousands of partners on the platform, Bold Penguin built an agent rank to direct those applications to the best performing agents.

Here’s the tie-in. Agents and companies can then run that information through Emperor and get an accurate prediction of what policies to present to their new customers.

full sizeDigitally streamlining the process hit a cord and the Marketplace took off – wildly. Bold Penguin went from a few hundred applications each month to tens of thousands and growing.

“We’re just the technology that’s empowering that behavior that existed in insurance for 100 plus years,” Bodner says.

Bold Penguin’s team has been growing nearly as meteorically as its technology. The startup went from seven employees to just over 40 in the span of a year – a process that certainly hasn’t been without its growing pains the Bodner acknowledges.

“It’ll probably continue being challenging through this year,” he says. “Especially because we’re trying to figure out how to work with each other and add another 33 percent.”

Bold Penguin has at least a dozen more hires lined up they’d like to make – software engineers, UX/UI folks, product managers.

The Bold Penguin team, like many startups, has gone from a small group close in age and interests, to a diverse set of employees spanning age groups, backgrounds and experiences. Bodner is enjoying working through the new dynamics, learning new communication styles and how different people approach different things.

While they now have a nationwide reach, Bodner is set on continuing his company’s growth in Columbus. When at first he felt the constraints of growing an insurance startup in Central Ohio, it’s now becoming an advantage knowing the business is mere footsteps away from some of the biggest names in insurance.

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