Electronic Chat with B2Z Insurance
Staff Writer | July 19, 2021
B2Z Insurance, based in Schaumburg, Ill., specializes in small business insurance products. The company offers a customizable suite of small business insurance products using third-party data, analytics and machine learning, empowering small businesses to make better decisions about the insurance policy they need. We spoke with Stephanie Blahut, CMO and co-founder, and Kuldeep Malik, founder, president and CEO.
Please tell us a little about how and why B2Z was founded, and the background of the founders.
Kuldeep: B2Z was founded out of a frustrating personal experience in trying to purchase insurance as a business founder. As a serial entrepreneur myself, I emphasize with busy founders that fill a variety of different roles across their organizations: over 70 percent of small businesses owners work more than 40 hours a week.
These folks have long been promised a complete digital experience for their small business offerings, but existing offerings too often didn’t live up to expectations. Even after completing an online form, they often needed to navigate weeks of back-and-forth over the phone to finally complete a quote. We saw an opportunity to deliver an insurance solution that helps customers quickly and efficiently secure personalized coverage on their own time.
Stephanie: I come from a background in marketing and web development, and I enjoy helping digital-first companies make inroads in their markets by focusing on specific channels. Driving traffic to a website requires a blend of art and science as we merge both design and data together to create a holistic strategy to both oblige and influence consumer behavior.
At B2Z, we’re looking to bring value and simplicity to the small business insurance experience. Entrepreneurs have wanted a digital buying experience that personalized to the needs of their business since at least 2015. While many insurers simply deliver a digitized version of a broken process or offer pieces of a digital experience, we’re revamping insurtech product design to deliver a self-driven business insurance experience to small business owners.
B2Z was launched in March 2020 at the dawn of the COVID epidemic. How did that alter the company’s plan for growth?
Kuldeep: Our Chicagoland home went into shelter-in-place in mid-March, and B2Z was born in March 31. While the pandemic accelerated the timeline for our business, it also expedited already-existing consumer expectations for a digital in the commercial insurance space. As digital-first grocery shopping and pharmaceutical pickup became the norm for many consumers over the last year, it ignited an idea that commercial insurance should be available in the same way.
How has business been in the first year?
Stephanie: Great! We’re now live in 14 states, with plans to continue to expand geographically throughout the rest of 2021. We’re especially proud of the growth of our team: we’ve doubled in size, made key customer experience, data science, product, and finance hires, and remained at about 40 percent female employees. We recognize the responsibility our business has to promote diversity and inclusion, especially in the male-dominated technology industry, and we’re eager to continue promoting those values as we continue to grow.
Kuldeep: In May, we launched our full suite of products to protect the next generation of small businesses. Our coverage offerings now include business owners policy (BOP), workers’ compensation, cyber insurance, professional liability, and hired and non-owned automobiles. We’ve also introduced hassle-free cancellations: our licensed customer experience team will work directly with new customers’ current carriers to check for potential penalties, avoid coverage lapses, and streamline cancellation and enrollment.
How many business clients do you currently serve? Any case studies you can share?
Kuldeep: While we can’t share the raw number of clients, we can share that we’re working with clients across the beauty, retail, pet services, and contracting verticals. Here’s one example of how we’re leveraging data to streamline the customer experience and ensure the right level of coverage based on the risks within their industry:
To gauge the right level of coverage for a contractor, we need to know whether their employees regularly work on platforms 15 feet or higher off the ground. Instead of asking the business owner this question directly (and adding another question to their online form), our algorithms automatically review county records of similar businesses.
Then, we reference that information with that of millions of other contractors across the country to identify an existing model from an underwriting perspective. This streamlines the customer experience and shortens the application process.
Your specific target customer is small businesses run by Gen X and Millennial owners. What unique challenges do these businesses face, and how is B2Z helping them?
Stephanie: While it’s true many of our customers fall into the gen X and millennial demographics, that’s because we target small businesses still run by their original founders, with up to 25 employees. They’re often one in the same: 52 percent of millennial businesses employ only two to 10 employees.
The top challenge for millennial small business owners is a lack of capital or cash flow. They’re also 14 percent more likely to be challenged by money uses, compared to their boomer peers.
Managing cash flows is critical for any small business owner, and that’s where B2Z can step in and help. For example, a data breach can cost a small business upwards of $200,000 for system damage repair, legal costs, customer notifications and credit monitoring--financially devastating their business. When cash flows tighten because of unexpected expenses (like property damage, court costs, and personal injury), small business owners need to be able to file claims quickly and efficiently. That way, they can ease cash restraints and focus on other business challenges: marketing and advertising, administrative work, and recruiting.
Kuldeep: Over 90 percent of those in the millennial and Gen X demographic use a smartphone, and with that comes an expectation of a quick, seamless digital experience. By basing coverage decisions off massive amounts of data with confirmed customer inputs, we help our customers and our insurance partners avoid weeks of back-and-forth communication.
The entire experience is on the customer’s terms. Every step of the insurance process — researching coverage options to filing their first claims — can occur anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Millennials also expect more transparency from their brands, than they do from politicians and even friends and family members. We’ve kept transparency front and center in the way we talk about our business across our website, education cards, and content, which are all backed by licensed, in-house agents offering omnichannel customer support.
What is unique about your Diya product and how is it designed to appeal to your target customer?
Kuldeep: Diya is an AI-powered guide for small businesses that goes beyond capabilities of traditional chatbots. It quickly assesses the unique coverage needs of a business and automatically helps alleviate moments of confusion during the application process, thus helping businesses ensure they’re getting the right coverage.
We developed Diya after examining other insurtech chatbots, which usually offer formulaic responses to the simple questions you’d find in the Q&A section of a website. This type of bot can be useful in some cases, but their limited natural language processing capabilities make it challenging for users to find helpful information.
Alternatively, Diya is a proactive chat bot that uses artificial technology and proprietary data sources to quickly assess the unique coverage needs of a business. By identifying moments of confusion during the application process and beyond, Diya finds opportunities to intervene and make the process faster, easier and less stressful.
What are your plans for the future – including future funding rounds?
Kuldeep: Our primary goal is to become a full-stack insurtech for small businesses within the next three years. We want to continue to redesign the entire small business insurance process, and becoming a full-stack insurer will allow us to better serve small business owners through expansion of our data-driven, digital platform to every step of the insurance value chain.
By delivering the peace of mind that comes with the right protection, small businesses can focus on their own growth and success. We’re proud of our progress toward this goal, including the launch of our full suite of products, but it’s only marked the beginning of our journey to change the small business insurance experience.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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