An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Tim Metzner (co-founder) of Coterie Insurance, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Coterie – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Commercial insurance is a massive industry that has yet to be truly revolutionized by technology. Throughout his career in insurance as an actuary, David McFarland had a vision of starting a new type of commercial insurance company built with modern data and technology as its core. Kevin, a serial entrepreneur, loved the idea of running after a massive industry and partnering with a domain expert to start the next great commercial insurance company. As a serial technology company founder, I was excited to jump in. From day one, the three of us were aligned on wanting to build an amazing enduring business and a world-class culture. Together, we believed we could transform the commercial insurance landscape, starting with small business insurance, by focusing on three things: speed, simplicity, and service.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
We could dedicate a weekly column to this topic. Starting any company is hard (see failure rates), but as it turns out, starting an insurance company, during a global pandemic and then a financial crisis takes things to a whole new level! Just getting a V1 insurance + technology product built and live was the greatest undertaking of my career. Insurance is regulated on a state-by-state basis (that’s 51 insurance departments to work with, including DC) and requires significant capital behind it just to get to the starting line. We had to simultaneously raise capital to support the operations of the business, build a team of software and insurance experts, while lining up insurance partners and reinsurance partners, all just to get to market (not to mention building a go-to-market engine).
What does the future hold for Coterie?
The future is bright for Coterie Insurance. We have established an experienced senior leadership team, including most recently hiring our first CFO, have a vibrant culture, filled all key open roles, and have found product-market fit. While there is risk at all stages of company-building, Coterie has entered a new phase of growth where the early execution risk has been removed and we’re now focused on stabilization and optimization. Continuing to grow at the rates that we have been will require more mature processes and systems, and we’re well underway building these.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find experienced founders, whom you respect, and try to go work for them first. While there is a ceiling on how much you can learn working for a startup, that ceiling is high (and the earlier you join, the better). Working for an early-stage startup first gives you an opportunity to not only learn (and I always tell people to focus on “return on learning” early in their careers, especially), but also to start to build a network of potential co-founders, partners, investors, and mentors that will become invaluable when you do make the leap.