Be Bold

Bold Penguin, the startup behind the industry’s largest commercial insurance exchange which connected over 1.3 million small businesses with insurance to date, realized early on that the real problem was the lack of a standard digital infrastructure for commercial insurance, so they decided to build it. We had the chance to ask Ilya Bodner, the founder of Bold Penguin, a few questions.

Describe what you do?

Our core mission is to connect small businesses, agencies, and carriers. We created the commercial insurance industry’s largest exchange that to date has connected over 1.3M small businesses with insurance. We’re really focused on human centric technology and our exchange reflects this. While we build technology like our business class selector to categorize 19,000+ NAICS codes via natural language processing and ourJavaScript SDK which allows our technology to be quickly customizable by our partners, we also have a Columbus, OH based team of Customer Success Advocates who work directly with small businesses, connecting them with the best fitting agency via a warm phone transfer. Our mission is to be the unifier in the center of the commercial insurance industry. With our unique technology and industry partners such as Nationwide, Progressive, Hiscox, CNA, Markel and Mylo, we’re uniquely positioned to play this role.

Describe your target market?

Our functional priority is reducing the time it takes to go from quote to bind in commercial insurance; a process that today is littered with paper, faxes, call-backs, and wasted energy. Rather than focusing on replacing the trusted advisor or disrupting the way insurance is bought, we are choosing to focus on a less intrusive way of helping businesses, working with agents, MGAs and carriers.

How many employees work at Bold Penguin – discuss the makeup of the workforce?

We have over 120 employees, approximately 30% of whom are remote across the United States.

What are, if any, some misconceptions about your business or the landscape you operate in?

A common misconception about Bold Penguin is that we sell insurance and that we are trying to replace the agent, however, we are doing the opposite. We are providing agents, brokers and carriers with the tools to make the bind process as seamless and quick as possible.

How did you come up with the name Bold Penguin?

In 2015 I was watching a nature documentary that featured a large group of penguins. The group, a “waddle” – were sitting on an iceberg, all looking at the water. There were sharks in the water, but if the penguins stayed where they were, they’d eventually starve. One finally jumped in, and when the others noticed that the trailblazer was safe, they jumped in as well. I thought to myself – that’s one bold penguin, he could just as easily have been eaten! But someone’s got to do it, someone has to be the one that jumps into the unknown water and tests it out and then creates safety for the rest of the waddle. That stuck with me as that was what I hoped to do in commercial insurance. We try to be that bold penguin.

How are you different from the competition e.g. Bolt Solutions?

Bold Penguin is a company built by insurance agents to solve a problem they experienced firsthand – writing small commercial effectively. We realized early on that the real problem was the lack of a standard digital infrastructure for commercial insurance, so we decided to build it. We built Bold Penguin to be able to be run on any carrier system and to be available to any sized agency or independent brokers. We’re not disrupting the industry, we’re giving it a much needed upgrade so everyone – the carrier, the agencies, the SMBs – can prosper. What does the future hold for digital small business insurance? While there has been relatively little change in the way small businesses buy their insurance since the insurtech movement began in 2015, there is a shift on the horizon as most of the groundwork has been laid for a digital revolution. Small commercial lines buyers are more ready, even impatient, for this shift to take place. Over the next one to two years, I expect to see a renaissance in commercial insurance. We’ll see more collaboration and coalitions forming between technologists and legacy carriers and new digital commercial lines capabilities come to market for independent agents and consumers. The industry will experience a fundamental shift in how commercial lines are bought and sold. Given the current crisis at hand, this may even happen sooner as legacy industries are now being forced into the digital transformation as we are relying more on online and digital services than ever before.

We’ve seen many lead-gen sites for personal lines, but hardly any for commercial lines. Why do you think that is? Is it more difficult to attract business owners online? Or do business owners care more about a personal touch than to compare multiple products themselves?

Due to the complex nature of some commercial policies and intangible benefits provided by agents, online sales have been slow to develop in the small-business segment. At Bold Penguin we believe the personal touch is imperative in commercial insurance. We do not want to disrupt or remove the agent from the process like many insurtechs focused on addressing personal lines. Instead, we want to empower the agent to do their job better, faster and more effectively.

The biggest challenge in advancing commercial insurance has not been the agents or the preferences of small business owners, it’s the legacy technology that exists in insurance companies. The mainframe software and servers that exist inside these insurance companies are old. When developing Bold Penguin and its solution we knew we wanted to address the needs of each of our audiences, small business owners, agents, brokers/brokerages, and larger carriers. If you’re a small mom-and-pop shop, we have a login, a web portal, or an app you can go through, and use our technology. If you are an insurtech, we have an API (application programming interface) you can integrate. If you are a giant call center, a giant brokerage, we have business rules and mechanisms you can adopt and pull-in and just set up your own contract. If you are a carrier-owned internal brokerage, we have a way for you to have an enterprise level integration or an account you can set up just by going to our website.

According to SEMrush, your partnership with Entrepreneur is only beginning to show traction, what are your hopes from this relationship?

Our vision as an organization is to serve as the industry’s unifier, connecting as many small businesses with insurance as we can. Entrepreneur is a fantastic partner for us as they are laser-focused on this space as well. Like Entrepreneur, we want to be able to meet SMBs wherever they want to be met, helping them grow and protect their businesses. Our goal with each relationship we enter into is to serve the industry and our partnership with Entrepreneur helps both of us fulfill our missions.