A new category of Insurance for Freelancers [Podcast #103]
This week on the SOL Podcast we welcome Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, Founder & CEO of Tapoly. Tune in to hear about Janthana’s experiences and her journey with Tapoly which is a business insurance for sole traders, freelancers, the self-employed and small businesses.
We addressed issues like business growth, ways of solving problems while scaling up, the future of working in gig economy, building technological solutions according to current needs, adjusting to the market, the importance of insurance for small businesses and startups, how the UK Landscape looks like in general and how the UK ecosystem is divided.
Our discussion revolved around their company culture, vision, the value of interaction, growth story and “What is the conversion rate?”, “How important the style of leadership is: combining the experience of working and personal value.
Hello and welcome to the Startups of London podcast. I’m your host Ozan and the founder of Startups of London. Today I’m joined by Janthana Kaenprakhamroy founder and CEO of Tapoly. So Tapoly is a business insurance for small businesses sole traders freelancers and the self-employed. And I would really like to understand what the business is and get to know the CEO and the founder Janna a bit. And then we are going to have a conversation about the UK landscape startups. Really fascinating stuff about what makes businesses grow. So, welcome to our chat Janna.
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.
So, tell us about yourself and your history. What brought you to this moment in life where you’re the founder of this business and the business itself? In terms of well… what type of a team do you have? How much growth have you seen? So, a quick recap if you will for us.
Yes, sure. I started my career in investment banks, to be honest. After my graduation, I took the accountancy exam work internally. Department up until the day that I decided that I’m going to set up my own company and I discovered toughly through my own personal. Experience of having to deal with an insurance company trying to find short-term insurance for my Airbnb letting what’s impossible in 2016. So that’s how I discovered the market gap. And from there I was introduced to my co-founder who is an expert in tech and together we built Tapoly as one of the first few on-demand insurance providers for the gig economy in the UK.
That’s amazing. And tell us about the growth. You said, you’ve established a company in 2016 2017. Yes, I guess. And it’s been for quite a few numbers of years. Six years. So how has the company grown in this period? What were the ups and downs? The highs and lows? I think insurance in terms of market volatility has never been bigger in the last six years.
Insurances have been hit very very hard by various significant events. starting from Covid. Hard market. now kind of recessions. The whole six years have been extremely difficult for small insurance companies like Tapoly to grow and survive. Many of our peers and many InsureTech startups that started at around the same time had to fold their business during Covid. Obviously, we were very lucky that we were very lean as a company and we are very operationally very efficient and cost wise very efficient. So, we were able to sustain and stay strong during this period. Today obviously we had a couple of bad years. In the last couple of years ever since Covid, there has been less investment and innovation happening in the insurance space purely because of the whole market. Were in distress. But I’ve seen a huge trend upward from now everyone’s starting to talk about innovation again. There’s more capacity in the market which we then see a couple of years ago. So, I think we are on the right path and I’m expecting a steep growth in the next coming month and years.
That’s amazing. What are the stereotypical customers for you? What type of businesses do you usually come work for you and use Tapoly?
Typically it would be like freelancers, contractors and small businesses that could not be properly served by traditional insurance brokers or through kind of online or via a broker. And that’s kind of like people that need insurance quickly and easily or their risk profile doesn’t really fit neatly into that traditional annual insurance policy. So, effectively what happened in the last couple of years not it’s longer than that I would say within the gig economy the complexity of risk is extremely high. It’s increasing. Become more and more difficult for the insurance company to put you into a bracket because the nature of freelancers and contractor is that your risk is internal to the profession and what you do could be quite grey. Because an IT person could be doing marketing could be doing consultancy in other areas where he’s not trained or being expert to do for example.
So, I’ll interrupt you for a second just to be able to dig deep into this. So, like the business that I have for example that I’ve built in the previous years. It’s relatively easy to go and find. I don’t even remember the name simply Insurance or something. And there are many competitors for that. So, it is quick and easy. and I get yearly insurance. But are you talking about the same thing like a yearly insurance that covers my liability legally in case, for example, someone gets hurt because of the responsibility of my business and so on or are we talking about a different category here? Whereas if someone were to build and open up a limited company in the UK which takes like two days very easy. And after they’ve done that they work as a freelancer. And so what are they being insured against? What is the protection they’re getting? So is that a difference there? I’m just trying to get to the nuance of this so people understand this.
Yes. Obviously like when a company is set up there are some insurance obligations depending on the type of business that they set up for a regulated firm. Like if you are in financial services you need to have public liability professional indemnity and some other cover that is required according to your specific risk and profile. Cover the commercial liability product which is pretty much everything that insurance everything that a company need to cover their business risk or risk of running their business. Even it stretches to some protection gap. For example, business interruptions. We’ve got cyber insurance we’ve got employer liability and other liability products for businesses.
So, if someone is doing video editing and working as a video editor freelancer on some platform Or like a graphic designer a copy text virtual assistance marketing consultant. So is that like a specific case or example that you could share us in terms of the most frequently used products that you have that kind of helps people manage their risks?
Yes, I mean the majority of businesses or the majority of people that buy insurance they would buy it on the basis that either is required by their profession or by their clients. So, for example if you are an accountant you need insurance. Like typically you need professional indemnity insurance. Now depending on the risk obviously you’ve got multiple insurance products that cover different types of cyber cover for cyber like GDPR that sort of stuff. liability cover you for employer related incident and so on and so on. So that type of kind of cover we talking about that when you operate as a business you will have some liability. To what different stakeholders and insurance is created to protect you from those liabilities. What’s Tapoly like the way we differentiate ourself from our PA is that we provide the kind of flexible insurance policy or at least we are trying to be as flexible as possible. We are trying to product that could fit nicely into the customer’s pro-risk profile and not the other way around. If you look at the cover that you can get online today usually they will stereotype you. They will categorize you by profession. They would allow you probably to put one single profession in there when you may be carried out. Multiple professions all at. They probably would also restrict the restrictions in which your policies cover for example like US and Canada is typical a region that most worldwide insurance coverage will not cover for example and. Many technology companies and many UK based businesses are doing business in the US. And if you are too small you may find it hard to get insurance coverage for that region.
I see. Okay. So, the flexibility and the different coverage for different small businesses that’s kind of the appeal here.
What we are trying to do at Tapoly is not trying to compete with existing player but we are trying to be the kind of additional alternative platform for people who find it hard to get insurance for people who may not fit nicely neatly into that. Traditional annual insurance policy for any reason. It could be their profession it could be the activity that they do. It could be the region as I mentioned we tried and therefore is extremely complex. When a customer comes to us it means that they can’t go to simply business or another online website to get the coverage that they need. Usually, they come to us as a last resort. Or in the past, we were able to offer insurance by the hours and by days. So we’ve got a lot of seasonal workers that come to us by day because their clients need them too. Yes, we have that we have a t-shirt. They only do contract work occasionally as a psychic and they would come and get insurance just for that particular day. And this cover used to be very very popular be just before COVID. But during Covid of course this product line has been removed from our platform. But we are hoping that by the end of the year Bring this back because I think it’s solely needed. We wanted to be one of very few platforms that could offer that level of flexibility.
I see. And you’re working with a lot of different businesses and your customers so I think it’s an interesting position to have an overview of the UK landscape in terms. Startups and different businesses are being built. So my next question is kind of concerning that in your experience and the know-how that you’ve had through this company how do you see the UK business landscape in general? And I think that question covers. In your experience what percentage of the businesses that you work within your observation are startups in the traditional sense? So they have either customer-funded or VC funded or like an angel-funded ambition to grow rapidly versus. pretty small traditional businesses that like have a few people but do not have their eyes set on year-on-year ambitious extreme growth. How would you ratio these two types of players in terms of your experience?
I apologize. I presume that you are asking me to kind of differentiate my customer base.
Not really but your observation about how the UK ecosystem is divided. I guess you don’t even have to talk about Oli but as a leader what you see in terms of your experience. How do you see the UK ecosystem? Do you think there are more of these businesses that have the ambition to grow? what do you mean when we say traditional startups right? Or do you see more of the businesses that are lacking ambition? Small small-ish and do not have their eyes set on year-over-year growth.
Okay. So, I presume that you want me to kind of give you a summary of my customer segment and what is going on in this space in the gig economy space.
I think like during Covid we have seen a lot of ours. Not renewing the policy purely because the business is not in operation. So there’s certainly covid have impacted some of our businesses or our clients. I’m not surprised there because micro businesses are so vulnerable to any kind of market volatility. So like with Covid being a massive event incident for the. you will see more I think more business faults during that time. Mm-hmm… But what I also see is that a lot of entrepreneurs they’re very resilient. So I see the same customer come back by insurance for different businesses or they kind of start different businesses entirely. We’ve seen customers coming back. So there is some resiliency and there is a. Customer loyalty among the entrepreneur. At the end of the day, trust is extremely important to you and people like brand that they recognize. So if they use you and they are happy with you they will return to that platform usually. And we today got a very broad ring of the customer. We’ve got anything from freelancers one man band contractors. To like a low-side company. And some of our customers from Inception have been like initially they would buy a cover for a few hundred pounds today I’m talking about a few thousand pounds in the last couple of years for example. So we’ve seen like a high growth business and then we’ve seen like smaller business but resilient business that keep coming back and need. And in your experience what is making it difficult for UK businesses to grow? Well, I can only tell you from my own personal experience as a small business owner is investment is extremely difficult especially regulatory company like us. We can’t access well we can’t use a certain type of investment. For example investment vehicles like loans. Is it a legal restriction? Is that? Yes yes or no. It’s just more like like as part of being a regulated firm we have to comply with the FCA capital requirement rules and that restrict our ability to use a certain type of investment vehicle. That’s all. But for other businesses like if you can get the Loan to agree to lend your money or raise funding then of course it’s like all that investment is at your disposal. But for us it’s more restricted.
Makes sense. And in terms of the growth of Tapoly I’m curious this is a question that I always tend to ask. What are the metrics that you follow as a founder to understand where the business is today versus where it was? And perhaps in that question, you can include some metrics about the team the customer. I don’t know if you don’t have to tell about the revenue but you can tell us about some of the metrics. Just indicates how much you’ve grown and what size of a company you are now as opposed to let’s say 2017 when you first built the business.
In terms of the metric that we use ultimately is convergent rate obviously.
What is that for the uninitiated in the industry?
The convergent rate is basically the rate in which customers are buying insurance.
So, I mean what is the start of the funnel? I should ask about the conversion from your website visitors to customers or the ones who actually ask for a quote. And then what is the conversion of should I ask.
How conversion to sales? So basically it’s a conversion from website visitors. The self funnel. So that is basically the conversion but we’ve got two value propositions or it’s like a combo business. We’ve got the technology solution that we provide to insurance company so we are a SaaS license company. For the industry. And like on the other hand we’ve also a regulated insurance broker in the UK or MGA they call it a managing general agent. So we provide our own insurance product and the insurer’s insurance product. through our platform to the customer direct. So we’ve got retail and wholesale business and that’s the kind like part that I wanted to explain. So when I say conversion this is predominantly on the kind of customer buying our insurance. So it’s like one part of the business as opposed to the whole of the business. And our revenue is kind of like most of our revenue comes from the technology side. Really the serving customer business is loss-making. but we are doing it because there’s a huge potential. It’s lower to grow but it’s sticky. in the future. It’s sticky and the number of customers is growing rapidly because of the market. You see the whole gig economy really really pick up now in the last couple of months. And no doubt in the next 12 it will be accelerating. So that’s basically what I kind of expect. In terms of the kind of the number and growth right now we are quite lean in our operations. All in all, we probably got about 10. We have planned. Double this number or triple this number by the end of the year. So that would be my ambition.
You mean in terms of the team?
It’s relatively small. But considering that we are a technology company majority of our processes are driven by tech and less people. So it is very less people dependent but small tech dependent. We build our technology on the locals on a local basis. So everything we do is just to use the technology to power and. Automate most of our processes. There’s a lot less work to do for tap because everything else has been handled by the system itself. And therefore although like we just about 10 people roughly. But our operational capability is. For more than a traditional insurance broker. Mm-hmm. or MPA for example because of that operational efficiency. So what I’m trying to explain is that there is no bearing between the side of our company and what we can do because for every person we are capable of doing three to four times the number of tasks than a normal person will be able to do because of that the level of automat. That we have built and we’ve got fantastic processes and procedures to help with the customer training to help with staff training and other stuff.
It seems to be a very advantageous position. You are in a market that is growing. You have a team that is ready to scale. You’ve identified a problem. And then you have some experience in the field and then you’re building a technological solution in a field where people do things more manually I guess. So it seems most of the stars are aligned. And this brings me onto my next and potentially final question which is I’ve seen a lot of companies to be honest that have grown to the size that you have. And then this is the exact moment where the style of leadership. How people feel about company and how much ownership they have towards what they’re building plays a vital role and ends up determining if that company is going to grow into a bigger one or simply fail. So with that in mind tell us a bit about your leadership style and tell us a bit about how someone from the company would describe the working environment of Tapoly.
I basically combined my leadership style based on my own experience of working. Speak organization like various investment banks as well as my own personal value. I have certainly certain belief. My personal belief is to add value. So I think Tapoly is built nearly mural. My own personal value in the way that Tapoly want to be the helper the supporter of the gig economy because we expect or we believe that the gig economy play an important role. For the UK. and for the world. As a matter of fact, when there is a recession hit gig economy will need all the help and support and gig economy that actually supporting the entire economy. And the reason why we basically like this concept of the gig and sharing economy as well because one of the investments that I did a couple of years ago was in sharing economy. And I love that market because of what is represented. The world has several problems that whole sharing economy solve and certainly environmentally we need to reduce carbon dioxide we need to reduce waste and all of that. And we need to share more. So the whole sharing concept whether it’s sharing your services or sharing. Product and gadget become very important for the world. So we are targeting this market because one we want to be of value but to be of value we need to be where is needed. So I think my leadership style is very much in line with that. And the second is diversity and inclusion. I spent years in investment bank promoting various diversity groups. I share one of the diversity groups at UBS and then at Deutsche Bank I sit on the steering committee for one of the diversity groups as well to support. So I’ve been kind of an. For the diversity and inclusions for as long as I have been nearly in investment banking or my profession I mean nearly kind of at least half of my years in my other hood not in my other hood but more like professional like life. I’ve been supporting this.
I think it’s a big cause and people in the team, especially in a big company it’s difficult to understand and make the connections between what the leaders think and how the operations run et cetera. But in a smaller company it’s much more visible, isn’t it? It’s you cannot get away with saying something and then you have some banners and some presentations. Outlying values like honesty and integrity but people act differently. You can kind of get away with it if the organization is big enough but in a startup, there is really no room to hide. So everything is in the middle transparent and we all have mistakes. We all have improvement areas and there are things we need to learn and grow as well. But that being said I think this is like a journey and it looks like an interesting start of a journey for Tapoly as well. Thank you so much for joining our chat today. Janthana, it was a pleasure having you on.
Thank you so much for having me so privileged to be on your show. Thank you.