Meeri Savolainen, the CEO, and co-founder of INZMO, Berlin-headquartered InsurTech, and a standout player in the insurtech field, specializing in embedded insurance solutions designed to cater to the needs of residential renters across Europe. Inzmo offers a variety of insurance products, including renters, electronics, liability, and home contents insurance, all delivered in a 100% digital format. Inzmo raised to date $7.9 million.
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Let's do it. Broadcasting from around the world. You're listening to the first 100. A podcast on how founders acquired their first 100 paying customers. Here's your host, Hadi Rodwan. Good to have you on the show, Miri. How are you doing today? Great to be here, Hadi. Thank you for having me. Let me just start with a quick introduction for our listeners. Miri Savo-Lainen, the CEO and co-founder of Insmo, Berlin headquartered Insurtech, standout player in the Insurtech field. You've been specializing in embedded insurance solution designed to cater to the needs of residential renters across Europe. And you have multiple other suite of products. electronic liability, home contents insurance, all delivered 100% in digital format. And you've raised today $7.9 million. Take us back to the founding of HomeMoment. How did you come across building the startup? Yes, so me and my co-founder, when starting the company, I think it was seven years ago, we didn't start an insured tech because back then we didn't have any knowledge about the insurance. The company that we initially started was actually an international bicycle registry that was called Bike ID. So our goal was that we register all the bikes that there are around and we cooperate with the police and other bike owners and whenever a bike is stolen, then we help to return them back to their rightful owners. And when we were thinking about how to monetize the bicycle registry, then we were thinking about different... measures like bike locks and different protective stickers and other mechanisms. And eventually what we found out is that the best protection for death and damages should be bike insurance. So we pitched this idea of registering your bike and having bike insurance and doing this really comfortably over an application to different insurance companies across Europe, because we wanted to be present in all over Europe and sell bike insurance in Europe. And when we showed this solution, this application and website and the registration solution to different insurance companies, they were like, Hey, you know, this is a solution that insurance has been missing and why just bike insurance? Why couldn't we sell all insurance products like this? And back then when we were building a bike ID, our CTO used to be the former CTO and developer for different insurance brokers and insurance companies in Estonia. So we didn't know how to set up insurance products, but he said, this is super easy. And in 2016 bike idea also made a pivot. So we became an insurance agent. So initially we wanted to mediate all kinds of property, casualty, insurance products, starting from car insurances, travel insurances, home content insurances, and so on and so forth. But over the years we have become a little bit more focused. So we have been focusing on. property casualty insurances more on the home content side. And now we have taken a step forward to rental homes. So a rental industry is an industry that we see that is untapped by different insurance companies. And it's really ripe for different insurance products, financial products, and also great digital and instant solutions to serve insurance services to the audience. Thank you for sharing this. I like what you've achieved so far, especially your model, B2B2C. Is there any specific reason why you did not go direct to the consumer? Insurance industry in general is highly competitive. So if we would talk to the audience like guys on the street or Facebook or Google Ads and so on and so forth, then acquiring customers can be extremely expensive in the insurance industry. As a young startup, we would go basically in a war with insurance companies with limitless budgets to acquire customers. If we think about the minimum customer acquisition costs today to sell an insurance product, we're talking about four or 500 euros to sell one insurance product. Depending on the insurance product, like you have to sell this customer multiple products just to break even. With B2B and B2B2C, as a startup or as a young company, you have access to large customer pools via your partners. And hence also the customer acquisition costs is substantially lower. enabling us to make money or profit already by selling one policy. So it was kind of like a strategic decision on our end because we didn't want to burn too much money on acquiring customers and it was difficult for us to build out a story around this that would justify the really high customer acquisition cost. Makes a lot of sense and we've seen it across the world. So many D2C companies have burned millions and millions of dollars. Sometimes the cost of acquisition is higher than the lifetime value of the customer. So if you were to look back at your early acquisition strategy, I believe if your direct customer is someone you're not reaching to them from day one, but you want to onboard maybe other agents or brokers or partners, what was your strategy back then when the brand was not well known? So the strategy was to really build products. to customize those products together with the partners, to be extremely flexible in terms of technology, in terms of insurance products. So we didn't want to be another insurance company or insurance carrier that is selling exactly the same product, right? So there had to be a really an angle. And for us, like six, seven years ago, this angle was definitely technology. This was something that large insurance companies were missing big time. And so if we to... an insurance product from a known carrier and we built up amazing customer experience and a really simple integration with the B2B or B2B2C partner, then ahead of the competition we would win the game like this. And now if we won our first partners, then we started investing more and more to become better and better nurturing those partnerships and we have now partnerships that... We closed five years ago and they're still there because we're constantly improving our technology. We're developing these products and shaping these products according to the market needs. It's all about this flexibility and it's really like about creating value to the consumers and to the partners. Amazing. If you go back to that moment, how did you find those first hundred paying customers? So. In that sense, this is a funny story. The beginning was like really, really humble. So even though we are today a German company, our primary market is Germany and the neighboring countries, then initially the first hundred customers we acquired from Estonia. because this is where we're from. It was easy to kind of... Estonia is like a village. You know everybody. It's easy to get a carrier. It's easy to find developers. It's easy to go to market, because if you launch something, everybody will know in two weeks time. And it was all about building this base. So we wanted to create the differentiating insurance product on the market back then. And six, seven years ago, there wasn't much in Estonia, at least like mobile insurance And especially there was a need to ensure used devices, used mobile phones. So we thought that, you know, we're being innovative. We are bringing the first digital mobile phone insurance to the market that also enables you to ensure used devices because we had the technology to verify the condition of the device. So we started building the base and really like the first success story or first hundred customers is building together with your network. So I had a friend. who was the managing director of one insurance company in Estonia. So we convinced them that they will issue us this product and take a leap of fate with us. Then we, in terms of distribution, you know, the challenge was still there, that how we're going to distribute this product. So we had another friend who was organizing different events in Estonia. And back then there was a huge event in the Baltics called Weekend Music Festival. So it's like 100,000 people, everybody coming together to the beach in Estonia. And we sold him the idea that let's include the mobile insurance into the ticket price. So everybody who goes to this rave that lasts for three, four days, everybody has their mobile phones insured. So this is the kind of the story, how we acquired the first hundred customers based on what our friends were doing. And they were, you know, happy to take this leap of faith with us. and to create this kind of experience. When we were in the festival, we also had our little booth over there because when somebody broke their phone, they could come and give their broken phone to us and then have a replacement phone in return. This party was really wild that, you know, at some point we were like, oh my God, what did we do? There will be like massive losses and this product will be highly in loss. And actually the product behaved extremely well. We sold, I think in total, some 16,000 policies with this first program. And, you know, the insurance carrier, we were happy with the customers that we acquired, the customers were happy. So in that sense, it was quite a new and innovative approach to ensure mobile phones are at a rave and a great success story for us. Amazing story. I like the guerrilla marketing tactics. Creative entrepreneurs, when they have limited budgets, go after and they... These are things that are non-scalable on the long run, but they are things that Paul Graham from Y Combinator always addresses. He says, do things that don't scale at the beginning. And I love this story. Have you considered doing it again? Have you done it again? Was it successful? We have not done it so far, but we do have some thoughts already. So we do also have some negotiations in the place already. It also involves ticket sellers and entering events. And some of the ideas we have around that, if the events will be canceled, or if you do not want to go, that there is protection there, or it's raining or anything happens that you will get your money back. So we do have some ideas around that already. So yeah, I think we will definitely repeat this exercise, especially when entering a new market. What have been the proudest moments that you've experienced in building Enzmo and the hardest moments as well? The hardest moments are always the ones where you're launching something new and maybe the results are not the ones that you were expecting and the team who has been building this is also getting sad and maybe sometimes team motivated. So it's those times when things don't go as planned and you have to really motivate the whole team and make sure that They understand that life goes on and there are new challenges and opportunities ahead of us. What we are extremely proud of is that even being like in the first year's totally unknown insurtech startup, we have been managing to hire really, really top talent to join the company. We have been like really proud of the people we have had the chance to work together and all the advices and all the investors that have been helping us. So coming from Eastern Europe to the largest market in Europe and starting a company and building up these partnerships with large partners that we have today, it's not something someone can do on their own. And we have had so much great talent that has at the end of the day, made this a reality. Thank you for sharing this. If we zoom into your tech, and you mentioned that it has been instrumental to grow the company, I would love to... understand how valuable are product roadmaps for your team and what makes a product roadmap really exceptional. They are extremely important because product is the heart of the company, nothing else and products have to be built like we have this kind of ideology that product have to be built over customer needs so customers is the center of everything and products have to be pain and creating value for the customer. So this is like the first thing that we have in mind when we build up any new product or product pipeline. These product roadmaps are extremely important because it keeps our teams focused so that we do not get lost. And it keeps us on track. And it also keeps the whole team and all other stakeholders, shareholders, investors, and also our clients. It keeps everybody aligned. Like. what they can expect from us and what we do expect to deliver. So in that sense, they are extremely important. I think it's also like one of the key successes of the company. How important to you is what we call truth serum in the feedback process. So when you're building a product, you need that feedback loop, the truth, the reality on if that product is working or not. How are you ensuring that you get that feedback loop back in? Mm-hmm. I think it starts really from the beginning when you start building a product because you cannot just build a product from a gut feeling that somebody, a founder or a product manager or anybody else thinks a product is or a feature is a great product or feature. So it needs much more planning. It needs proper discovery. It needs understanding already in the beginning, interviewing the customer. What do they need? What is their pain point? What kind of pain are we solving here? What is the problem we are solving? So it starts already like early in the beginning that we have to validate that this is really a huge problem we're dealing with, or a huge problem we're solving. And discovery has to be really, really proper. And when we go now from the discovery into the development, like making the first prototypes or making the first MVPs, so... There's constant feedback loops with the audience. Like with the prototypes, of course, you take a smaller audience, you take a small bunch of customers, you get their feedback and you iterate on that. And then you make an MVP. You have a little bit bigger customer pool, of course not your whole customer base, or you do not like with the MVP, you don't push like the whole marketing budget behind it. But you have the MVP and based on those results that you get from the MVP, you iterate again. and you try to understand whether this is something so valuable that the customer is like and they're willing to pay for this. And it's constant iteration on the customer feedback. Even if you're launching the full product, it's constant iteration on the customer feedback, constantly interviewing the customers, like, what are their expectations? How is the customer expectation changing over time? So it's a constant process for us. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this. What has been the... feature that you're most proud of that you've built over the past few years in your tech stack? I would not maybe say just a specific feature, but it's the whole back office that InSmo has built. We have built everything in-house. We are not depending on any other technological provider. Everything that we have built to issue insurance products, to manage, to submit and handle claims, to report and everything revolved an insurance process, we have built up on our own. And I think this is the kind of today, it's already a back office solution that any insurance company would need to operate in a fully digital way to integrate with partners, to support the customers, to support the customers and handle claims, for example, via chatbot and so on and so forth. So it's the whole back office system that I'm extremely proud of that we've managed to build up in this short period of time. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this insight. What is the principle that you live by that has helped you become successful in your career? Not taking no for an answer, because I think one of my strengths is being creative in any situation. I'm also like, I think inside the company known for solving complex issues and complex situations where like nobody has any ideas anymore what to do, then I will find three, four solutions on top of that. So I think not... settling with rejections and not settling with an answer of no or that something cannot be done. I think this has been like for me personally the key element of success. Thank you for sharing this principle. It resonates with a lot of our listeners who are also entrepreneurs and the life of an entrepreneur is always hard because you don't get things right from day one and you have limited time, limited resources. So you need to be not only creative, resourceful. So if we go back to your early childhood days, were there any signs that young Miri would ever be an entrepreneur? I don't know because I think when I was a kid I wanted to be an actress or a singer and then at some point I wanted to be a lawyer. I also studied law for five years and I actually practiced law for many, many years. I always felt that I'm capable of taking more risks and building something on my own and also engaging people behind my vision and the goals that I want to achieve. So it changed over time. I don't think I had this dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Things change, right? Priorities change, but you know, you found an opportunity, you find the gap in the market and you built on it. One last question. What is next for Insumo and Miri? So we aim to grow in the rental insurance space because as mentioned, rental industry is somewhat untapped in the European market and we want to become the number one player that is providing insurance and financial solutions for the rental industry to help tenants and landlords. manage their risks and have better finances, make sure that the money is always there, make sure that we're not evicting people. So we want to contribute that. And the big vision of the company is that we want to live in a world that is more financially free. And with our services, we want to create this sense of financial freedom that people spend anyway, 40% of their income to rents, utilities, and everything related to your household. So we want to bring a little bit of relief into this matter. Amazing. We wish you the best of luck, Miriam, on achieving your vision. How can people reach you? I can be found on LinkedIn or any social media. Happy to share ideas and especially innovative ideas with anyone. We wish you the best of luck and thank you for stopping by. This was an amazing and insightful episode. Have a great evening. Thank you, Adi. Thank you so much for listening to the first 100. We hope it inspired you in your journey. If you're enjoying the podcast, please subscribe to our podcast on Apple iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or Spotify and share it with a friend starting their entrepreneurship journey. Leave us a five star review. Your support will help spread our podcast to more viewers.