THE STORY OF INDIO: WHY INDIO BET ON THE INDEPENDENT BROKER – EPISODE 075
On this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds interviews Michael Furlong, CEO, and co-founder of Indio Technologies. By listening to this episode, you will learn:
- How the company was born, in part, out of Mike’s personal struggles with the insurance application and renewal process
- Why, when everybody wanted to replace agents and brokers, Michael and his team started a company to empower them
- Why Indio succeeded whereas many others failed: which key decisions and turning points have set the company apart
- What the company’s plans are for the next 3-5 years
It is said that many startups are born out of an original need or problem one of the founders faced. Prior to launching Indio, Michael Furlong ran another software company that did not have to do with insurance. Still, he was responsible for insuring the business in the usual ways: D&O, E&O, cyber, etc. It was all pretty perplexing—had it not been for his broker’s guidance, Mike admits he would have struggled with it. But the worst of it was the application and renewal process. “It was painful,” Mike recalls to Ryan Deeds. “Extremely manual and paperwork-driven. There was so much data duplication.”
Ironically, Mike’s investors later urged him to enter the insurance space and to develop technology that would replace agents and brokers altogether—a phenomenon known as disintermediation that we’ve covered in a previous episode. But to Mike, it didn’t add up. The way he remembered it, his broker’s guidance had been a blessing; it was the process that he found unbearable. Couldn’t the broker stay and the process be overhauled?
For the past three years, Indio Technologies has been Mike’s answer to that question. “My view was always that insurance agents and brokers added a lot of value and were here to stay; they just needed better software to power what they did.” So, with the help of his CTO Adam Bratt, “we decided to start a company that would provide software to insurance agents and brokers, to empower their processes and the way that they relate to their customers, especially when collecting data—a process that we’ve digitized. Rather than send customers an email with a bunch of attachments on it, our clients send them a link to Indio. When customers click the link, Indio walks them through the application process. All the information that the customer enters maps out to every other form, whether it’s carrier forms, a list of exposures, auto, driver, hazards, etc. It’s all consolidated in one place.”
If the numbers are anything to go by, Michael’s foresight is paying off aplenty. Barely three years into operations, Indio Technologies can count over 350 customers, including 40 of the top one hundred insurance brokers in North America. “When I look back on it, I’m amazed by what we’ve built. We have a stable, consistent, very fast-growing business. We’ve grown 7X in the last twelve months, which has been pretty amazing.” It is amazing—wasn’t the smart money set against the independent insurance channel? How could so many people have been off the mark?
Actually, insurance insiders knew something Mike didn’t—something he, too, eventually figured out. Agents and brokers had long been harboring a secret hostility toward technology. How was Insurtech supposed to thrive in this environment? “A lot of agents and brokers used to say that they’d been burned by technology in the past,” Mike remembers. “That always surprised me: why was there this negative attitude around technology, the mere perception of technology?”
It turned out that Indio’s predecessors had overpromised and underdelivered. Some had tried to do too much, too fast, others had tried to do too much, too soon. Indio has avoided both pitfalls. The software is simple, easy to use, and does what it is supposed to—a classic case of the product speaking for itself. “When we talk about our product to prospects, we focus on the simplicity of it. It’s a very, very simple solution. We’re not doing anything that’s out of our control or relies on third parties like carriers or wholesalers. We don’t require insurance licensing. We’re a software company, plain and simple. We have a simple pricing model, and we deliver a solution that does not disrupt the current workflow—if anything, it replaces a pen-and-paper process. Our customers see this, and they know we can deliver.”
Humility, transparency, and simplicity are thus at the heart of what has made Indio successful. But that doesn’t mean that the company isn’t interested in growing or in testing the boundaries of its potential—it just needs to happen progressively. “We want every business in America using Indio as their insurance application platform. We want to keep empowering brokers to become advisors to their clients, not just transactional middlemen. We want to provide better quality data—to the agencies, to the carriers, and to the insured. We want to be more prescriptive, giving agencies advice on how to craft a better application and renewal process.” A pretty tall order for a company that was so big an underdog. But it wouldn’t be the first time that the company upset expectations. Since day one, Indio’s been proving the naysayers wrong: insurance agencies do want technology. They might have gotten burned in the past, but they still have real problems that can be solved and are being solved, by Insurtech providers like Indio.
When technology solves old problems, removing soul-sucking tasks and increasing customer and employee satisfaction, the whole channel flourishes. Indio’s been driving much of that innovation. But the company can’t do it all on its own. Agencies have to do their part: come to terms with their suspicion of technology, embrace new products and ideas, and take product implementation more seriously, none of which are easy to do. That’s why Indio tries to help in two ways. One is by deploying a Customer Success Team, tasked with making sure that every customer is getting the most out of Indio. The other is by supplying informational material on how to be more tech-savvy, operationally proficient, and adept at implementing change. Where can you find this informational material? Right here on The Digital Broker. We’ve done episodes on leadership, change management, and common issues interfering with technology implementation. We have also created the Digital Broker LinkedIn group, where insurance agents and brokers can get together and discuss what they hear on the show. Join the conversation and ask Mike a question—he and the rest of the Indio team will respond.
Having recently raised another $20 million in venture capital, Indio looks exquisitely positioned to continue to deliver value to the insurance community. But Mike knows better than to let a figure like that go to his head. “It is obviously a good indicator of our progress and ability to grow,” he admits. “But we don’t necessarily benchmark our success off of how much money we raise.”
“So many people are using the product every day. While I am sleeping at night, thousands of people are filling out their insurance applications on Indio. That, to me, is the most mind-blowing thing—that we’ve created that.”