Like most industries, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital adoption in the insurance industry. Life insurance professionals need to leverage technology to successfully engage with prospective and existing clients to deliver services that today’s digital-savvy consumers demand. iLife is a sales automation platform for the life insurance industry that streamlines building a digital presence, increases sales, manages leads and prospects, matches customer profiles to policies, and allows the seamless collection of application materials. The company’s most popular plan is offered for a nominal $99.99 per month and offers unlimited prospects, customized quote generation, one-click submission for underwriting, and a selection of more than 670K policies. By leveraging iLife, insurance brokers are able to reduce the time to quote from days and weeks to seconds, bringing a much-needed better tech-enabled customer experience to the customer.
LA TechWatch caught up with CEO and Founder Nelson Lee to learn more about the inspiration for the business, how iLife is bringing much-needed advancement to a traditionally stalwart industry, the company’s future plans, recent round of funding, and much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
It was a Seed round led by Foundation Capital, with participation from AME Cloud Ventures, Plug and Play, Cherubic Ventures, and Expansion VC.
Tell us about your product or service.
iLife is a B2B Insurtech SaaS company. Our software allows insurance agents/brokers to create their own branded digital storefront within a minute of signing up, without any coding or API integrations required. This means that 60 seconds after they sign up, they have their own branded site up and running, with their consumers able to browse over 600,000+ life policy options, use live chat, and have all of this be tracked in a built-in CRM. This is quite a few orders of magnitude faster and cheaper than insurance agencies trying to develop software in-house, or trying to piece together 6-7 different software products to achieve similar objectives.
Until iLife, it would take anywhere from 5-14 working days for a consumer to get a life insurance quote back. With iLife, getting the best life insurance quotes back takes under 7 seconds.
What inspired the start of iLife?
We, like many others at the time, were initially attracted to the large market size of the life insurance space and its relative lack of new technology adoption. Upon closer inspection, however, it became apparent that the vast majority of technology innovations had been previously done in the D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) models. Relatively few startups focused on the fact that agents and brokers were just as frustrated as their consumers in the slow and archaic sales process, if not more, as their entire careers depended on the said process, so we knew we wanted to innovate there.
Traditionally there are only two choices to buy life insurance, on opposite ends of the spectrum: you either can go to a website and talk to a chatbot, or you can spend multiple weeks going through traditional processes with an agent. The big catch here is that consumers actually want neither of these choices, they want a tech-enabled efficient process that still allows for a licensed human expert to advise on complex financial products, as life insurance is vastly more complicated and contextual than in home or auto insurance. What iLife does here is transform that advisor-client relationship to enhance interactions to be faster and more meaningful, and not replace human interactions altogether.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Our market is the existing and future workforce in insurance distribution and marketing. As this industry is still in its very early stages of innovating itself, it’s safe to say we are still only scratching the surface of what this market could eventually become, and our mission to be a big driver of that change and growth.
What’s your business model?
We are a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company, brokers and agents from any company anywhere can use our software to help them sell, grow, and recruit. There are no strings attached, and they do not need to sell “under” iLife. In fact, our technology helps them promote their brands, and not iLife’s.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business??
COVID has seen the industry accelerate its technology adoption curve by 5-10 years at the minimum, with many brokers and agencies having to transform themselves into a digital player literally overnight. This was traditionally a very long and expensive process for insurance professionals who are busy enough with their core business as it is, which meant that the ability to use iLife and digitize themselves to go online in minutes instead of months was suddenly a very attractive proposition.
What was the funding process like?
Other than a lot of investor communications being mostly remote due to the pandemic, the rest of the funding process remains largely the same, in that you must clearly and concisely articulate your vision, traction, product, and key differentiator for success, and build trust over time.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Similar to many other startups, you always have so much to say about your product, why it’s so attractive from so many different angles, but at the end of the day you have to get to the point very quickly and make sure your core competencies are the lasting impressions people walk away with.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Similar to many other early-stage investments, I think it’s about demonstrating the team has appropriate understanding of the vertical they’re addressing, the know-how and experience to build and ship complex software products quickly, and the design acumen to let users fall in love with what they make.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We plan to ramp up our marketing efforts, as almost all of our current business has come to us organically with no marketing spend yet.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh
injection of capital in the bank?
Keep working hard, do not give up easily, but at the same time don’t be afraid to make big pivots if you truly believe in a new direction being objectively better for the company. It’s a fine line between being resilient and stubborn, and finding the right balance in an early stage gives you the best chance to discover the most successful path.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our aim is always to listen closely to what our users are saying, and continuously make improvements to delight them. Innovation never stops, and standing still means taking a step backward. In order to stand out as a new market entrant, you can’t just do a “fine” job, you must be clearly 10x better than everything else, and that’s what we seek to achieve every day here.
What’s your favorite outdoor activity in LA?
There are too many! I really enjoy spending time in natural scenery, both for relaxation and deep thinking.