Jeff Harris has spent nearly a decade and more than $5 million attempting to wedge a bit of fresh technology into the insurance industry.
Harris believes 2015 will be the year the investment will come to fruition. “We are sitting on something that's the coolest product on the market,” says Harris, president and founder of Sarasota-based Insurelinx. “We believe this will change the industry and be a paradigm shift.”
The product is InsurePay. It's a software product that allows a business owner to pay workers' compensation insurance fees in a “pay-as-you-go” method. The traditional way is to pay workers' comp insurance fees in advance, which are then recalculated by an insurance provider after the policy period, based on changes to the payroll. That old method, says Harris, is inefficient, slow and, most importantly, costs the customer more, especially at the end of the policy.
But InsurePay, says Harris, “fixes everything, from the beginning of the policy until the audit” at the end. It does that under a software-as-a-service business model that utilizes proprietary real-time technology to analyze actual payroll data from customers. InsurePay, Harris adds, calculates, collects and remits insurance premiums timely and consistently. Clients pay Insurelinx a fee based on a percentage of the total payroll costs.
Harris' biggest obstacle: Prove what InsurePay can do in a fragmented industry slow to adapt to technological advances. That's currently the biggest challenge at Insurelinx. The goal is to sell the service to insurance carriers and other large insurance firms, companies that can then provide InsurePay to clients. Says Harris: “We need to get the companies to know how to market this.”
Insurelinx is currently running test programs with InsurePay for several carriers, including AIG and Travelers. The firm also oversees a pilot program for the state of Colorado's insurance fund. Harris is particularly excited about the Colorado test-run because that could give the firm entry into new government revenue streams.
Beyond trial programs, Insurelinx already has some market validation: It had around $3 million in revenues in 2014, and Harris expects that figure to at least double in 2015. “It's been growing every month,” says Harris.
Insurelinx, from an office just south of downtown Sarasota, has 18 employees. That payroll includes five people hired last year, mostly in customer service roles. Harris seeks to hire several more software programmers, but finding the right people in Sarasota has been another challenge. He's worked with the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County for assistance there.
A Jacksonville native, Harris moved to the Sarasota area in 2004 after working in construction and land development. He took a job with PBOA Risk Services, a Sarasota insurance firm run by his family. He says he was stunned when he discovered the workers' comp side of the industry had no software that could calculate a client's premium in real time using actual payroll data. Professional Employer
Organizations, he says, had that kind of model and that put insurance firms at a competitive disadvantage.
Harris left PBOA to launch Insurelinx in 2006, and he brought along a team of technology pros for the software side. He says he invested at least $5 million in the early going, from his own money, to bring InsurePay to market.
While Harris beams with confidence about the potential at Insurelinx, one worry looms. That comes from what bigger firms might do to thwart the company's progress in disrupting the old way of doing business. “ADP and Paychex are the enemy,” Harris says. “They don't want this service out there because it's a threat to them.”
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