By Alex Maffeo, Founder & CEO of Boost Insurance
Well that happened…
I’m writing this while on a flight back from Dallas after a two-day strategy session with State National. Our team learned a ton from the folks at SNC. First, we learned that State National is really f’ing good at what they do. Like really good. If we can add even incremental value to their business, I feel like Boost will have accomplished a lot.
Second, I learned that Boost has a really f’ing good team. It took an obscene amount of time to put it together. I’m annoyingly picky and I knew how critical these first few hires were going to be. I took my time, but the core team is in place and I’m super happy with how it came together.
In honor of everyone finally being under one roof, I took the liberty to write some unauthorized biographies for each of them. Why? Because 1. I’m legitimately pumped about all of them and 2. they get embarrassed pretty easily, so I thought this would be entertaining. They make fun of me relentlessly, so I trust they can take it.
Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Boost’s core team…
Chris Vitone — Chief Technology Officer
Chris is a machine. Maybe a robot. I’m not really sure, but I’m not going to investigate it further.
He has an unhealthy interest in complex problems and is becoming obsessed with the intricacies of insurance data, reporting requirements, and the state-by-state irregularities. I’m not saying he likes it (he definitely doesn’t), but I have never seen anyone untangle things like him and I couldn’t be happier to have him attacking this problem with us. I for one am definitely not smart enough to do it.
Chris had the cojones to agree to come on board before our seed round even closed. When the concept and long-term vision for Boost was explained to him, Chris said “that sounds insane, I want in”. I liked that. You see, Chris comes from the insurtech world. He led the engineering team at Goji and personally handled direct integrations with 15 incumbent carriers. If you utter the phrase “AL3” to him, his eyes will twitch and he may punch you. Don’t take it personally — he’s been through a lot.
A lot of the (re)insurance companies I’ve spoken to over the last year or so have wanted to see some “grey hair in the room”. What they mean is, “Hey, Alex, you silly little startup person — you don’t know anything about insurance. You should hire a dude who’s worked in the industry for 35 years and pay him more than you raised in equity”.
Well, jokes on them because Chris has prematurely grey hair. Check that box.
Julie Sherlock — Head of Insurance Strategy
Talk about unicorn. A year. One year. 365+ days. That’s how long it took me to find Julie. I can’t even tell you how many people from the insurance industry I have met with about this position — both informal conversations and formal interviews. From the start, I knew how important this position was for Boost and it was critical to make sure the person who filled it was the right fit in a lot of different ways.
First, Boost needs serious underwriting chops. Julie brings 13 years of that experience, most recently at another pretty cool insurance company — PURE Insurance Group. Second, they needed to be able to think outside the box and be creative about both underwriting and product development. Julie has dealt with some of the most complicated products and underwriting for some of the most demanding clients around the world. Third, this person needed to be a little crazy. If you haven’t noticed, insurance executives have pretty cushy jobs compared to a seed stage startup like Boost. Julie buys into the concept and the upside and wants to build. This is a very rare combination of qualities in the insurance industry.
Julie doesn’t have any grey hair (and if she did, I definitely wouldn’t point them out), but she has the insurance chops we need to help our insurtech partners navigate the minefields and write some awesome program business.
She also has a pretty badass, albeit very small, dog that barks at everyone in our office unless you give him bacon. I like bacon too.
Juan Arenas — Head of Business Operations
Juan is probably going to save me tens of thousands of dollars in therapy bills over the next few years. Every early stage startup needs someone who is smart enough to take on a ridiculous amount of very diverse work and figure it out themselves. Juan is that person for Boost. He’s an assassin — just give him a job and he will get it done. He brings venture capital, operations, and business development experience to Boost. We even struggled to come up with a title for him because he will touch so many parts of our business…I guess he’s just the Head of Stuff. He’s also very calm while I’m very crazy. That helps.
Juan and I worked together for a few years at IA Capital before he left us to work for the COO of a major digital media company in Miami (his hometown). Juan gained some valuable operational experience there, got married, bought an apartment, and then some loudmouth ex-coworker made him leave all of that behind (except his wife obviously– hi Margaux!) to move back to New York. I should probably try to make this worth his while…
I struggle to describe his role any further, so I guess if you have any questions just call Juan and he’ll figure it out.
Tome Cvitan — Senior Engineer
Tome is from Sweden. I absolutely love Swedish people. In summer of 2016, the Swedes embraced me as their own in the bars of Paris during the Euro Cup. I’ve bled yellow ever since. Tome doesn’t care about this story at all and definitely thinks I’m weird for bringing it up all the time.
Tome is also an absolute monster of an engineer with experience at both startups and large corporations. Most recently, Tome was the Director of Engineering at Hearst Digital Media where he led the development of a content API service powering magazine, TV, and newspaper sites around the world (a pretty big job, I guess). Luckily for us, Tome got sick of corporate life and wanted a big challenge back in the startup world. He brings a fresh set of eyes to our platform that haven’t been tainted by prior insurance experience; however, I gave him no less than 300 pages of insurance research to read on his first day and he finished it within an hour and had like 100 questions that I wasn’t smart enough to answer. I feel good about that learning curve.
Andrew Mneyergi — Senior Engineer
Andrew is another repeat insurtech offender having previously worked with Chris at Goji and helped with those infamous carrier integrations. I don’t know what’s possessing these dudes to come back for insurance seconds, but I’m glad they are. Before joining Boost, Andrew was an engineer at PatientPing a healthcare tech startup where he touched basically all of the API infrastructure and handled sensitive personal information data (somewhat important in the insurance game).
Andrew only joined a few days ago, but he’s already by far the most polite and laid back person at the company. The rest of us set the bar pretty low, but its encouraging to have a little balance there. He also brought donuts to the office which makes him okay in my book.
There you go. About 1,200 words of bragging and I regret nothing — our team kicks ass.
Some people advised me not write this blog because “who knows who will be there in a year?” Well, screw that. If we can’t keep our team happy, stimulated, and excited enough to grow with our company, then that’s on me and I’ll pay the piper.