Sivan Avihud, now vice president of people, said that she’s been with NEXT Insurance since “day one.” And with that early knowledge of the company comes big contributions.
“I remember when NEXT was a concept on paper. I was the one that hired the first-ever employee,” Avihud said.
That “concept”? It’s taken off in a big way. According to its website, the small business-focused insurance provider now boasts 400,000-plus customers — and has tallied some notable fundraising along the way.
Avihud explained the goal at NEXT is to make attaining insurance a smooth, expeditious experience for small businesses, which she described as generally being “manual and not efficient.”
“Our vision is to help entrepreneurs thrive,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re creating a product that will be self explanatory, user friendly, take away that burden from the small business owner and say, ‘Focus on your business and leave the insurance part to us.’”
We take away the burden from the small business owner and say, ‘Focus on your business and leave the insurance part to us.’”
Head of Core Data Science Matt Welsh — whose prior professional stops include Facebook and Citrix — said that NEXT provides its small business clients a novel application of technology, which is, for many, not what they’re used to receiving from insurance companies.
“We’re able to do this whole process digitally,” Welsh explained. “Today, there’s a person involved that might even go to your worksite, watch you work and make some human-based decisions. Based on the models and the data that we’re building and ingesting, we really make these decisions almost instantaneously and give people a policy that same day.”
Airbnb and PayPal alum Chief Financial Officer Teodora Gouneva joined NEXT at the beginning of 2022, with the prospect of building a scaled, sustainable business as one of the draws for coming aboard. She said that NEXT’s value is not just about making the insurance process smoother for small businesses, but it’s about bringing them clarity, as well.
“If you’re a consumer who just bought a house, you need homeowners insurance; if you bought a car, you need car insurance. On the consumer side, insurance is more straightforward. On the business side, it’s really complicated,” she said. “There's so many different flavors of what you need, which makes it seemingly impossible for a small business owner to figure out. We take that pain point away.”
THE ‘WHAT’ AND ‘WHY’ OF NEXT
NEXT offers a broad range of insurance solutions for small businesses, including business insurance, workers’ compensation, property, certificates of insurance and more. Its clients range from restaurants to real estate to retail. “Our founders specifically focused on insurance because they ran their own business prior to NEXT and understood the headaches involved when trying to secure the right coverage,” Avihud said. “They are solving a problem that they themselves have encountered before.”
‘Dare To Simplify’
NEXT has four values that guide their work: “phenomenal service,” “be unstoppable,” “dare to simplify” and “play as a team.” According to Avihud, the values have been an important rudder for steering the ship.
“We focused a lot on identifying who we are and what is our culture. We landed on four core values that we said are going to be the anchor of who we are no matter what size we’re going to be,” she recalled.
The values don’t just inform NEXT’s culture: Welsh noted that they are also reflected in the technical approach the team takes to their craft. Specifically, he said that his team holds “dare to simplify” close to its heart.
“The expectation on data from our stakeholders is not to just provide dashboards, but to really be somebody who’s at the table simplifying and pulling out the insights and making recommendations around what we should be doing,” Welsh said.
Avihud echoed that sentiment.
“The insurance space is complicated. A big differentiator is that we try to make it simple — not only for our customers, but also for ourselves. We’re always going to choose the simpler, less bureaucratic, less complicated way,” she said.
“The [business] insurance space is complicated. We try to make it simple.”
The idea of simplicity comes to mind, too, when team members discuss the driving ethos behind how they want customers to engage with their product.
“We’re thinking about: What are these pain points in the insurance process?” Welsh said. “Nobody really wants to talk to their insurance company. If we can make this as seamless and as easy as possible, we allow people to get on with what they actually want to do. An electrician wants to be doing electrical work, not be on the phone with their insurance agent.”
Welsh puts forth, for example, the situation of a general contractor requiring an electrician to furnish proof of insurance, which he said historically can be a cumbersome experience and slow down the work that needs to get done.
“For us, it’s as simple as going into the app and filling out a little bit of information and we generate it right on the spot — something you can share directly with your contractor,” Welsh said.
DIVERSITY DRIVES INNOVATION
Welsh said one of the company’s strengths is that team members have a wide variety of professional experiences and don’t necessarily come from the field that they’re currently working in. “We have people who have worked in insurance. They’ve got a couple actuarial exams under their belt. But I also have people like myself, who spent years in marketing, growth and data science. We have folks that have backgrounds in machine learning,” he said. “That is where I think our real advantage comes — this mix of backgrounds that we’ve got.”
What’s Next for NEXT?
Looking ahead, Gouneva described the company as being at a “pivotal moment” — seeking to scale after the past few years of growth and investments. Welsh agreed, noting the company aspires to “expand horizontally” by scaling its client base.
“We will continue to focus on delivering what the end customer needs from us, but doing it in a very resourceful way — making sure there’s no waste,” Gouneva said. “If we have a solid foundation, the right product, the right experience and the right pricing, the business will continue to flourish.”
Building that path ahead, she added, begs for talent that’s ready to take on something big.
“If you’re ready to tackle a challenge — if that’s what drives you — this is absolutely the right company,” she said.
And, as a long-serving team member who has been around since the early days, Avihud finds this juncture in the company’s trajectory to be particularly fulfilling.
“We’re at that point that we’re stable and we have the right people. Now, it’s just about meeting our goals and continuing that solid path towards profitability,” Avihud said. “It feels like it will soon be time to collect the fruit of years of investment to change the small business insurance market.”