I recently came across a highly inspirational account of one of the leaders of the fintech sector: Ismail Ahmed, formerly a refugee from war-torn Somalia, who is leading the disruption of the $44-billion global funds transfer market. His company, WorldRemit, supports any device, and enables customers to send money overseas from bank accounts or debit and credit cards, directing payment to a recipient’s bank account or converted into mobile money.

Examples of such visionaries abound across the fintech and insurtech sectors, fueling a new, bolder attitude into these relatively staid industries. While the insurance industry has always been full of smart, motivated people, it’s interesting to see a new generation emerging that’s crossing the line between tech and insurance, and finding new sources of value. This includes, but is not limited to the following movers and shakers:

  • Dan Schreiber of Lemonade a P2P, technology-driven insurance carrier for renters.
  • Scott Walchek of Trov, provider of an on-demand insurance platform.
  • Dan Peate of Hixme, creator of an online benefits marketplace.
  • Hesus Inoma of WeSavvy, an engagement platform that brings together insurers, brokers, agents and policyholders.
  • Chris Cheatham of Riskgenius, which applies machine learning to insurance policies.
  • Matt Miller of Embroker, a platform to help business insurance brokers.

So, are you ready to join these visionaries and branch out and join the movement? Do you have an idea on how to employ tech to make the industry a better place to work and do business?

What does it take to start and lead a disruptive tech business? I have had the opportunity over the years to speak with countless software and tech entrepreneurs, in various stages from startup mode to well-established enterprise. They all have some common characteristics:

Relentless optimism: They identified a need in their markets, and they acted on it. They know – just instinctively know – what they have to offer is filling that need. In one case, I was talking to the head of a small software company who just found out IBM will be offering the same product to the market. Enough to discourage anybody, right? His response? IBM was sprinkling ‘holy water’ over the concept,” he said, making it easier to sell and evangelize to the market – especially since IBM would be making a big push.

The “entrepreneurial” bug: These are people that likely wouldn’t be happy working in the rank-and-file of a larger company. In many cases, they left the employ of big companies, such as IBM. In some cases, they were able to launch small startups and grew them large enough to sell to larger players. They took top-level management jobs as part of the deal, but they don’t tend to stick around too long. One founder I spoke with referred to himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”

Networking far and wide: Many of the software leaders I’ve spoken to all knew each other – sometimes intimately, even as competitors. One software company leader I spoke with made it an annual prank to send his competitor a gift every Christmas – such as a casket filled with CDs of his competitor’s software. But, as I understand it, they remain friends to this day.

Knowing when to let go of the business: Software developers and technology specialists are the best at what they do, but running a day-to-day business calls for a different skillset. As their companies grew beyond the 50-employee mark, many wise founders knew it was time to turn over the business reigns to someone else, and assume a role such as chief technology officer to oversee the growth of the product.

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