Consumer Agent Portal, aka Project CAP, first arrived on the scene back in the summer of 2011 when they quietly raised $18m to develop a means of saving the independent insurance agent via lead gen marketing platform.
To think that there are startups with $100k in funding that have more fanfare and notoriety than CAP is baffling. Years later, we’ve caught up with them to hear more; while CEO Charles ‘Chip’ Bacciocco wasn’t available, we met with Tony Tellijohn (TT) – Director of Marketing, Wade Anderson (WA) – VP of IT and Warren Lochner (WL) CFO & COO.
What are the basics of the business?
WL: Consumer Agent Portal (also known as Project CAP) was formed in January of 2011 through funding from the IIABA and six initial carriers. We’re headquartered in St. Louis Park with some of the management team in Milwaukee and we have about 35 employees now.
WL: That’s a good question. None of us here today are part of the original management team and that decision was made prior to us arriving. Perhaps it was because that’s where the original contractor was sourced from.
When and how did each you come into CAP?
WL: In April 2012 when revenue started I came in as the CFO and eventually became COO as well.
TT: I joined in June 2012…originally came in to be a search engine strategist for http://trustedchoice.com, which is the consumer half of the business. As we’ve continued to grow, I’ve been doing traffic generation and overall marketing for CAP as a whole as the marketing director.
WA: I was brought in around mid-December to take on and lead the IT function around software delivery. A lot of the original build was outsourced and we’ve since added local partners in Minneapolis and Chicago. We wanted to own our own destiny through a better architecture with a more agile approach to scale.
So what exactly does Project CAP do?
WL: http://www.trustedchoice.com is the consumer facing half and http://iw.trustedchoice.com is the other side for independent insurance agents. Under ‘Trusted Choice’ consumers seeking insurance in any number of areas could be matched with agents offering various policies or carriers. We’re a resource center for these consumers and digital solution for the agents who offer insurance.
Why Project CAP?
WL: To preserve the independent agent channel, the IIBA wanted to get these folks into a common marketing platform.
What is the size of this marketplace?
WL: It’s big. I don’t have the figure on the top of mind. There’s some 300k agents and 20k independent agents domestically.
Who or what do you compete with?
Direct carriers who advertise on TV, radio, print and online…Geico, StateFarm, AllState. Even traditional web agencies that operate in the insurance vertical.
Has the company really raised $50m?
WL: It is in the ballpark of $50m
Who are the investors behind it?
WL: There are technically nine investors. The IIABA, and then eight investor carriers (the original six, plus two more recently). Those eight carriers are (in no particular order) The Main Street America Group, State Auto Insurance, Westfield Insurance, Travelers Insurance, Motorists Insurance, Central Insurance Companies, Selective Insurance, and Safeco Insurance.
That’s not an insignificant amount of money…what has it been applied to?
WL: A lot of it has gone into technical portal development and other digital products
I had read that there was a delay in launch, can you speak to that?
WL: Yes…there was supposed to be a launch earlier in 2013 but there were delays that caused us to come out later in the year. I think that with a project of this size those things can happen. We’ve launched now, stabilized and are in the market.
WA: We did have those challenges out the gate due to the outsourcing…but through bringing it back in and realigning, we’ve tripled the output as a software delivery team.
TT: We’re still learning.
Is the product fully commercialized now?
And how’s it going?
WL: Going well now. We’ve seen subscription growth and month over month sales.
TT: On the trustedchoice.com side of things, just from a traffic side of things, we’ve had nine consecutive months of record traffic and we’re seeing 1,000%+ year over year growth. Both from the consumer awareness side and the agent participation, things are going extremely well.
How do you make money?
WL: Subscriptions for agents to be on the platform and additional products
What do you see as your current traction/position relative to the overall market potential?
WL: We maybe have 2% right now and a ways to go.
TT: Agreed, it is low, but it’s coming from nothing and going in the right direction. At the end of the day it’s difficult to measure because we aren’t the ones selling insurance.
What’s the long term plan?
WL: Our investors have bought in for the long haul…at least for the next 5+ years it will stay private.
Anything else you’d like to add?
WA: We’re starting to let ourselves be seen now and there’s good talent here in the Twin Cities.