Why I love working with entrepreneurs

Stewart Duncan
Chief Data Officer
23 June 2021
3 minute read

Sometimes, you just find a “fit”.

Something you want to put your energy into, where you can do some good.

It can be in the most unexpected of places. Having worked across many industries, from government to video gaming, I’ve found myself back helping small businesses and startups to grow, protect themselves and simplify their admin.

Here are two reasons why I find serving this critical part of our economy (there are over 6 million SMEs in the UK) a very meaningful thing to do:

1. Business owners need to be everything

My brother has built a specialist food delicacy business over the last twenty years. My father-in-law bought a peach farm and turned it into an award-winning winery.

As a listener on the end of the phone after a long hard day, what struck me is that a small business is expected to operate like a much larger business, but without the resources to do so.

“How so?” You may ask. Well:

  • They don’t have that HR or People specialist to turn to when there is an HR issue.
  • There’s no finance team to watch their expenses and advise on where to optimise.
  • They need to become regulatory experts in their field - the amount of red tape is eye-watering. And, while usually well-intended, it is often a blunt instrument that stifles innovation and raises consumer costs.

In short, they have to become specialists in everything.

On the bright side, something very exciting has been happening too: tech that has historically been available only for large corporations is becoming increasingly accessible to small businesses too.

The pressures of the pandemic have brought out the best in entrepreneurs like my brother. He has grown his business by moving parts of it online and this has opened up a new level of learning and expansion for him. That momentum has translated into significant investment in new technology and additional premises and people.

In the long run, this tech will reduce the cognitive load on the business owner. In the short term, it is another set of skills that they need to learn.

You’ve almost certainly read the hype about how AI can help in this regard, but I think that’s only part of the answer. Any improvement must be led by maximum empathy for the business owner, and a clear focus on taking away admin, not adding to it. This needs to pervade how services or products are sold to them too - it’s a noisy market with many participants. Finding the right way to cut through without just adding to the stress is critical.

I am bullish. People like us at Superscript are leading the charge to remove the admin burden (where we can) and reduce some of that cognitive load for small businesses.

2. Innovating is hard

There’s a theory that our minds are essentially prediction machines. As a data science person, I find this idea fits nicely with my personal biases.

We struggle with things that are new because we like to fit things into a mental model we already have.

For the entrepreneur, this means that they have to not only create the future, but also convince everyone else to update their mental models so that it can be perceived.

Since joining Superscript, I have observed with awe how completely our insurance advisers understand the innovations our startup and scale-up clients are bringing to the world and how tirelessly they work to represent these to the insurance industry.

By helping translate what a startup is doing to an insurer's existing model of risk (and, crucially, where they are different) they are able to find cover for businesses pioneering the fields of blockchain, AI, fintech, regtech, floratech, insurtech and the like.

Eventually, those innovations will stabilise and become normal. But I’m confident by then our advisers will be helping blaze the trail for the next set of ideas that will change how we live.

Without this ability to transfer risk as a win-win for both the insurer and the entrepreneur, these innovations would not happen.

Making insurance accessible

I’ve talked about two very different customer groups: business owners who build their businesses incrementally, often focused on more established trades and differentiating through personal touch, and high growth startups who are creating new services and new markets, often with venture capital. Both create tremendous value in our communities.

Just as tech that was once the preserve of big companies is now becoming accessible to smaller players, I love the idea that the rich insurance advice that was previously only available to those same big players, is increasingly becoming available to smaller firms, wherever they are on their journey.

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