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Apr 12, 2021

Day 1 of a New Journey

Steve Buonpane

Steve Buonpane

Co-founder & CIO

It’s been a dream of mine to build something from the ground up. Something purposeful and lasting. As a first-generation American I come from a family of builders. Of stonemasons and steamfitters. My uncles and cousins worked on many of New York City’s most iconic buildings and my father worked 40 years as an electrician before retiring to a life of babysitting grandkids and taking on side projects for his family. I grew up around construction and so underwriting casualty insurance for the industry has always gone beyond loss picks and policy forms for me. It’s deeply personal.

Yesterday was my first day at Shepherd, where I joined as the third Co-Founder and incoming Chief Insurance Officer. The last time I had a “first day” was over 12 years ago and so this was a strange notion for me to come to terms with - especially considering I was sitting in the same chair at the same desk that I’ve been at for the better part of 13 months. Such is pandemic life.

It was also the first day in 12 years that I was not interacting with my Chubb colleagues nor working alongside the best construction underwriting team in the business. With no disrespect to other carriers, but what we built at Chubb was special and will always mean a lot to me.

Day 1 of a new job.

Though I hesitate to use the term “job” in this context.

Day 1 of a new journey.

Shepherd is a new type of insurance company. We’re a YC and venture-backed InsurTech startup for the commercial construction marketplace. Our mission is to create a fast, digital, and user-friendly experience for buying insurance in construction, and to break from traditional underwriting models by leveraging data and technology to better understand, predict, and price construction risk.

I’m incredibly excited to help launch Shepherd as I believe both the construction and insurance industries are at a critical inflection point. Each represents one of the largest and most important industries globally. Both are vital to economic growth and prosperity. And both happen to represent two of the most antiquated and manual process-driven industries in the world.

To be fair, the construction sector has taken a few noteworthy steps in modernizing itself in recent years while the insurance industry’s ongoing digital revolution has certainly brought forward impressive new innovations.

But we still have a long way to go.

The construction industry is dynamic and complex. As projects come to life their footprints and personnel change rapidly. What a jobsite looks like today won’t be what it looks like tomorrow. Construction is organized chaos (much like a startup). But it's also inherently dangerous and has one of the highest worker fatality rates of any industry – along with one of the highest preventable fatality rates. Unfortunately, this reality does not change year-in and year-out.

As a result of escalating loss costs the construction industry has been experiencing dramatic increases in its insurance premiums as well as its total cost of risk. Contractors and owners have not been receiving commensurate increases in value or innovation with these rising costs, and the industry is paying a lot more for the same (or less) product than what they were receiving just a few years ago - with limited improvements in processes or services.

Fostering new and emerging technologies to unlock advancements in site safety and productivity is genuinely crucial to the future livelihood of one of the world's most important industries. Supporting this progress while also influencing a more agile and efficient insurance underwriting process makes the Shepherd mission so profoundly meaningful to me.

And as this new chapter begins I’m thrilled and grateful to embark on this journey with JustinMo and the broader Shepherd team.


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