Jul 12, 2021
“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” — Steve Jobs
When a mutual friend introduced me to the Shepherd co-founders, I knew it was something very special - a rare sense of connection, thoughtfulness, and intention. Justin, Mo, and Steve brook no bullshit. They proposed a world where construction companies are incentivized to adopt technology tools to improve the safety on construction sites at an accelerated pace, and the company that will power that acceleration will be Shepherd.
Shepherd's mission is to make the construction industry safe and sustainable through innovative insurance products.
We are building tech-enabled insurance for the commercial construction industry with a strong focus on digital experience for data collection and superior risk modeling. In the next paragraphs, I explain the reasons why I decided to leave a fantastic place like Fanatics and bet my career on an early-stage startup.
The construction industry accounts for 1 in 5 deaths at a workplace in the private industry per OSHA and Shepherd is uniquely positioned to improve the safety of construction sites through the use of the most effective incentive humankind knows – money. By using data from third-party integrations like Procore, PlanGrid, and Autodesk Build (just to name a few) we will be able to paint a picture of how risky a particular contractor is in real-time, not just historically. Imagine an AI camera that alerts you if you aren't wearing a hard hat on site – we are able to tap into that data and use it for the purpose of pricing a business's insurance cost.
Imagine, a construction site A uses all kinds of tech tools to improve safety and track compliance but a construction site B is old school and doesn't use any of that because they don't think it is a priority. Today, insurance companies struggle to differentiate these job sites at scale, despite the obvious difference in which is a better risk. We won’t have this problem, and as a result, can reward the best contractors who run the safest job sites. Win-Win!
Shepherd faces multivariate engineering problems that need solving. Right now it takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days for a client (construction company) to receive a quote from an insurance carrier. Our goal is to make it 1 day. In order to achieve such an ambitious goal, we have to rethink the process of construction insurance from the ground up with technology playing a central role.
The first reason it takes so long to receive a quote is that the tools a client and broker (an organization that handles application submission to the insurance carrier) use to collect data for the insurance application package are terribly outdated. Some brokers still use pen and paper to collect the information with more advanced brokerages using PDFs, spreadsheets, and emails. At Shepherd, we are reimagining this with a platform that enables a streamlined process for data collection between a broker and a client. Brokers can create dynamic insurance forms and invite clients to collaborate on the insurance application in a single place.
The second reason is the fact that underwriting construction insurance (the process of calculating premium by the insurance carrier) is costly and slow because it is powered by the manual labor of underwriters without the help of technology.
Shepherd has a hybrid vision towards insurance underwriting with technology playing a central role that automates mindless work and enables the underwriting team with internal tools to make the decision based on data and experience. Part of this vision is partnering and integrating with third-party data providers to use in our underwriting model that will enable our data-driven strategy towards underwriting. This is a huge cross-engineering undertaking that will require the knowledge of software engineering, data engineering, and data science.
After working at the tech-arm of Walmart in college, I learned how easy it is for people to take the company’s success for granted and stop pushing the envelope of what's possible. For people who seek exponential growth, there is a dangerous risk of working at large tech companies which are becoming complacent and accepting the fact that no matter what they do, the company will succeed. I believe that growth happens only when you find your limits and push through them. At an early stage startup you can’t hide under the rug but be forced to perform at your limit and do jobs that you are terribly unqualified for.
In just my first month at Shepherd, I've shipped critical components of our full-stack application, learned the way construction insurance works, and helped recruit amazing engineers like Avi Banerjee to join our team and mission. I believe that joining an early-stage startup with less than 20 people is the ultimate way of betting on yourself because at startups success doesn't happen unless YOU make it happen.
Last but not least, I was immensely impressed with the backgrounds of the founder lineup.
Mo (CTO) is the most baller engineer I've worked with, if you ever received an email from Airbnb it came from a tool he built. Justin (CEO) is a serial entrepreneur with deep domain expertise in construction having sold his previous startup TradeTapp to BuildingConnected and then sold to Autodesk. Steve (CIO) is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on insurance for commercial construction. In his previous role, he led the entire construction practice at the public insurance giant Chubb and led the underwriting of over $1bn in premiums.
These guys are the most impressive team of individuals I've had the chance to work with: