Ryerson Futures Startup Spotlight: ClientDesk

For startups, pivots can be difficult and painful.

In many cases, it means shifting gears because a product has failed to get enough traction, the competition is too fierce, or the problem being tackled was not enough of a pain point.

ClientDeskFor ClientDesk, however, pivoting in a new direction was a different experience. The company’s original product, ClaimCast, was fairly successful.

ClaimCast was a mobile app that made it easier for people to deal with car accidents, personal injuries or property damage. They could use the app to take photographs, generate a claim report, and connect with contractors and business professionals to get quotes.

As the team worked with insurance brokers to promote ClaimCast, it received a positive reception about the app. At the same time, however, insurance brokers told them about some of the other problems they were having, particularly about digitizing their overall operational processes and workflows.

Newton Asare and Rajeev Kugan, co-founders of ClaimCast, realized there was a much bigger opportunity in the insurance industry than just focusing on claims intake – but it meant changing directions.

After exploring their strategic options and conducting additional customer discovery, the company decided to focus on meeting the needs of not only policyholders but agents, brokers and CSR’s within an insurance operation. Afer ClaimCast was sunset as a company, Newton and Rajeev launched ClientDesk.

“At first, it was a hard decision because as founders when you have a product that gets traction, you are attached to it,” Asare said. “However, Rajeev and I started to see some of the limitations with ClaimCast. It was successful today but the end of the road we looked at ClientDesk’s business model and value proposition, and that made the decision simple.

“The enterprise market is much more lucrative which is important to company stakeholders; instead of building a consumer app and trying to monetize through advertising. The business opportunity is bigger and we are adding more value. At that point, it became an easy decision.”

For Asare and Kugan, one of the hardest parts about letting go of ClaimCast was the brand building and outreach that it had done. “We see ourselves as excellent guerrilla marketers,” Kugan said. “We were attached to the branding, especially the name, which worked well. We knew as businessmen, we would have to let go to build something more corporate, rather than sticking to a brand because it looked good.”

In some respects, ClientDesk is looking to change how the insurance industry operates by digitizing processes that are currently done manually or using telephone calls.

“If you look outside insurance industry such as banking, I turn to my mobile app,” Asare said. “When it comes to managing my cell phone plan, I log into my app. I don’t have to interact with an agent – convenience and consistency is key.”

“In the insurance industry, if you want to add a driver or make a policy change, you have to get on the phone. It is inconsistent with the way we interact in this day and age. The industry works on archaic processes. We wanted to digitize the way insurers interact with us, the policyholder.”

Being part of Ryerson Futures for the past year, Asare said ClientDesk has benefited from access to experienced mentors who serve as a sounding board to tackling challenges and opportunities. “You can discuss the challenges and get their perspective,” he said. “They challenge us in terms of our business model and value propositions as a company and making sure we keep refining our current thinking. Industry connections have also been valuable and the space has been extremely helpful.”

So what’s next for ClientDesk: On word: Growth! In terms of the market, the company is focused on expanding across Canada and into the U.S. It plans to expand its personal lines (auto and property) solution to include telematics and payment processing, as well as verticals such as commercial and life.