Pendella is a company that is bringing accessible and affordable life and disability insurance to all. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Pendella founder and CEO Bob Gaydos to learn more.
Bob Gaydos’ Background
As the founder and CEO of Pendella, Gaydos leads a team of innovators in the insurance industry, automating the underwriting process through AI and big data.”I have been in the life & health insurance industry for over 30 years. For the first 20 years, I and my partners built 3 companies. 2 of those companies were new market companies. We built one of the first level-funded health plans in the US. We built the first debit card-based HRA. We sold those companies in 2011,” said Gaydos. “Over the last 10 years, I have been deeply involved in Insurtech as a founder, co-founder, investor, or advisor to a variety of companies such as Maxwell Health, Limelight Health, Ideon, GoCo, Brella, and others.”
Formation Of Pendella
How did the idea for Pendella come together?
“There is this problem: half of America has no life and disability insurance. In the event of a death or disability, they rely on GoFundMe. I had 2 thoughts. First, who are these people? And do they have existing digital relationships where life individual insurance would be a natural extension of that relationship? For example, it would be natural to purchase life insurance when getting a mortgage,” Gaydos reflected. “Second, the main job of an agent is field underwriting. Could you automate this? From there, we realized if we could be embedded into consumer financial apps or employment apps, we could access the consumer, enhance their data, and automate the experience of purchasing life and disability insurance.”
What has been Gaydos’ favorite memory working for Pendella so far? “My favorite moment is when we activated the first integration. The core of our model is to apply direct-to-consumer marketing techniques inside the closed environment of a digital consumer relationship,” Gaydos highlighted. “In this particular case, we are integrated into a benefits, payroll, and HR platform. That integration allows us to know when our offering is being shown inside the platform (which we call an impression). This has never been done before. So when the first one activated, and we saw it work, that was quite thrilling.”
What are some of the challenges you face in building the company and has the current macroeconomic climate affected the company? “We are creating a new market. Deploying direct-to-consumer offerings to employees inside the closed environment of benefits, payroll, and HR systems. Hence, we have the challenge of cognitive bias. Our customers see the world through their current lens,” Gaydos acknowledged. “We are asking them to change the way they see their employees. We are asking them to see these employees as consumers and change marketing techniques. They can easily see that our solution is better for their employees. They contract with us quickly. But then, they stumble in adapting their thinking and their marketing strategies and techniques.”
What are Pendella’s core products and features? “Our core insurance products are instant issue life and disability insurance. But this is not ‘build it and they will come.’ Consumers need to understand their financial needs and how their health affects risk and premiums,” Gaydos explained. “Hence, our core tech product feature is our recommendation engine. The engine’s ability to intake their consumer data, enhance that data, and personalize the offerings to the consumer/employees based on their health status and buying persona. Do this instantly and with a human touch!”
Evolution Of Pendella’s Technology
How has Pendella’s technology evolved since launching? “Perhaps, the biggest evolution is our ability to embed a human experience into our user experience. Consumers want the convenience and immediacy of the digital buying experience. However, consumers also desire a human touch when they are buying a product that is difficult to understand or has emotional nuance,” Gaydos replied. “Life insurance is about understanding the effect of your death on your loved ones and choosing to take action to protect them. That is an emotional experience. You have questions and they may be personal questions. Our goal is to have an agent available inside of the digital experience in various mediums such as chat, co-browse, video, phone, and email. That takes planning and integrations so the user experience meets their dynamic expectations.”
What have been some of Pendella’s most significant milestones? “Our plan was to use the professional employer organizations (PEOs) as a beachhead into the employee benefits world. PEOs are a niche market that is adjacent to the key markets of benefits, payroll, and HR of the benefits world,” Gaydos noted. “When we contracted PrismHR, Vensure, and isolved, we knew that established that beachhead. This allowed us to contract with various entities using these systems that give us access to 20 million consumers.”
Customer Success Stories
When I asked Gaydos about customer success stories, he replied:
“VensureHR provides payroll, HR, and benefits services to nearly 1 million employees and dependents. We are integrated into their experience. Those employees and dependents have access to our products. The integrations allow us to personalize the offerings, communications, and experience. Through this one relationship, we are accessing hundreds of thousands of uninsured or under-insured consumers.”
Pendella is venture capital funded. “We have several key strategic investors such as MassMutual Ventures and Assurity Ventures. We generate revenue via commission sharing. We are the Managing General Agent for all of the products on the platform. We retain a share of the insurance commissions for our software and services,” Gaydos noted.
Total Addressable Market
What total addressable market (TAM) size is Pendella pursuing? “According to a 2021 LIMRA Study, there is a $16 trillion coverage gap and a $1 trillion premium gap in the US. This gap cannot be addressed via existing distribution channels. We are creating a new distribution channel. We believe that we can attain $1 billion in premium over the next 3 to 5 years,” Gaydos assessed.
Differentiation From The Competition
What differentiates Pendella from its competition? “First and foremost, we are creating a new market. We are not trying to modernize an existing market. We are creating a new market,” Gaydos emphasized. “Our ability to enhance the existing consumer data of our customers, and use their data to risk and market segment is our secret sauce. This allows us to present the right product, at the right price, at the right time to these consumers.”
What are some of the trends that Gaydos is seeing in this industry? “Consider the millennials and Gen Z. They are maturing, having families, buying homes, building businesses, and more. Along with this growth comes risk,” Gaydos revealed. “They have no understanding of this risk or how to protect themselves. The industry had failed them. I stated earlier that half of America has no protection. This lack of coverage will only grow unless we solve this problem. Our goal must be to replace the need for GoFundMe. When I say ‘GoFundMe’ you feel emotion, and empathy. Why?”
Future Company Goals
What are some of Pendella’s future company goals? “There is no such thing as a propensity to buy life insurance. There is a moment of receptivity. Something happened that made you feel your own mortality and understand your need for life and disability insurance. You had a child. You bought a home and took out a mortgage. You have death or severe disability inside your family or circle of friends,” Gaydos concluded. “Our ultimate goal via these embedded digital relationships is to be present in those moments. So we are on a continual path to improve the abilities of our core engine via data, machine learning, and AI.”
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