In the finale of our “Hearing From” series this year, we spoke to the brilliant Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO of Tapoly, on her journey into leading an insurtech business.
We discussed the rise of on-demand insurance, how an Air BNB rental sparked a business idea, and Janthana’s most impactful public speaking opportunity to date.
Can you tell us a bit about Tapoly, and why you started it?
The idea for Tapoly came to me in 2016 when I decided to rent out my flat through Airbnb. I needed an insurance policy that would protect my property, my guests, and myself against the risks of doing business, while providing the kind of short-term flexibility the sharing economy thrives on, but I couldn’t find one anywhere.
As the gig economy grows and thrives, I am passionate about ensuring tailored insurance products are readily available online for the 2.2 million freelancers and micro SMEs in the UK, providing cover that encompasses their unique activities at a fair price. I felt so strongly about it that I set up Tapoly to solve the problem.
And what was your journey in getting to this point, what took you to becoming a fintech founder?
I grew up in an agricultural family in Thailand where education was difficult to access and women were not particularly encouraged into entrepreneurship. Despite this it was always my dream to get a good education and eventually go to university. I moved from Thailand to Sweden when I was 13 to finish school, then I came to London, initially for a holiday, but I fell in love with the city and stayed to go to university.
One of the main challenges I had to overcome was learning new languages and navigating working in different countries with different cultures. I’m very proud to be the first person in my family to graduate from university and to have worked hard to build my career to where I am today, as CEO of an award-winning Insurtech.
Prior to founding Tapoly, I had a successful career in investment banking. However, I always knew I wanted to run my own business as I really liked the idea of being my own boss and building my own elite team.
What were the biggest challenges and surprises on the way?
During my career, I’d gained a good understanding of the financial regulations, risks and control frameworks required for running a regulated business. I’m also an expert in the operational aspects of running a business, which focus on people, process and technology. However, my co-founder Sam and I didn’t have any background in the insurance industry, so we needed to upskill. We did this via accelerator programs. By the end of these we had a much broader understanding and were able to use this time to refine our business value proposition while making useful connections.
Additionally, the on-demand insurance concept was not widely understood at the time, so it was a challenge to persuade investors and insurance partners to join us, as they had nothing to compare us to. Today, there are clear use cases for on-demand insurance and our concept is better understood, so we have much better discussions with investors and partners.
If you had the chance to do it all again, knowing what you know now, how would you do things differently?
I used to worry that we didn’t raise enough money from the beginning. However, having thought about it, I don’t think it was a mistake as it allowed us to be independent. Still, when we started out we had no way of knowing there would be a global pandemic and a hard market as a result so I think if I could go back now, I probably would advise myself to raise more money upfront. That would give us more runway to build our business in the difficult economic climate that we find ourselves in.
What advice would you give to women and non-binary founders who are starting out?
You cannot become successful without a successful mindset. It all starts in your mind, and this needs to be aligned with your actions. Being able to communicate your messages clearly and concisely will help you share your thoughts and values with your team and stakeholders.
My advice for young women and non-binary founders who want to get into insurtech is to simply apply for the job you want. Many companies have included diversity and inclusion in their recruitment process so you have a good chance to get the job today. However nothing is given, you will still have to show that you are the best candidate. Depending on your experience, some of you may need to refresh previous knowledge, and others may need to upskill.
We’re championing the value of public speaking and publicity more broadly. Do you have an interview or an event you spoke at that was really valuable to you and Tapoly? What was it, and what did it do for you?
My first important public speaking event was at the DIA insurance conference in Munich back in 2017, where my co-founder and I had to present Tapoly to hundreds of C-level industry executives. There were over 2,000 people attending the event, and we were on stage in front of a huge audience. To get us to pitch perfectly we had to practice for several days. Luckily we were part of a local accelerator program so we were able to get a lot of help and support to prepare.
It was a great exposure for Tapoly from a brand awareness perspective, as well as gaining access to key decision makers all in one place. It was also the first time I was in front of a big crowd being taken seriously as an entrepreneur, so it was a great moment for me, and it really boosted my confidence in my presentation skills. Now I feel much more comfortable speaking at events and taking a leading role in panel discussions. Today I’m at the point where I can talk in front of an audience about any topics that interest me.