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Anurag Shah

CEO & Co-Founder | Aureus Analytics

When Anurag Shah started building Aureus Analytics in 2013, he wasn’t planning on selling to insurance companies. But, as luck would have it, AXA became his first customer, and several other insurance companies saw the value in what he could deliver and followed suit. He says, “That’s what put us on the insurance journey. It wasn’t planned, but we saw tremendous success. We loved it, and so we just stayed focused on that.” 

As someone entering the industry for the first time, Anurag is very up front about the challenges involved. However, he is also very quick to embrace opportunity. As Aureus started to develop traction within the insurance industry in India, Anurag became more and more curious about growth opportunities – leading him to start thinking about the US market. It was the single largest growth opportunity that he could identify for the company.

But, breaking into the US market would require redesigning several of the core aspects of the product, and shifting to meet the needs of a new customer, and a different regulatory framework than he was used to. It would also require a huge personal commitment.

In 2018, Anurag made the leap and joined the first cohort of the Hartford InsurTech Hub, a specialized InsurTech Accelerator program, supported jointly by some of Hartford’s largest insurers, the State of Connecticut, and Launc[H]. He moved to Hartford for five months to immerse himself in the US market. And, at the end of the program, made the decision to move his family here as well, in order to pursue the opportunity that he uncovered.


Courage and Determination Pays Off 

In addition to courage, Anurag credits several other key factors in the process of realizing his goals.

1. Understand the mindset and the core needs of your customers.

Many analytics companies are quick to identify the commercial opportunities in insurance. Anurag says that is because, “If you really look at the core of insurance, it revolves around data. Products are built on data.”  He also says, though, that capitalizing on that opportunity requires an intentional approach: “But the adoption of new technology is not the quickest. It’s not an industry looking to buy technology just because it is cool. Customers take their time. The sales cycle are long.”

Anurag says, the key to customer engagement was understanding their mindset. He remembers, “Initially, the challenge we faced from customers was, ‘Do we need technology?’ The industry is growing and resilient to changes in the market. They are doing well without us right now. So the challenge really is not explaining the functionality of our product. The challenge is demonstrating how our technology will help their business without disrupting it.” 

The key, he says, has been understanding what matters most to his customers, and focusing the discussion on the outcomes that are possible with the product, “People are used to working in a certain way, and they don't necessarily want to change it, but they do want to improve their performance.” 

2. Embrace the fact that not all insurance is the same.

InsurTech is an incredibly broad field, and when you look at different types of insurance, it turns out that they are each very different types of businesses. Life insurance, property insurance, and health insurance each have lots of different types of products, designed to provide different types of protections, that are structured and regulated in many different ways.

Anurag says, “We started with life insurance. When we came to the US, we thought we would also work in life insurance, but we were presented with opportunities from P&C companies, as well, which were much faster. Both markets are insurance, so we assumed that whatever we did in one would almost be a fit in the other, which wasn’t necessarily true. We had to do some re-engineering.”

Even though the foundations of Aureus’ technology would still work, a willingness to make changes, and adapt was essential. Anurag says, “The data sets are different, the regulations are different. And there are fairly large differences between the maturity of the market, the size of the market, and the technology stack that the market is used to. All of these things make a difference for companies like us.”

And, when they started to pay attention to these differences, Anurag identified an opportunity. He says, “We realized that we need to build something unique for this market. So we actually took some of the parts and we started creating a new product, which turned into a platform called DONNA.”

3. Choose a place that will help you succeed.

Making the decision to come to the United States was a big one for Anurag – both personally and professionally. And, in reflecting on that process, Anurag has shared that the choice of where to grow Aureus was an important one. The time he spent in the Hartford InsurTech Hub helped to get him acclimated to the United States, but it also provided him with an opportunity to explore other places.

Anurag says that one thing that he noticed right way about Hartford is the depth of expertise about the insurance industry. “I say this jokingly, but when we landed here, we saw that you go to a bar and somebody sitting next to you works in insurance. I have a house and my neighbor is in insurance. There is a whole insurance ecosystem that that you don't get to see and in other parts of the country.”  

That expertise paid off for Aureus in many ways. Anurag says, “From a talent perspective, people who understand insurance are harder to find in other places. It was not impossible, but it was harder to find people who understand all aspects: sales, technology, regulations – everything. What we really looked for was business knowledge and industry understanding, which we couldn't find anywhere else at the same level.”

Anurag also says that the concentration of interest and expertise in insurance in Hartford paid off for Aureus in other ways as well. “ A startup needs three things. You need customers to give you feedback, you need investment and you need advisors – people who know the industry, and can be mentors.”  And we got all three in Hartford, which was, which was rare to find.”

4. Ask for help.

It may seem obvious, but asking for help is difficult for many founders. Whether it is the pressure to ‘have it all figured out’, or being worried about not having anything to offer in return, startups often struggle to keep everything going on their own.

Anurag says that he was able to overcome that challenge when “We realized that there are so many people who are willing to go out of their way to help if you are willing to be helped.” He continues, “Sometimes, that’s hard to believe as a startup. Not everybody is doing things purely for personal benefit. People want the industry to be better. People want the region to be better. People want to attract, new technology companies to come here. So, we found so many people who are willing to help, and that was amazing to see.

He encourages other founders, and others trying to scale their businesses to do the same thing, “One of the big learnings for us is you have to be able to go out and ask for help and reach out to people. Many are willing to actually help you more than you think. That's been a big eye opener.” And, sometimes, Anurag says it’s most helpful to practice that outreach without a specific outcome in mind, “You can't always pinpoint exactly the skills that you need to build the business. And when you have an ecosystem like this, you can learn a tremendous amount just by going and having dinner with a few people. You’re chatting and suddenly you learn things that otherwise, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn.”

5. Commit to the market that you want to enter.

As startups develop growth strategies, it is tempting to try to optimize those efforts, by visiting a lot of different markets to develop leads, and manage them from an existing base of operations. But, Anurag cautions that might be a mistake, “It's not as easy as it seems. Most startups underestimate the importance of presence. The earlier you are physically present where you want to grow your business, the higher your chances of success. We saw a big difference.”

Reflecting on his key breakthrough moments, Anurag says, “I couldn't achieve what we achieved in a year just by visiting. Before we set up a full operation here, we were going back and forth, making frequent visits.  And, from a cost perspective, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I'll just make a few trips.’ But there is no comparison. We saw so much more success once we were actually here versus when we were visiting.

Anurag understands that this doesn’t work for everyone, “Obviously, it’s a big life changing decision that you make.” But, he says that it has worked for him, “That decision for us also had a huge benefit that I couldn’t quantify before. We only realized it ourselves once we were here.”

6. Appreciate the bigger picture.

“If you look at insurance as it’s core, it does make the world go around. I mean, if there's no insurance, you probably won't be able to ship things. You won't be able to transport important things that you need transported. You won't be able to buy things that you want to buy or take on projects that you want to engage in.

“People don't realize how insurance actually makes life materialize in front of you. Most people only experience it through buying home insurance, or auto insurance. But it really is embedded into every aspect of our lives. “It’s very under the radar and people don't really give it too much thought. But once you really get into it, you start to see, if insurance wasn't available here, then maybe this wouldn't have happened at all.” ​​​​​​​​


Get Connected

Have questions or want to connect personally with Anurag? We’d love to help – please tell us a little bit more about you and your company, and we’ll set up an intro.

“We learned from people in Hartford. They came together. They helped us. We found early adopters – both carriers and agents who said, ‘Yes, we will try it.' ”