Short stories: Interview with Matt Peterman, co-founder of VouchForMe
This short story is a bit different from the rest of the series — with a reason. This time we have put our co-founder Matt Peterman into the spotlight and asked him a few questions regarding company evolution and product strategy.
1.Hi, Matt, it seems the past few months have been very busy despite the proverbially quiet summer months. We have read a lot about the product and about the business development side of the VouchForMe project.
It’s true. The summer has been busy and exciting because of discussions with clients that are keen to explore our solutions in insurance and blockchain. During the last three months, we have met with more than 15 companies from the insurance and property rental sectors. We have undergone a successful rebranding and chose a brand name which nails down the essence and vision of our platform. We have conducted workshops to better understand the motives that drive our future end-users and used that to fine tune our product in order to achieve a better market fit. At the same time, our development team has released the alpha version of the platform which we have been testing and adapting to our clients’ needs, mainly insurance companies and rental agencies.
2. When you say platform and products, it seems that there is more than a single release coming out.
We have been active on multiple levels, testing the social proof concept and platform at a series of workshops and meetings with clients and other stakeholders that we need to work with: banks, regulators, exchanges, blockchain network representatives etc. Their feedback made us realize that our platform might need to support multiple products, depending on target market specifics. For example: challenges within various categories of the insurance business are very much similar, but if you compare those to the property rental business, we see fundamental differences that our product would need to support. As it seems at the moment, the VouchForMe platform features may develop in three directions: VouchForMe Insurance, VouchForMe Rental, and VouchForMe Base.
3. Can you tell us a bit more about the portfolio? What are the similarities and differences between these?
VouchForMe Insurance will be released in cooperation with insurance companies (the so-called “carriers”) where VouchForMe is positioned as an add-on for the carrier’s product, functioning as an alternative underwriting, that is insurance risk estimation, method. Insurance clients will be able to obtain a discounted premium if they are endorsed through VouchForMe. In this scheme, insurance companies benefit from a better customer portfolio while insurance clients pay lower premiums. Last but not least, we believe the peer pressure related to the social proof concept will have positive effects on the society, too.
VouchForMe Rental is aimed at rental markets, addressing the issue of security deposits. VouchForMe is positioned as an added value product feature enabling end customers to lower their security deposits by gaining financial endorsements via VouchForMe.
VouchForMe Base supports sharing insurance deductibles for already signed insurance policies. In this case, VouchForMe provides users (insurees) with the infrastructure for sharing their deductibles with their peers, who are in return rewarded with IPL tokens. The product works is carrier-independent.
If we compare the three we see that all use social proof as the central concept of financial guarantee, but from a different angle and at a different stage. In the first two cases, VouchForMe steps in at the moment of the underwriting process and is promoted by the insurance carrier or the property rental agency, while the third case offers a tool to spread the risk of deductibles (that are already in place) within the users’ peer network.
Some of the solutions that we have under development would enable broader usage of blockchain solutions for the average user.
4. How are you going to market these products?
The first two products are targeting the B2B2C segment, while the third is aimed at the B2C market. Insurance is a highly regulated environment, dependant on local regulation. Here we are in talks with insurance companies which embraced the new digital era and aim to serve their clients primarily through digital channels and offer competitive products based on sharing economy and blockchain solutions.
The Base product addresses mature insurance markets where insurance deductibles are standard or even mandatory, and represent a burden for the insurees. VouchForMe offers an instant do-it-yourself option for offloading the deductibles already in place with your social network and herewith spreading the risk of being solely responsible for covering the cost of deductibles in the case of a claim. We are addressing customers directly since, as said, this version of the product is carrier-independent.
So the main difference is how end users are approached and onboarded, while they all use the same platform for the same benefits. Implementation of each variation depends on market specifics.
5. How is the token going to be used?
Even though a blockchain revolution was declared, we are in fact witnessing an evolution. Everybody is excited to set foot into this new universe, but we need to guide users step by step to gain their trust and make them acknowledge the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrency use.
In insurance, we are tackling a traditional mass market and are perceived as pioneers introducing blockchain technology and crypto tokens as means of value transactions.
Therefore we are tailoring the use of the token to each client, depending on their openness to blockchain solutions and crypto in general.
In the case of our VouchForMe Base product, each client will have to use the IPL token to use the product. We are trying to position the token at the center of the social proofing process in a way that serves both the crypto enthusiast and the “old-fashioned” client.
6. In your roadmap, you have committed to deliver the product, or versions thereof, by the end of 2018. What are the outlooks for this?
Again, we are already sharing the VouchForMe Insurance and Rental versions with insurance and mass letting companies. At joint workshops, we are tailoring the product according to their process of selling insurance products, to their sales channels and, of course, to their readiness to integrate blockchain solutions. At the same time, we are keeping regulators, payment processors, and blockchain networks in check so that the product can effectively operate once it is released. This is an iterative process, and we use each opportunity for gaining new insights.
On the other hand, VouchForMe Base is aimed at end-customers, and I am inviting you to stay tuned for announcements regarding this product at the World Crypto Conference in Las Vegas, USA, in late October.