(Members of the Breeze team: Angelia Lewis, Mike Brown, Colin Nabity, Cody Leach [top row]; Matt Hoover, Maria Voronina, Jack Wolstenholm [bottom] Image source: Breeze.)
This summer, Breeze, an Omaha-based InsurTech distributor that offers protection to families in their most financially vulnerable moments, raised a $10 million dollar Series A Round. The company, launched by Colin Nabity and Cody Leach in 2020,characterized the capital raise as the largest ever round for a Nebraska-based software startup. Despite Omaha being an important insurance city, early-stage companies have has historically found it difficult to raise capital in Nebraska, leaving many startups based in the state severely underfunded. Breeze’s Series A round was interesting for the state record it set, but also because Link Ventures, a Boston-based fund that led the round, found Breeze through its proprietary sourcing algorithms. What it found interested other investors, as other participants to the round included Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, M25, Fiat Ventures, and Invest Nebraska. Breeze’s current carrier partners are Assurity and Principal Financial Group. Having reported on the news of the Series A round, Insurance Innovation Reporter became interested in learning more about the company, which resulted in the exchange below with Breeze co-founder and CEO Colin Nabity.
Insurance Innovation Reporter: We can’t help wondering why Breeze won Nebraska’s largest ever first round investment. What’s unique about the company’s value proposition to the market?
Colin Nabity, CEO, Breeze: Simply put, Breeze’s mission is to close the income protection gap. Disability and critical illness insurance are income protection products that can be immensely valuable to a working consumer but a confusing application process and a lack of both modern technology and awareness has left them under-utilized. Breeze is designed to be the unique solution to both those problems.
Cody Leach and I have been in the disability insurance space for almost 10 years and are intimately aware of these challenges. That’s how Breeze came about—as a solution to firsthand experience, trials, and tribulations. We hope that by simplifying and digitizing the application process and creating more affordable income protection products, we can help protect individuals and their families by protecting their hard-earned income from injury or illness that leaves them unable to work.
IIR: Tell us a little more about the history of Breeze as it set the stage for the Series A round.
CN: Cody Leach and myself had founded a previous company together and through that hands-on experience, we saw the challenges and roadblocks associated with both disability insurance and critical illness insurance, and identified an opportunity to create the leader in a niche, but potentially huge market. There was severely outdated technology, a lengthy and confusing application and underwriting process, and a lack of awareness when it came to these income protection products. These problems have collectively created what we might call the income protection gap, which refers to disability insurance and critical illness being massively underutilized products despite their potential value, especially when compared to a product like life insurance.
IIR: How would you substantiate the income protection gap as a concrete problem?
CN: In 2021, 52 percent of Americans own life insurance, but only about one-third own a disability insurance policy. However, you’re about three times as likely to face disability instead of death during your working years. On top of this discrepancy, many consumers live paycheck-to-paycheck and are wholly dependent on their regular income. Twenty-five percent of Americans will experience a disability during their working years, so what happens when the income suddenly stops? The numbers don’t add up, and that’s where Breeze’s opportunity and founding mission to close the income protection gap comes into play.
IIR: And how do you plan to do that?
CN: We seek to fulfill the mission through an easy, online application process for both disability and critical illness insurance. With Breeze, consumers can get a quote for either product in seconds and apply in minutes, all entirely online. Moreover, we’ve now opened our technology and platform up for other IMOs, BGAs, agencies, and insurance agents to use with the Breeze Agent Portal. This additional distribution channel will only further help shrink the income protection gap. Insurance professionals receive a custom Breeze landing page that they can then share with clients who are interested in either disability or critical illness insurance, or both.
We’re making the application and underwriting process streamlined and digital because that’s what both the modern consumer and the modern insurance agent wants and needs. On top of this, we have a library of resources on our website and a dedicated customer support team so that consumers can learn more about these products. Ultimately, we have direct experience and are acutely aware of the problems in this space. We are laser-focused on very specific insurance products: disability insurance and critical illness insurance.
In short, we have built innovative technology and an online platform to uniquely position ourselves as the leader and problem-solver in this niche income protection marketplace and all of this is what set the stage for our Series A.
IIR: How did the relationship with Link Ventures come about, along with relationships with the other investors?
CN: Link Ventures first noticed Breeze through our SEO strategies. We are ranking at the top of Google for terms like “long term disability insurance,” often times ahead of the multi-billion dollar incumbent carriers. They have impressive proprietary web traffic algorithms and we popped up on Link Ventures’ radar this way.
They then started digging in and saw the aforementioned untapped potential with disability insurance, critical illness insurance, and income protection products as a whole. These products have been sold the same way by carriers for over two decades and Breeze has the potential to scale the market by taking the entire process online and simplifying it.
They also heard from carriers, who said they needed a digital D2C market. These carriers also didn’t have the data science capabilities to quickly and digitally match consumers to a policy based on occupation and health. Breeze was identified as the solution to both these longstanding problems and Link Ventures saw an opportunity..
In addition to Link Ventures, the round received participation from Fiat Ventures, M25, Invest Nebraska, and Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures. We’re incredibly fortunate to have a great group of investors from all different backgrounds and the experience they bring is going to be so important to our company.
IIR: The Midwest location seems to be an important part of Breeze’s identity.
CN: Our Midwest location, specifically Omaha, is a huge part of who we are and who we want to be as a company. Omaha is surrounded by a large number of legacy insurance carriers as well as many IMOs and BGAs. For a rapidly growing company like Breeze, there is just so much insurance talent in this area spanning distribution, marketing, actuarial knowledge, and support. The low cost of living also enables us to do more with our financing relative to our coastal peers.
For a while now, much of the best talent in this area leaves for opportunities on either coast. Breeze is committed to building this thing out of Omaha and making sure the top working talent in the Midwest remains in the Midwest.
IIR: What’s in store for Breeze, its partners and customers in the near future? What news should we expect in the coming months?
CN: It’s going to be a very exciting next couple of months as we head into 2022. You’ll see us announce new partnerships and launch new products that make it easier for hard-working consumers to ensure they can still get paid if they become too sick or hurt to work. There’s still a lot of work to do to help close the income protection gap for working Americans and we’re excited to be leading the charge.