The Surer Story with Co-founder Gordon Tay
Surer is a cloud-based, web platform that helps all parties, from insurers to agents to financial advisors, in the General Insurance industry automate processes and drive network collaborations – to be able to pitch better and close faster.
We sat down with Surer Co-Founder Gordon Tay to discuss the growth of Surer and what the future holds for the breakthrough company.
With business strategy and growth positions at PropertyGuru and Carousell during their start-up days, Gordon has significant pedigree when it comes to using technology in the transformation of legacy industries desperately in need of disruption.
“Ten years ago, listing a property online was quite rare. it was great to be able to work in a company like PropertyGuru and have a hand in changing the game in the property industry.”
While at School, Gordon met Derren – a insurance industry stalwart with fifteen years of experience. After several years, many meetings at their local bar and a few passionate rants about how inefficient the insurance industry is, Gordon, Derren and a third Co-founder, Renfred, decided to start a small side project.
“Let’s start this out as a side project with some vendors and a handful of users and see what kind of response we get right?”
Spending two years as a side project, one of which was spent entirely on the product itself, the three Co-founders put the product in the hands of a few intermediaries to see how they were using it. It was during this time that Gordon, Derren and Renfred realised the potential of their product.
“We heard all these stories from our users about how a platform like ours was able to really enhance their workflow, and really make a difference for how they manage their business. I very clearly remember one story; it was one of our closed beta sessions where we are observing someone who had just taken over the business from his Dad who had just died and was struggling to figure out where to start as everything was documented on paper or shared by word of mouth. He said: ‘if only this was in his hands a lot earlier, because my dad just passed away, like a couple of weeks prior to that session.’. That made it a bit more real for us. So you’re creating at least a slight impact in at least one person’s life at that point in time.”
A sobering moment for the three Co-founders, this story stands as testament to the power of end-user feedback when developing products. It can help steer the direction of the product, or in the case of Surer, can reaffirm the logic behind bringing the product to market and the need for disruption.
“I’ll be lying if I said that I was passionate about insurance. But what I’m really passionate about is having the opportunity to make an impact right in people’s life, in an industry that we feel is super important.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has put an increased emphasis on the importance of insurance, especially for businesses. Surer has come at the perfect time to help intermediaries position themselves so they can provide that service.
Right now, Surer is about nine strong. Surer has hired a couple of full-time business development managers, an intern and a developer over the past 12 months. Their growth is, in no small part, due to the leadership and management methodologies that Gordon has worked on.
Ensuring Professional Development While Remaining Agile
One of the benefits of working in a smaller company is that you don’t have to follow a structured process. Agility can be freeing for professionals who want to develop themselves and grow in certain areas. When it comes to flexibility, Gordon and Surer allow anyone in the company to explore and implement solutions the way they feel works.
The key to making this work is trust and building a sense of ownership.
“The most important part that comes out of this is a sense of ownership. It’s the catalyst to want to push yourself, to improve. In the middle years of your life, it’s always an improvement process. And for someone to improve they need to feel like they are motivated. And I think giving them sense of ownership acts as a form of motivation.”
Building that sense of ownership that encourages a self-starter mentality can only get you so far. Addressing that there will be bumps in the road for those who are pushing themselves and approaching challenges with open arms will help mitigate the damage of a failure and help people see them as points for development, not disappointment.
“For me, it’s always about how we frame failure and then how we learn from it. With that, letting people take on challenges and letting them figure it out becomes a better lesson then telling them: ‘you would have failed, but because of me saving you didn’t fail, right?’”
Maintaining the Surer Culture While Scaling
Many first-time startup founders struggle to devote time to define their culture from the beginning, only to come to the painful realization that culture certainly has an impact on the operational side of business. Seasoned founders and CEOs who believe there is room for culture from the beginning experience less culture-related stress as they grow.
For Surer and Gordon, culture is one of the foundations on which the entire company builds – and it’s a foundation that Gordon is still building to this day.
“What I’ve come to realise through past experience is that Culture is basically the sum of all the parts. I believe that whatever culture that you have in the company is ever changing, right? It is a combination of ideals, beliefs, and character of who you have in a company, and the most important part, in this is the interview process.”
Surer SG run a two-step interview process. With the first one being a casual conversation where the candidate and hiring manager talk about beliefs, experiences and objectives. From there, they try and figure out what they don’t believe will bring value to the team they already have. One trait they’re looking for is resilience.
“You get a lot of feedback when you work in a startup, sometimes it’s not good feedback. You need to have the mindset where when you hear that feedback, you aren’t thinking negatively.”
What’s Next for Surer?
Gordon and Surer are setting their sights on continued growth going into the next quarter. If you want to follow Surer’s journey, check out their website.