Talking business with the founder of Kenyan online insurance marketplace

Eunice Maina

Bismart is a Kenya-based insurance aggregator, allowing its users to compare and buy various insurance products from multiple companies. The business was started in 2017. Founder Eunice Maina answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Bismart is an online insurance marketplace where insurance firms list their products and customers are able to compare the policies. We recently introduced a feature that allows our users to compare policies based on other customers’ reviews – similar to what hotel booking platforms offer. We bring much-needed transparency to the insurance industry, which increases insurance literacy and awareness, especially for the youth. The insurance companies pay us a commission for every customer who buys through the Bismart platform.

2. How did you finance your startup?

I financed it from savings. I worked at an insurance company for eight years.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

We would allocate some of the money towards technology to make the platform more efficient. Some of it would also be spent on marketing and expansion from Kenya to other African countries.

4. What risks does your business face?

Regulation. The insurance industry regulator doesn’t exactly know how to regulate the kind of business we are running. We face the risk that one day the regulator might wake up and decide we need to do business in this way or that way.

We also face reputational risk. If an insurance company listed on our platform does something wrong to a customer, the customer might blame us, even though it is completely out of our hands.

A screenshot of the Bismart platform

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Google ads and search engine optimisation (SEO). With SEO you don’t really put in money – as a startup you always look for ways to get the maximum outcome with minimal input. We also focus a lot on developing social media content that educates customers about insurance.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

When we won the Standard Chartered Women in Tech award. We were hardly six months into the business and then we won the award. This was a validation that we were onto something.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

Initially I started the business with a partner. However, down the line we realised our visions were not aligned. My partner didn’t take it lightly and blocked the entire platform. I had to start everything from scratch. Bismart was not the original business name. I had to register a new company without the partner.

I should have taken more time to choose the correct partner. It is important that all partners are aligned. It is also important to document what happens in the event that you disagree. All this needs to be done way in advance before you get into it.

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