InsureandGo: Perry Wilson
The InsureandGo founder on the inspiration behind his award winning insurance company
I sold my first business when I was 22. It was a warranty company in the insurance industry. I did consultancy work from then until 1998, when I started thinking: “I've really got to do something with someone.” The consultancy world's fine. It's nice and easy, but it's never going to make you a fortune.
I was doing some work with James Richardson at the time, and we got on really well. He was in the insurance underwriting game, and what I used to do as a consultant was build schemes. So if a bike manufacturer wanted a warranty helpline, they would come to me, and I would sort them out with a call centre or a company that could do the whole shooting match in one go.
James and I were having a few beers one day, and he was talking about the travel industry. Funnily enough, I'd been trying to buy travel insurance from Amex. I thought it was such a hard way to buy an annual policy. It was going to cost me around £130, and the questions they were asking were totally irrelevant. I was frustrated on the phone, they wouldn't listen and I just thought it was ridiculous.
James was talking about the marketplace and how big it was, and I was telling him about my bad experience with Amex. We decided it was a market that hadn't been conquered. In fact, it was a complete shambles. There were people making loads of money from overinflated prices, and there was no real serious independence out there. So in 1999, InsureandGo was born.
We rented an office in Burnham-on-Crouch. It was above a kebab shop and really cheap – plaster was falling off the walls. We wanted to do some test marketing first, rather than setting up a company, renting a flash office, blowing the marketing budget and then going: “Oh, it didn't work,” – which a lot of people do. We invested our money and put adverts in the papers to see what the response would be.
I was on holiday in Florida when we sold our first policy online, within two hours of going live. I thought: “Well that's it, I'm going to stay here, I don't need to come back.” But we didn't sell another policy online for two weeks. The first was sheer luck.
But then we really started to attack. We've got a little motto: ‘Stack it high, sell it cheap and keep plenty in stock.' With travel insurance, we wanted to bring the price down, so everyone could afford to buy it. We thought about all the restrictions other people had on their policies and made it very simple.
All we needed to know was your name, age, where you were going and how long you were going for, then we could give you a price. And that's what we did.
Perry Wilson was speaking to Steph Welstead.