STARTUP STORY: Sivan Iram, CEO of Capitola, Talks Investment and Tech
STARTUP STORY: Sivan Iram, CEO of Capitola, Talks Investment and Tech
Sivan Iram launched Capitola - an insurtech digital marketplace that connects brokers and underwriters - in 2021. In April, the startup generated US$15.6 million in its Series A round. Insurtech Insights finds out more.

As the co-founder and CEO of Capitola, Sivam Iram has raised $20 million to date from some of the world’s best venture capital firms, including Lightspeed Ventures. With an MBA from Harvard Business School and a background in Software Engineering, prior to founding Capitola, he was also Lenovo’s Head of North America Sales and Partnerships for the Commercial XR team.

We caught up with him to find out what attracted him to the insurtech space – and what its like leading a scaling startup in today’s market.

Tell us about your journey into the insurtech space. How did you end up here? Is there a story there? 

I started my career as a software engineer, and was inspired by what happens when frontier technology is coupled with tremendous human capability to drive business outcomes. After close to a decade, I decided to move to the business side, and since then I’ve been working in high-tech companies bringing innovation to traditional industries, including Automotive, Aerospace, Supply-Chain, Manufacturing, energy, and Financial Services. Two years ago, I decided to found Capitola with my two co-founders, since we saw incredible opportunities to use technology to build tools that better serve insurance professionals and help them deliver outstanding coverage and service to their clients. 

Why did you launch Capitola – and what differentiating factors does it bring into the marketplace? 

Capitola started with the realisation of the pivotal role that insurance professionals play in the value chain. Unlike other companies that are trying to replace and intermediate, Capitola brings advanced technology that supports and empowers people to do more, and focus on what they do best. Our vision at Capitola is to bring efficiency to middle-market commercial insurance, starting with the efficiency of the process, and all the way through building a more efficient distribution network. 

Our solution, a digital marketplace that connects brokers and underwriters, not only cuts 47% time on task by streamlining the placement process and removing repetitive tasks and manual work, but also makes smart market recommendations so that brokers find the best capacity for every risk. 

Are you surprised at the speed at which Capitola has scaled – and received market recognition? 

The speed at which Capitola has scaled and received market recognition has been surprising, but it also validates the value proposition we offer. Our focus on addressing the pain points of brokers and carriers with innovative solutions, along with our commitment to delivering exceptional user experiences, has resonated well in the market. The scalability of our platform and the positive feedback from early adopters have contributed to our rapid growth and recognition. 

Insurtechs – and startups especially, are facing some challenging times at the moment. What leadership strategies are helping you navigate the tricky waters? 

As a startup in the insurtech industry, we understand the challenges we face, especially during uncertain times. We embrace challenges by prioritising customers and brokers, staying attuned to the market. We also rely on strong leadership strategies such as fostering a culture of adaptability and innovation, maintaining transparent communication with our team and stakeholders, and continuously monitoring market trends. We prioritize collaboration, agility, and staying close to our customers’ evolving needs to navigate challenges effectively. 

You’ve generated some very strong investment lately, despite the hardened market. What, in your opinion, are investors reacting well to right now?

Despite the hardened market, we have been able to generate strong investment due to several factors. 

Firstly, investors are attracted to Capitola’s unique value proposition and the potential for disruption in the insurance industry. Most technology companies are focusing on disintermediation. Capitola is changing the industry by developing technology that empowers insurance professionals to work more efficiently, focus on what they do best, build relationships, and close more deals. 

Secondly, our track record of rapid growth, market recognition, and customer satisfaction has instilled confidence in investors. 

Lastly, our ability to demonstrate scalability, coupled with the strong market demand for insurtech solutions, has played a significant role in attracting investment. 

What three trends, in your opinion, will be driving your sector to disruption over the next 12 to 18 months – and why? 

Three trends that will drive disruption in the insurtech sector over the next 12 to 18 months are: 

1. Increased adoption of AI and GPT: AI-driven technologies will revolutionize underwriting, claims processing, and risk assessment, enabling faster and more accurate decision-making. 

2. Expansion of digital distribution channels: Insurtech companies will leverage digital platforms and partnerships to reach customers more effectively, providing personalised insurance solutions and enhancing customer experiences. 

3. Focus on data-driven insights: Insurtechs will harness the power of data analytics to gain deeper insights into customer behavior, risk patterns, and market trends, enabling them to offer tailored insurance products and improved risk management strategies. 

Looking back over the past two years, since Capitola was launched, is there anything you would have done differently – and if so, why? 

Looking back over the past two years since Capitola’s launch in August 2021, there are always lessons to be learned. While we have achieved significant milestones, we would have focused more on expanding our marketing efforts earlier to create broader awareness of our platform. Additionally, we would have invested more resources in user onboarding and support to ensure a seamless transition for our customers. These insights would have allowed us to enhance our growth trajectory even further. 

What inspires you in insurtech today? 

What inspires me in insurtech today is the opportunity to make a positive impact on an industry that touches the lives of individuals and businesses. The insurance industry is at the core of what allows businesses to take risks and build value. Seeing how technology can improve the efficiency, accessibility, and affordability of insurance services is truly motivating. Moreover, witnessing the collaboration between insurance brokers and insurtech startups, as well as the continuous innovation happening in the industry, inspires me to push the boundaries and drive positive change in the insurtech space.

Interview by Joanna England

Joanna England is an award-winning journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for Insurtech Insights. She has worked for 25 years in both the consumer and business space, and also spent 15 years in the Middle East, on national newspapers as well as leading events and lifestyle publications. Prior to Insurtech Insights, Joanna was the Editor-in-Chief for Fintech Magazine and Insurtech Digital. She was also listed by MPVR as one of the Top 30 journalist in Fintech and Insurtech in 2023.

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