Innovation Starts With Information

Joseph D’Souza, ProNavigator—Innovation of the Year

When Joseph D’Souza picked up the phone to call his insurance carrier in 2016, he thought it would be a quick five-minute call. He had a simple question that he thought would probably have a simple answer. He dialed the number and waited one hour and 35 minutes to speak to someone. It was the call that took him in a direction he never expected. 

“I kept asking myself,” explained Joseph, “why does an industry that is so critical and important in our lives still have a one-hour and 35-minute wait time for an answer to what I thought was a simple question?” 

That simple phone call made Joseph take a step back and wonder if there was room for improvement. He started doing some research into the Canadian insurance industry and asking if innovation and technology could improve insurance broker channels. Then the idea for ProNavigator was born. 

“I dug into those processes and, really the lack of connectivity, lack of efficiency—and worked with that.”

Joseph hesitantly refers to himself as a serial entrepreneur. As an immigrant to Canada in 2012, he was approaching this efficiency problem with his years of experience in operations, marketing and an impressive repertoire of building companies for more than a decade. His passion and enthusiasm for technology and innovation coupled with his background soon brought some potential solutions to the surface. 

He wanted to find a way to bring the ease and innovation of an app like Uber—where they promise a vehicle will arrive in 3 minutes and it does—into the world of insurance. Have a question or need around your policy? Get a resolution or answer at speeds comparable to Uber.

In this case, his solution was an external-facing chatbot that lived on a broker website, It would provide 24/7 support on simple insurance questions for consumers. While the chatbot provided the speed and convenience that Joseph had envisioned for sales and frequently asked questions, it wasn’t able to deliver the in-service support Joseph dreamed. He wanted a system that could answer straightforward questions like what coverage do I carry on my vehicle? But the integrations to the data didn’t exist. The system needed more work. 

Too Much Information, Too Many Sources

Joseph deepened his research. He found that brokers face unique challenges when it comes to insurance. They are expected to keep up with the fast-paced changes that come down the pipe, across multiple carriers and ever-changing company portals. This barrage of information was taking a considerable amount of time and effort for brokerages to stay on top of, with some brokers getting upwards of 50 company updates per month. 

So, Joseph’s vision for ProNavigator pivoted. 

He started looking for ways for how the same technology he was currently using for instant responses and access to information for clients be used for internal staff. He was now focused more on how to equip internal teams with better tools to help their clients. Joseph started working on a system to store, manage and disseminate information while also speeding up access time finding information for front line staff. The idea took off. 

ProNavigator developed into a knowledge management platform, designed to deliver the information needed to best serve brokerages, underwriters and operations teams and their clients, on-demand.  This search feature makes it possible for employees to independently find answers to insurance questions that otherwise would require them to ask a co-worker, manager or call an underwriter. From underwriting manuals to policy wordings, job aids, bulletins, and forms—everything in one single place and not on multiple platforms.  The search engine combs through the reams of insurance documents and delivers on its promise of being fast, efficient, and informative—saving precious time every day.

The technology speaks for itself—today, ProNavigator has been adopted in many brokerage offices as well as among carriers who found the tool helpful to assist their internal teams in underwriting and claims. Companies who were having a hard time getting everything into one place and accessing it easily could now respond quickly to requests. 

The Rock Stars Behind ProNavigator

After seeing exponential growth, year over year, the ProNavigator team has steadily grown to match the company’s increasing needs. Located in Ontario’s dynamic tech-hub, Waterloo, the ProNavigator team today consists of some the smartest machine learning engineers, data scientists and software engineers as well as former brokers and underwriters. This well-rounded team works together to understand the struggles of day-to-day broker life and build on their efficiency-driven tech solution. 

With ProNavigator growing as quickly as it has, they continue to pick up and add to the team employees who Joseph refers to as rock stars and A-players. The addition of new talent will only help them grow faster and create more of an impact.

“We have stayed true to our commitment and focus on solving information challenges—this has always been the vision—we are the information backbone for insurance organizations, and we are continually trying to improve and make knowledge instant, effortless and consistent”. 

Endless Growth

ProNavigator has seen rapid growth and success in just six years and has recently announced that they have received $10M in growth equity investment. They aren’t planning to stop there though. They have big plans for the future.

“I would say the pandemic really accelerated the need not just for us, but the need to ensure that in this world of work-from-anywhere and remote environments the staff have what they need to be successful. I don’t see that going anywhere, more and more I’m seeing organizations being able to hire expand their workforce regardless of whether they are in a particular region,” Joseph explained 

Joseph’s vision for ProNavigator is also evolving. The team is continuing to focus on saving brokers time and effort, but they’ve put a renewed effort into now looking to fill the gaps in technology to take care of many of the manual tasks and workflows that will make things even better.

“A lot of the success and momentum we’ve seen in the last year is the ability to make sure that staff have access to information wherever they are. With this financing raise we are continuing to double down on product enhancements and features.” 

Joseph welcomes future innovators to join him in finding ways to make the insurance industry better. 

Joseph’s advice to future innovators:

Think outside of what people are asking for. “If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.”

Listen to the feedback, but include your expertise—it’s easy to get caught up in the progressing technology and chase it with the hopes that it will bridge a gap, but Joseph recommends evaluating that need. 

“Validate early, validate quickly, and be willing to pivot or change your assumptions if they’re wrong. Innovators can’t be afraid to go on the journey and challenge old ways of thinking.” Joseph stresses that sometimes evaluating the current or old way of doing things will lead to change that will attract new talent to your brokerage or organization.

Don’t be afraid to push through, even in challenging times. With so much change in the air after emerging from a pandemic, talk of a recession, mergers and acquisitions within the broker channel—don’t hold off on innovation. “There is a great analogy that I have shared in the past of a formula one race. When the weather is dry and sunny it is very hard for you to overtake because everyone is going down the straights and it’s great, but when it’s rainy weather, there is an opportunity to overtake other cars. And so even in times where it’s challenging, and the environment isn’t great, look for opportunities where you can accelerate and overtake”.

The Google of Insurance

Joseph has referred to himself as the Google of Insurance since he has made information so easily accessible. “Google’s mission is organizing the world’s information to make it accessible and useful. If I could sit down with the CEO of Google, I would ask him how do you balance that amazing long-term vision of what you are trying to do with the short-term quarterly milestones and steps that you need to hit, and how would you prioritize what happens first? I think sometimes we have this grand vision which is phenomenal—breaking that down to actionable steps to get you there is a challenge. 

It’s More Than Just Business

Joseph gives much credit to his wife for the success of ProNavigator. “She’s the hero in all of this. We have three kids, I’m travelling all the time—and it takes a lot of work to get things like this off the ground—but home life is just amazing. We’ve got an amazing connection and relationship and she’s so much a part of this even though she’s not an official ProNav’er”. 

In talking about his humble beginnings, Joseph reflects on the legacy and impact that he can have on not only his children but greater society. Twelve years ago, while still living in India, Joseph and his wife built and started a school for underprivileged children. Fully personally funded by the couple, this school helps give an education opportunity to children who may otherwise not get formalized education. 

“Being an immigrant here and having that opportunity, I’m very grateful. I think about my family and legacy and then I think about the impact that we could have to help lift others up. That combination I think gets me through the roller coaster that is entrepreneurship on some of the rough days.”

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