Jason Trask’s journey to San Francisco has followed a long, hard and often personal road, but he hopes it will eventually lead to clients and funding for his fintech startup.
Trask is the founder and CEO of Zambara, a new St. John’s company that has developed a product that helps providers of group benefits identify members who are under-insured and thereby increase sales to these customers. In the next year, he hopes to build on the product so Zambara will help families have an easier time claiming policies after someone with life insurance has died.
Zambara is a young company with only two Canadian clients. But last week it was chosen as one of nine companies to attend the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Get There: San Francisco program, which will be held in the California city in February. (The other Atlantic Canadian companies invited are Halifax-based Guild Solutions and Moncton-based Fitiv.)
A serial entrepreneur, Trask understands the need for this product because he spent more than a decade in the financial services industry, and because his family had to go through the pains of claiming on a life insurance policy.
“A little more than four years ago my father passed away,” he said in an interview Wednesday, explaining he had to help his mother make the claim. “Seeing how that process worked, even with all the advisers we had involved, I really saw that there were major problems. And that was the final catalyst to get this going.”
Zambara’s current product is aimed at group benefit providers — the companies that sell life, injury and disability insurance to unions, associations and corporations for their employees or members. The product searches for people within these groups who are under-insured — for example, a 50-something executive with young children and only $100,000 in life insurance. By identifying under-insured members, Zambara helps the providers sell more suitable products to existing customers.
“What really makes this interesting for the broker is that . . . we’re not introducing them to new customers or leads,” said Trask. “What we’re doing is helping them build a stronger relationship with the people they already know and who know them.”
Trask said the company expects to sign up four more clients — two Canadian and two American — early in the new year. Overall, he hopes for “a couple of dozen” customers in 2018 and to work with them in developing a more comprehensive product. He envisages a tool that will ensure that life insurance policy-holders have all the information they need and take all the proper steps to ensure their families can claim with the fewest hassles possible.
Trask admits “that’s a big nut to crack” so he decided to launch the initial product that identifies the under-insured, then work with clients on the broader product.
Zambara is Trask’s second attempt at developing a tech company. During the dotcom boom, he began a company that would allow students to buy and sell books and chat online. The company failed and now he’s back. As with the past company, he is working out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s. And he has just completed the Launch program of the regional accelerator PropelICT.
“I had to learn a new lingo,” he said of returning to the entrepreneurial fray after 15 years. “The business models are different (than 15 years ago). I really like it and it scares me, because things move so fast. The pace of change is what I like and what scares me.”