Metod Topolnik of SimplePin: “Take care of yourself”

At SimplePin we are not trying to change the core of insurance, we are simply improving part of the delivery. We identified where the consumer is frustrated with an old-school payment system, and we’re addressing that pain-point by creating a better user experience. The underlying product hasn’t changed and remains in the hands of theexisting […]

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At SimplePin we are not trying to change the core of insurance, we are simply improving part of the delivery. We identified where the consumer is frustrated with an old-school payment system, and we’re addressing that pain-point by creating a better user experience. The underlying product hasn’t changed and remains in the hands of theexisting companies. That’s not disruptive, that’s enhancement.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Metod Topolnik.

Metod has over 20 years of experience in online payment processing. With a passion and vision for FinTech, he has been revolutionary in the development of modern payments and, as a serial entrepreneur, his keen focus is on digitizing the customer experience and automating processes. His most recent project is SimplePin which is specifically designed to help insurance agents, brokers, and carriers digitize their payments and create a better customer experience.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I got my first taste of entrepreneurship at 16 years old when my buddy and I worked for a store similar to Best Buy and car phones (the size of suitcases) were all the rage then. We would sell the phones at work and then schedule to install them into the cars of the businessmen who purchased them after school and on the weekends.

After my schooling, I worked in the automotive and telecommunication world, always focusing on technology. Then I went to work for one of the largest payment solution providers in Europe, I realized I could be doing for myself what I was doing for them. That’s when I started my first payment solution company.

I have spent the last 20 years in the global online payment industry, and one of my customers in the insurance sector made me aware of the tremendous opportunity that existed for payment solutions within the industry. And so, I decided I was going to change the way insurance companies process payments.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are taking the user experience from that of the Sears catalog and elevating it to an Amazon-type experience. You could call that disrupting, we prefer to think of it as enhancing the user experience. The core of the insurance industry will not change, they are there to assess risk and we have no part of that. We are elevating the user experience to the level consumers expect today and will demand tomorrow.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not entirely sure I would call it funny, but we have had several laughs about it in the last few years.

When I first started SimplePin we launched with an extensive ad campaign that we were going to accept credit cards for free. I thought, “BOOM, this is it, no one has ever heard of such a thing, this will get us the traction we needed as a startup.”

How did it work? 1% return rate — no uptake.

So, here we were thinking we were the only ice cream seller on a scorching hot day in Miami Beach. We’re going to sell like crazy. It didn’t happen, in our case, continuing with the metaphor, because no one believed we had any ice cream.

What did I learn? I learned that no matter how good the product, your customer base may not understand what you do or how it will benefit them, you really need to know and understand your audience to be able to sell anything to them. It was also a good reminder for me that no matter how many years you’ve successfully been in business you must never forget to be resilient, consistent and persistent.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Rudolf Booker, former CEO of Payvision, has been a mentor to me in many ways. In the early years, Rudolph almost became a customer of mine and through our relationship he learned quite a lot about being a payment solution provider. He started his journey in the acquiring world in a basement-built company that he grew to 270 employees and sold to ING for half a billion dollars.

While he was with Payvision, I ran into him at a payment show in Vegas. I was looking at going back into the acquiring field, and he had leads he didn’t have time to go after. He was kind enough to share them with me. I have an immense amount of respect for the man and the lessons he taught me. Namely, that customer relationships without tech (or tech with no customer base) will never allow you to scale. You need to have both, the customer base and the technology in place in order to be leverageable and make an exit.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The insurance industry is a great example of a place where disrupting is not viewed in a positive light. Historically, insurance industry “disruptors” have been seen as negative because start-ups came into an industry that has certainly withstood the test of time (they’ve been here assessing risk since the 1700s) with massive goals about shaking things up and changing the industry. The insurance industry will not change because the core will not change. So, if your intent in the insurance sector is to be a “disruptor,” you will be denied access or a chance in the marketplace before you ever begin.

If, on the other hand, you soften the language and look at what your objectives really are, you may find much broader acceptance. Instead of looking at yourself as a disruptor and wanting to change the sector, adjust your thinking and look at what you’re really doing.

At SimplePin we are not trying to change the core of insurance, we are simply improving part of the delivery. We identified where the consumer is frustrated with an old-school payment system, and we’re addressing that pain-point by creating a better user experience. The underlying product hasn’t changed and remains in the hands of theexisting companies. That’s not disruptive, that’s enhancement.

With that said, there are times disruption is positive. In many sectors, the disruptors shaking up existing players is positive because it forces them to constantly reexamine the way they do business and their relevance. If large companies with big market share don’t evolve, they will become irrelevant. Evolving in today’s world, really comes down to the easiest, most effective user experience. Humans will seek the path of least resistance, and they will pay more to make their lives easier. Disruptors know this. Proof of theory… Blockbuster. We can all agree that the “disruptor” in that scenario, Netflix, did wonders for the user experience.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Take care of yourself.

  • As the founder your brain is always on high alert. You’re thinking about today, tomorrow, and ten years from now. Innovating, team building, learning… you never shut-down. Take time to disconnect and recharge your own battery or you won’t be effective.

Dream big.

  • Your visions become your reality, so don’t think small or let any setbacks and naysayers take you off your path.

Be consistent, persistent, and resilient.

  • Remember those words, they will both ground you and get you through the toughest of days.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Lead generation within the insurance industry is a different creature than most. Insurance is still a small, closed group; one of the few that continues to be built primarily on direct relationships. Online presence is far less important than forging relationships with key leaders. We have learned to take an old school approach with a modern twist, but we mainly utilize shows and key associations within the industry to grow our leads.

Another important factor in growing those leads is transferring knowledge. We pride ourselves on being thought leaders with over 20 years as a leading force in the global e-commerce industry. We want to share our knowledge in the payment space to help industry leaders understand the safe and convenient technology that exists, which can make all the difference in their customer’s experience.

It’s taken three years to grow those relationships, to really gain recognition for who we are and what our “why” is within the insurance sector. We are not here to disrupt, but rather, to close the gap between the current user experience and what consumers expect the user experience to be in our one-click Amazon world.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We will not stop until the user experience of both buying insurance and receiving payment from a claim is an instant one-click process, whatever insurance company you use.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Screw it Let’s Do It by Richard Branson resonated with me because he saw opportunities when he experienced problems himself. Virgin Airlines, for example, as you likely already know, came to be because it was so difficult flying to and from his island. He saw airlines had no flexibility, they were so rigid and he realized it wasn’t just him that was unhappy, but people in general were not happy with the status quo. With that, he set out to create an airline that offered a better customer experience. That really speaks to who I am as an entrepreneur.

Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start with the Why,” was a pivoting point for me, personally. It was such an eye opening discussion, to be able to understand multiple generations, and in doing so question the why behind every generation’s motives or decisions. If you can’t step back and ask why, you will never understand how to move forward. More importantly to me though, were the personal lessons learned about being more accepting, more curious, continuing to learn and be more understanding and gain more acceptance.

Through this understanding, I believe we are better equipped to build products for the future not just for today. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It is what it is.”

It’s not a pretty life lesson quote, but I think it’s reality, and I say it enough my friends made me a plaque that has this engraved, so I must say it a lot. It actually encompasses more than we realize. It is a state of mind where you accept what you cannot change, and if you’re not ok with that, then you go against the grain and look for other answers.

Acceptance of shit doesn’t mean it smells better. (sorry for the language. If it’s inappropriate, please delete).

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Free education for all. I believe our barriers in life are far more about the level of education that is afforded to you then your race, religion, or socio-economic status. Unfortunately, these can feel inextricably linked, but if we could offer everyone a good education at no cost, I believe those walls would come down.

How can our readers follow you online?

Metod on LinkedIn:

Metod on Twitter:

SimplePin on Twitter:

SimplePin on LinkedIn:

SimplePin on Facebook:

SimplePin on YouTube:

SimplePin Website:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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