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Bootstrapping to $15 Million: Ernie Bray, CEO of ACD (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 29th 2015

Ernie Bray: After three years, we ended up shutting down the business. It was my first taste of starting something on my own from scratch. We didn’t make much money, but during that time we didn’t know how to monetize something on the Internet. This was new, but it was the thing that clicked for me. I then continued working for other insurance companies. Around late 2003, I finally had been in the industry long enough to understand where there was a need. What’s happening is that technology in the auto insurance sector is very antiquated. It’s very paper-centric, and the whole process is very cumbersome for a policy holder. They have to do so many different things that are very antiquated. I saw an opportunity to bring technology and mash it with the services side, and come up with a solution. We created a claims workflow solution that meshed the services and technology for insurance companies to process their claims.

While it seems very basic, I often tell people, “Sometimes, some of the most non-exciting things can be some of the most profitable businesses, because they are improving on processes that are inefficient.” My wife and I and a couple of other business founders founded it. We saw this as an opportunity to really do something exciting. It’s been a great ride for 12 years now. We bootstrapped from the beginning. I moved to Arizona. At that time, the housing market was reaching the peak. We decided to sell our home and move to a smaller home. We used some of that money to found the company and lived very frugally for several years. Over time, we eventually started to reinvest the money. We’ve been very good with the way we managed our money, which is very important.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to when you were starting the claims processing company. Let’s double-click down into it. Are we talking about car insurance?

Ernie Bray: We’re talking auto insurance.

Sramana Mitra: This goes back to your experience in selling at AAA?

Ernie Bray: I wasn’t selling. I was actually processing claims. I was an insurance adjuster. What I did during that time was, I learned how the whole process of an auto insurance claim was very inefficient. I learned where there were opportunities to make the process smoother for both the insurance companies and also, the person who was in the accident. Have you ever been in a car accident before?

Sramana Mitra: Yes, but not a big one, thankfully!

Ernie Bray: There are so many different pieces to the puzzle. If you get into an accident, you want to be able to get your car back fast. Little parts of the equation like maybe when you call a claim in to when the car is inspected by an appraiser down to when you get to the repair shop have inefficiencies. If somebody comes out and inspects the car and writes the estimate faster, then it assures that you can get the check quicker. Wherever there is a place for efficiency to drive down cost, that’s what the insurance companies want. That’s what we focus on.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping to $15 Million: Ernie Bray, CEO of ACD
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