Featured Founder: John Fohr of TrustLayer
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed John Fohr of TrustLayer, which allows companies to automate tracking of insurance, licenses, and compliance docs of their business partners.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
My previous work has been in private equity. One of the later deals I was working on prior to TrustLayer, was in construction. I quickly learned that there were many inefficiencies in the industry that would hold up work, deals, and, in general, cause project delays. One aspect, in particular, was the verification of certificates of insurance and other compliance documentation. When doing a deeper dive into the problem, I realized the processes were still primarily manual, and there was great opportunity for the digitization and automation of processes in all industries that collect and verify compliance information of their business partners.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Insurance verification is a required activity to reduce risk when working with third parties. Companies spend a huge amount of time verifying compliance of their vendors - ensuring correct coverages/coverage limits, dealing with expired policies, tracking down missing endorsements, and managing the risk of fraudulent certificates of insurance (COIs). This creates significant financial and operational risks for companies stemming from lawsuits and additional claims that could be avoided. TrustLayer automates inefficient, paper-based workflows to allow companies to validate whether their third-parties (subcontractors/ vendors/ tenants/ suppliers/ borrowers/ franchisees) have the correct coverage, saving them time, improving compliance processes, and decreasing risk.
What gets me excited every day working at TrustLayer is being able to build an amazing team and scale a company that has the potential to fundamentally change how an industry communicates digitally and shares data. Seeing the team grow from two founders to a team of over 30 (as of this writing) and realizing how much we’ve accomplished with our small team has been surreal.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges we faced at the beginning of our journey was product/market fit and gaining those initial customers to show traction with our MVP. We partnered early on with an organization in the home builder industry that helped us gain our first customers and a good amount of beta testers that provided us with valuable feedback to help create a better product offering for our users.
Where do you see your company headed next?
TrustLayer is now working with dozens of the largest brokers and carriers in the U.S. to build out a digital proof of insurance solution to enable companies to automatically validate if their business partners have the correct coverage. Our Digital Proof of Coverage will eliminate fraudulent Certificates of Insurance (COI), protect stakeholders that rely on insurance, and reduce manual, error-prone processes in the risk transfer chain.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
One piece of tactical advice for other founders is that maintaining a healthy talent pipeline is as important as a healthy sales pipeline. Early on in our company’s journey, we were going after and signing companies of any size. In an early-stage startup, you’re trying to sell and pitch to anyone that you think might be a good fit, large or small. We were fortunate enough to partner with some large companies in our early days but didn’t have the proper personnel to handle all aspects of working with large companies, from the implementation and training to support. We had to hire and build infrastructure quickly while onboarding new customers. We learned that understanding the scope/size of potential customers and maintaining a healthy pipeline of talent is extremely important.
Why Tampa Bay?
Tampa Bay was a great fit for TrustLayer as it’s an emerging city for innovators with many out-of-state tech companies relocating to the area. For a startup of our size, doing business in Tampa made sense as it’s cost-effective and has an excellent pool of talent from local universities. Tampa is still in its early stages of development as a nationally recognized tech hub, so there’s huge potential for growth here for TrustLayer.