Consumer demands are changing and, for Attune, that change is a good thing. Businesses are demanding instant decisions and a hassle-free purchase process for small business insurance, and Attune is fulfilling those demands by combining their expertise, data and technology to provide a seamless quote and an easier, more transparent purchase experience — leaving one less thing for small business owners to worry about.
We caught up with the visionary behind the online insurance platform, CEO James Hobson, who told us about scaling a business, building culture, the perks of being based in NYC and so much more.
EMPLOYEES: 70 total; 66 locally
WHAT THEY DO: Attune leverages data and technology to deliver small business insurance in minutes — not days or weeks.
WHERE THEY DO IT: New York City
BUSINESS IS BOOMING: Attune has quadrupled in size in the last year. In the midst of this supergrowth, the leadership team is busy setting concrete D&I pillars to help guide their culture as the company continues to scale.
James Hobson, CEO
As CEO of Attune, it’s up to James to build the vision for the company moving forward — both internally by establishing the company’s culture, and externally, by leading the business and shaping Attune’s product.
BEYOND WORK: James is an avid reader and believes that books can change lives. It's especially evident in his commitment as board chair of Reading Partners, a nonprofit whose mission is to help low-income students develop the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.
How are tools like the ones Attune offers small businesses making an impact on the broader economy?
When you ask someone to tell you about a great experience, they’ll often think of something that they found joyful — a great meal or a good book. But there are also the times when something that you think is going to be hard turns out to be easier than expected. These moments are also great. This is what we are doing for small businesses when they need to get insurance. We have streamlined the process so they can get the insurance their business needs in a matter of minutes, giving them more time to focus on running and growing their business.
Attune quadrupled in size in 2018. What's one big lesson you learned from helming a company through this kind of mega growth?
I am not sure that I would say our growth has been “mega” — it’s much easier to quadruple when you start very small. We are growing really nicely but are still in the early stages of building the company and scale we want.
As far as lessons, the journey from startup to scaled is not linear, so I think it is important to stay grounded and even-keeled along the way. You can’t get overconfident when things are going well or too down when you encounter challenges. Success and failure are both parts of the process, and you need to be able to handle them both.
Attune’s culture is grounded in the idea that everyone is unique. We want to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and do their best work.”
As a company, how did you prioritize diversity as you scaled? Why was this important for the company?
I think this comes down to having a good sense of what you need to be successful. Diversity is too often thought of as tangential to a company’s mission or strategy. To put it another way, it is often thought of as a people or HR initiative, rather than a company-wide initiative. At Attune, we are trying to change an industry, so we need a diverse team to bring diverse thought. We need people who deeply know insurance to work with tech and analytics folks who don’t. It is one thing to say that they need to be able to work together, but we are striving for something much higher.
How can our employees make each other better, learn from each other and help us build better solutions? How can they help us be a better company? That is the power of diversity: bringing together different backgrounds, experiences and desires to focus on a common goal. If you do that well, you will build better products and experiences. And if you truly believe this, prioritizing diversity is easy.
What’s special about the company culture at Attune? How does the company reinforce positive aspects of that culture as the company changes and grows?
Our culture is very honest and grounded in our team. When we hit 40 people, we knew the time was right to articulate our values and co-create this unique culture with the whole team. Attune’s culture is grounded in the idea that everyone is unique. We want to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and do their best work.
We also know that we are on a journey to delight our small business customers and that creating a better experience will require us to ask a lot of questions, explore new ideas, and be humble enough to learn from our mistakes. These aren’t just words on a page for us — they’re our mindset and the way we show up each day.
Why do you think it’s important that technical and non-technical teams get to work together and learn from one another?
Our goal is not just to have both tech and non-tech groups represented so they can work together, but rather to be really excited about what each brings to the table and to be open to challenging each others’ perspectives and ways of thinking. We’re in uncharted territory. It takes an inclusive environment to reinvent an industry.
Diversity is too often thought of as tangential to a company’s mission. At Attune, we're trying to change an industry, so we need a diverse team to bring diverse thought.”
What makes New York City the right place to headquarter Attune? What does the city offer that others cannot?
Well, this one is pretty simple — I don’t think there is a better place for insurance innovation than NYC. We have an incredibly strong and rapidly growing technology community here, plus we are home to many of the best insurance companies in the world. This gives us a real advantage as we build a team that blends both of those worlds.