Name: Richard Stewart
Location: South Bank, London
Date Launched: February 2015
Number of employees: 5
What does your business do?
We make setting up and running employee benefits for small businesses really simple.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Prior to setting up Untangl, Steve and I worked together on a technology business called Redbourne. This was acquired by a large accountancy firm in 2011 and we joined them as part of that acquisition.
Towards the end of our time there, we became increasingly aware that smaller employers were not able to access employee benefits easily, even though the UK start-up market was flourishing and employers with small teams were keen to support their people.
We left in early 2015 and, along with a small team of software engineers, we have been developing Untangl since then. So, it’s taken us about 12 months to go from a blank sheet of paper and a few ideas to a fully working technology platform.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We’ve worked in the employee benefits world for many years and saw at first hand how difficult it was for smaller companies to get a benefits package in place. We then started talking to some of the larger benefit providers who were struggling to get much penetration in the smaller market via their traditional distribution routes.
After that, we spoke to lots of smaller employers to test our ideas and the feedback provided some really strong indicators – most decent companies wanted to do something that didn’t cost too much but couldn’t find a way to get started.
This also coincided with a big shake up in the traditional benefit adviser market, with the banning of commission and the launch of a massive reform of the workplace pension market which impacts every employer in the UK.
How did you raise funding, and why?
Initially, we funded the business ourselves, partly through our own resources and also through licence fees we were making from a legacy technology platform. Our aim was to get to a working version of the technology platform and prove we could make it work before looking for external financing. We’ve recently raised our first external investment through a couple of angel investors and this will allow us to continue to build our functionality and customer base with the aim of demonstrating a much stronger proposition when we look for further funding.
Describe your business model in brief.
In simple terms, we are an insurance intermediary and receive commissions from the benefit product providers we work with. We also charge a small monthly support fee.
What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?
Actually, there were two milestones that we had to achieve – build a technology platform capable of hosting benefit provider products at a very low cost and also build relationships with established providers that were willing to consider a new way of delivering their products and services. Without both of these, it wouldn’t work but the technology platform is now live and we’ve had amazing support from the providers, beyond what I would have imagined was possible.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Be absolutely clear about your offering and how it makes a real difference to people’s lives – then make sure your potential customers get it easily. Focus on things you can add real value to – outsource everything else.
Make sure your team is fully aligned to the idea and you all share a common purpose.
Make sure your business works on realistic projections.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
The benefits market offers real value through great, low cost products and tax savings for employers and employees. With the growth in start-ups and developments in technology (like mobile and cloud computing), along with the desire to try and simplify benefits tax and legislation at government level, provider product innovation will continue to accelerate and this has to be good news for the end users. Our aim is to continue to serve customers in this new environment and enable companies, whatever their size, to look after their most important asset, their employees.
So, we’ve made real progress over the last year but there’s lots more to do. Our technology platform is state-of-the-art and capable of handling an almost limitless number of customers, whatever their size, whilst being able to accommodate the rules of a wide range of suppliers. This means that we can add more and more options as we progress, based on what the customers and their employees value.