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6 months at Coalition: The move from FAANG to high-growth startup

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I just hit my 6-month mark at Coalition, where I run product development along with all things technical. When I started, I wrote this post about why I decided to join Coalition after leaving AWS. It seems like a healthy time to reflect on that decision, the journey so far, and what I see for the future of Coalition

Insurance, cybersecurity, and technology

To date, Coalition has aimed to solve cyber risk. We sell cyber insurance along with cybersecurity tools and services. Our team brings together world-class experts across three different domains: insurance, cybersecurity, and technology. The result is a uniquely differentiated offering with aligned interests between Coalition and our policyholders at every point in their journey as we work to reduce and eliminate cyber risk. Looking ahead, our mission is expanding to solve other types of risks facing business owners today. We have some pretty exciting plans to apply our data-driven and technology-first approach in a broader risk context. Stay tuned…

Here are a few stats about Coalition and the progress we have seen in these relatively short six months. The development team grew by almost 50% to 90 people. The number of brokers actively quoting on our platform is up 83%, and total active Coalition policyholders have risen 153%. In this 4Q-2020 Forbes article, our CEO, Joshua Motta, talked about hitting $100 million in annualized premium. That has already rocketed ahead to more than $200 million in annualized premium exiting March.

Also notable and exciting in this time period was the recent announcement about our Series D funding, cementing Coalition solidly in unicorn territory.

Initial impressions

In terms of first impressions, let’s just say that I found fertile grounds for improvement. The team had scaled quite a bit but didn’t have all the foundation or mechanisms to execute well. What they did have, though, was a great attitude and desire to learn, grow, and adapt. We rolled up our sleeves and quickly defined a new team structure and basic planning mechanism. This ensured that we were building for the most important initiatives for the business. From there, I focused on other areas such as a hiring process and training, mechanisms to support career growth and development, and operational practices that will be essential as we continue to scale.

This is all helping us to ship more stuff! The team has been cranking out some awesome innovations on our current broker platform. They are also hard at work finishing up some exciting new products that will be launching soon.

Assessing the decision

The big question, of course, is how Coalition is living up to expectations I had when I joined. Here’s a quick rundown based on the criteria I had set forth in my reasons for joining.

I said that I wanted to see demonstrated product-market fit and a track record of revenue growth. Not only was everything real, but as the data above shows, we have done nothing but continue to accelerate.

I said that I wanted the mission to matter. I don’t think this was ever more evident than our response to the recently announced Microsoft Exchange vulnerability (see here). The moment the vulnerability was released, our team sped into action. We quickly augmented our internet scan technology to detect the vulnerability and then identified all Coalition policyholders that were potentially affected. This was followed by outreach to those policyholders where experts from Coalition walked our customers through the steps required for mitigation. We have also subsequently updated our automated underwriting engine to ensure that we detect and price the risk accordingly in potential future policyholders.

I said that I wanted my impact to be directly correlated to the company. This is what I have appreciated the most about my role here. I can draw a direct line between everything I choose to spend time on and see the impact it has on the company.

The bottom line

If it hasn’t been clear from the tone of this post by now, I am loving my decision! I will always have fond memories of my time at AWS, but my job here at Coalition has offered up new challenges and learning opportunities that are unique to a high-growth startup. Obviously, I can only speak to one ‘A’ in FAANG, but here’s my advice for anyone at this point. Time at a FAANG company is well spent. Learn what a great working backwards looks like, what world-class operations are, and what it means to build robust, scalable services with global reach. At some point, though, you may find that you reach a point where you feel constrained by the organization’s ability to move at a pace that supports the growth and impact you want to have. The pace of innovation at AWS is laudable given its scope and reach, but the pace is inevitably constrained at some level by those same factors.

I think that more FAANG-ers should be thinking about this kind of move. Yes, you have to take a longer-term perspective on compensation, and that will not work for everyone. On the other hand, with a reasonable time horizon, you can position yourself for vastly more equity ownership and upside than is possible at the FAANGs.

Not only that, joining a small, passionate, and focused team where you can see every hour of every day directly impacting the company - that’s potentially priceless.

Coalition is not a perfect fit for everyone, and even though I’m biased, I will admit there are more Coalition-like opportunities out there. But if you like the sound of our little rocket ship, check out our job openings or reach out to me, and we can talk about jumping on for the ride. It for sure is going to be an exciting one, and quite literally, we are only 1% of the way there!