RENO, Nev. — It's a Wednesday in early March and Adam Kiefer just started a string of trips to Iowa.
As the CEO of Talage, a Reno-based tech company that provides a digital marketplace for small business insurance, Kiefer is in America's heartland as part of BrokerTech Ventures, the insurance industry's first broker-led investor group and accelerator program.
Talage was one of only 12 insurtech startups across the country selected to the inaugural program, which is led by leading insurance brokers that make up more than $1 billion in annual distribution.
“We are really excited to have access to, and be partnering with, the best insurance operations in the country,” said Kiefer, who's joined by fellow co-founders Matt Donovan and Zachary Draper.
The founders' time spent in Des Moines, 1,600 miles away from Reno, is a testament to how far Talage has come since the company started up in the Biggest Little City nearly five years ago.
Talage is on the heels of closing a $5 million Series A funding round in February. This comes roughly a year and a half after the company secured its initial investment, a $1.5 million seed round in June 2018.
“It's really exciting,” Kiefer said. “Not a lot of companies make it this far. So, while we are constantly looking at the road ahead, moments like that — milestones like that — are a nice opportunity to reflect on how far we've come and what we've been able to accomplish so far. It kind of validates some of that early success that we've been able to capture.”
When asked, Kiefer said the new funds would be primarily used to grow Talage's engineering, customer support and marketing teams.
He added he expects the company's current staff of 12 to increase to more than 20 by the end of the summer, and “ramp up from there as the need increases.”
As a result, Talage is planning to expand its office size in the near future. The company, Kiefer said, is looking to move from its current 1,600-square-foot space to a 5,000-square-foot space within the same building it's located on South Wells Avenue in Reno.
“We're in a relatively small space right now but we're busting at the seams,” Kiefer said. “We'll be a little crowded for a minute, but it should be temporary.”
Founded in September 2015, Talage started after Kiefer and Donovan, who grew up together in the Bay Area, both realized the methods for selling small business insurance could be vastly improved.
Kiefer, who graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno and played on the Wolf Pack football team, recognized this during his three years as a manager at Employers Insurance in Reno.
“As difficult as it was for agents to sell small commercial insurance, on the flip-side, that was the most profitable line for an insurance company,” Kiefer said. “So, it was how do you bridge that channel where companies are trying to sell more insurance, agencies are trying to find a better way to sell small commercial (insurance), and then small business owners themselves are looking for a better user experience in terms of digital self-serve tools?”
Though Talage initially struggled to find investors in Northern Nevada, the startup gained traction after joining a four-month accelerator in San Francisco in spring 2018, returning to Reno with three Bay Area investors in tow. Soon after, a fourth investor, Battle Born Venture — Nevada's state venture capital program — followed suit.
Since, Talage is now offering expanded services across the nation, having sold more than $1 million in insurance coverage to businesses in over 40 states through its solution. Notably, the company was named as 2019 tech startup of the year at the NCET Tech Awards, presented by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.
In 2019, the company also launched a partnership with Accident Fund Group, which is bringing Talage's platform to up to 2,000 of AF Group's independent insurance agents, Kiefer said.
“That's some really good growth on the revenue side and customer acquisition side,” he added.
In terms of revenue figures, Kiefer said the company is not sharing numbers publicly, adding, “but the growth has been significant and sets us up to make a real impact across the industry.”