#6 Roadmapping, Early-stage hiring, and Tontines - the next revolution of life insurance

This week, we discuss the trials of early stage hiring and an idea around tontines.

Hey guys,
This week, EntryLevel was focused on recruiting new team members after we hit a strong validation milestone last week. We’re still on our way to monetisation and scaling, but to hit our goals, we needed to get some help.

Our goals for the next two months are fairly straightforward:

  1. Build and refine a product that people love
    We’re doing this by running 2 specific cohorts of students (Africa Only and worldwide - with about 600 people in each one). We did it this way because we don’t know much about the edutech space in Africa, and it always helps to study a demographic in isolation
  2. Test a commercial model that makes sense.
    Getting sign-ups is great but if no one is willing to pay for you, all you have is a great charity that will most likely struggle to deliver real value to anyone. We want to test a variety of strategies including one-off purchases, subscriptions, business sales, and a few other opportunities.
  3. Build a waitlist of people (in the 50-100k range)
    This will show even more demand than last time, but with a more refined business model that people can opt into.

All three of these things will help us build a strong narrative. We will have users who love us, are willing to pay for our product and we will have too many of them to handle.

One of the things we have tried to do this week is early-stage hiring. We wanted to hire someone to help out the team, but with most early-stage hiring it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly you want the new hire to do, and you’ll have to make your existing team members slightly more focused on one thing instead of ten. Our biggest gaps are in community & operations, so we created a role that covered both of those areas. At this critical stage, it’s hard to spend weeks deciding on a person because you need to fill the gap yesterday. Often it’s best to “hire fast, fire fast” within reason. You want to communicate with your new hire about things like a probation period, trial period, etc. Don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes, just rectify them quickly and don’t let people stay around without providing value. When you find winners, keep them incentivized, happy, and willing to stay for the long haul.

Right now, I have about 3-4 people who would be good for our Head of Operations role at EntryLevel and I’ll make a call within a week as to who will be joining us, and will be watching how they go in February and March.

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As part of this newsletter, I give away a million/billion dollar idea each week and see who in my subscriber base can execute on it. Read on for this week’s idea.

Tontines

"Tontine is the name of an early system for raising capital in which individuals pay into a common pool of money; they receive dividends based on their share of returns from investments made with the pooled money. As members of the group died, they were not replaced with new investors so the proceeds were divided among fewer and fewer members. The surviving investors quite literally profited from the deaths of people they knew—a feature that many considered macabre. Even in their heyday, tontines were regarded as somewhat off-color."

- Investopedia, 2019

It sounds a little messed up, I know but one of the limitations of a tontine is the fact that everyone knows who is in the tontine and so you can have a lot of illegal activity and lack of trust with this system.

What if we could create a tontine where no members knew who anyone else was. Completely anonymous. Then you may ask, surely there must be someone in charge, collecting money and distributing it. Where there is a trusted link, there is a weak point. I’m sure many people wouldn’t want their life at risk regardless of how many layers of trust abstraction we add.

Then, what if we didn’t require trust? Now - with the advent of blockchain, we have the ability to create trustless systems and structures.

We could create a tontine that maintains full privacy/anonymity and requires no trust to run. Now, the use case for the tontine would be for retirement. The issue is that lifespans are extending and superannuations (and other retirement plans) will struggle to pay out over the long term. If instead, we find an anonymized set of people with similar ages, lifestyles, and other factors who put in money consistently over many years - then they get paid out over time. As people pass away, the payouts would pay fewer people and therefore last longer. This can be calculated such that the tontine will keep paying out as long as any member is still alive.

Technically, all you would need to create would be some sort of reliable proof of life  (email/biometric scan, etc.) that happens periodically such that if someone doesn’t do that action, they are pronounced as dead in the system. Then a way for people to collect this money (through an anonymised, unique cryptocurrency wallet)

My hunch is that this WILL happen sometime in the future and it’s just a matter of time. There are many people already working on similar solutions: https://tontine.com/

However, if you haven’t heard of it before today then there is still a large, untapped opportunity out there. Again, if you like this idea and want to pursue this - let me know, would love to share the thoughts and ideation I’ve done about this already.

Until next time,

Ajay