Los Angeles-based BlockForms has developed an enterprise software application that is designed to eliminate the tedious, manual, repetitive processes inherent with filling in multiple forms. The company has initially targeted the insurance benefits broker market, where organizations have to fill in the same questions repeatedly for insurance forms for companies like Aetna, Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, and others. BlockForms believes this repeatability offers an expansion opportunity, as a portion of its revenue model is related to utilization of the product by its customers’ clients. Moreover, while the insurance benefits broker market is the initial application, the company believes its product can be expanded into other verticals, where users must fill in manual, repetitive forms. The proceeds from this round will be used to explore and launch within those other verticals, as well as invest in research and development so the company can add increased functionality into their product suite.
Diversity is critical in tech, as it enables companies to create better and safer products that take everyone into consideration, not just one section of society. Moreover, a 2020 report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees, and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion. Despite this, women remain widely underrepresented in IT roles.
However, today we are introducing Tanya Vucetic, who leads the BlockForms business as an experienced operations professional and data science practitioner. BlockForms is a SaaS company that offers an enterprise application designed to eliminate the friction created by forms. The company is dedicated to delivering an intuitive, reliable product for insurance brokers that improves client engagement and employee performance by streamlining data collection and forms management.
With a background in international M&A, integration, and bespoke systems implementation, Tanya Vucetic brings knowledge of best practices across numerous organizations as well as seven years of treasury and valuation experience. Vucetic’s experience ranges from operations at the HNA Group and finance at Pacific Life and AIG to data science for the world’s largest eCommerce company. As a management and data science consultant, Vucetic honed key leadership and analytics skills that make her a vital internal asset. Vucetic earned her MBA from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, MSc in Computational Analytics from Georgia Tech and BA in International Economics from UCLA.
Tell us more about BlockForms, who are your clients, what are they looking for?
BlockForms is a web application that streamlines filling out forms for Insurance Brokers. Insurance brokers interact with countless forms that ask the same questions in numerous ways and formats. BlockForms consolidates these complex redundant forms into one digital form such that the broker and their clients only input their data once, but complete many forms simultaneously. Using BlockForms reduces the repetition of paperwork, resulting in a faster sales cycle, fewer errors and happy clients.
What are the do’s and don’ts when starting a software business such as yours?
Beyond knowing your customer, be your customer. Experience the problem you are solving firsthand as many times as possible before diving into developing a solution. My co-founder and Head of Sales, Benet Heames is an Insurance Broker himself. It wasn’t until our third co-founder and CTO, Ali Akhtar and I spent a year experimenting with these forms that we had a clear vision on how to tackle this solution. Yes, a full year!
Avoid making assumptions when questions arise. The short-term time saved on not having done more research will undoubtedly cost you more time and money in the long-run.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
This business is the thread in my non-linear career path. After spending seven years in finance and operations for international corporations, I pivoted to developing a technical skillset as a Data Scientist and have been developing machine learning and AI models as a consultant for over three years now. As CEO, my background in finance, operations and data science has equipped me with the required skills to navigate the nitty gritty back office work and serve as the liaison between our clients and communicating (translating) those needs to our development team.
What prompted you to become a Data scientist? What kind of training and past work experience do you have in the field?
The predominant tool used in Finance is Microsoft Excel and while Excel is an extraordinarily powerful tool, it is very limited in its scalability and processing power. I clearly remember the day I woke up and decided, I need stronger faster models which requires studying statistics and learning to code. Since jumping headfirst into the field, I’ve built technology that informs which items can or cannot be shipped in a box together, whether or not a train can operate in certain weather conditions, if you’re brushing your teeth effectively and much more.
What is the one technology trend within your industry that cannot be ignored?
There are a large number of industries that are desperate for innovation, but complete disruption is not yet an option. Meanwhile, there is enormous opportunity there for optimization. If you come across an experience that could be improved upon, I challenge you to explore that thought because you are probably right!
How did you come up with the idea, how did you find the right people to build the software? Any tips?
BlockForms was my co-founder, Benet’s idea. As mentioned above, Benet is an Insurance Broker himself and he lives and breathes the problem we are solving. After communicating his idea to a mutual friend, Benet (Head of Sales), Ali (CTO) and I were introduced to each other as a capable team. I have landed the CEO role within our team because of my leadership skills, technological know-how and finance experience. Benet is a rockstar salesperson through and through and Ali is a talented developer and designer.
The key to building anything is joining forces with people who have completely different skillsets. Whether you become partners or you decide you need strictly work-for-hire, I suggest really knowing what you’re great at and letting others handle what you’re average or not-so-great at. Having a CTO has been instrumental to keeping our costs low, but if you’re looking for contract developers – don’t be afraid to ask. I will personally connect you!
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
Let’s face it, we’re all human and life happens. When I suffer a setback, my partners step up without hesitation and the ball keeps rolling. We pride ourselves in giving each other the space we need amidst crisis ultimately never skipping a beat in the long run but reworking what we need to in the short run.
When we experience a setback together, for example, an important prospect passing on our software, we again get through it together. Your team is crucial to your business’ success and everything we’ve confronted has been solved by communicating.
Is social media marketing important for businesses like yours?
Our target customer is highly relationship and referral based. While running ads in professional networks and industry specific publications is highly advantageous, I look to social media for more personal reasons as an entrepreneur who is female with a technical background. I am frequently told by women that they wished they had known the career path I’ve chosen was an option. My intention when sharing BlockForms and data science on social media platforms is to inspire others to pursue entrepreneurship and mathematics.
What are your future goals?
My future plans for BlockForms is to scale the business across multiple industries that heavily interact with paperwork. As an entrepreneur, I will stay involved in building multiple businesses from the ground up. However, my passion project is in education research related to inspiring children to be curious about how YouTube and their tablets work in addition to using these services and devices.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Keep your eyes on your own paper.” In other words, don’t be concerned with how others are getting the job done. As a tech start-up, my partners and I often feel pressured to raise money because raising money in tech is more highly celebrated than conducting business. It is my job to protect our shareholders and raising money prematurely will dilute BlockForms unnecessarily. While others are raising tens and hundreds of thousands here and there, we are fortunately in a position that we don’t need to. The market will hear from us when we are well-positioned for hyper-growth.
Tanya Vucetic is a Data Scientist and the co-founder of Blockforms, a health care insurance startup. No stranger to a successful corporate career that took a left turn when an exciting opportunity presented itself, Tanya threw herself into the turbulent startup waters with two co-founders while holding down her fulltime job and learned the importance of time management and collaboration as her key hacks on the high stake’s entrepreneurial river.
Below is our recent interview with Tanya Vucetic, Co-founder & CEO at BlockForms:
Q: For those who haven’t heard of it, what is the best way to describe BlockForms?
A: Before jumping into describing BlockForms, we’ve found that explaining the problem we’re solving is the best way to introduce ourselves. Have you ever filled out numerous applications that ask the same question in different ways? For example, Company Name, Employer Name, and DBA all mean the same thing! Well, we have figured out a clever way to consolidate these complicated applications into one simple and efficient form, so when you fill in your details once, you’re actually completing multiple applications. Doesn’t that sound far less tedious?
To start, we’re tackling this problem for Employee Benefits Insurance Brokers and their clients, by streamlining the process of managing countless insurance provider applications in one, secure platform that mirrors their workflow. No more printing, signing, scanning, and sending multiple forms back and forth between clients and insurance providers.
Q: Tanya, can you tell us something more about yourself? How did you get to where you are today?
A: I am a Data Scientist by profession with a past life in Finance. My experience in systems implementation and numerous years at subsidiaries of Pacific Life and AIG have equipped me to effectively run this business in the niche my co-founders and I have chosen. However, my heart lies in product management, research, experimentation and prototyping around the unification of forms. (Don’t laugh!)
Q: Can you give us insights into your features?
A: Our secret sauce is something we call internally, “Form Builder”, where an Insurance Broker can upload any Insurance Provider form to our system and BlockForms will map the Broker’s client data to the respective form accordingly. We also offer Salesforce integration (you can find us in their app store), bank-grade data security and team management. Within BlockForms, supervisors can track the progress of their team and clients throughout the sales cycle.
Q: Why is now the time for a technology solution like BlockForms?
A: This has certainly become the million-dollar question as the state of the world rapidly changes around us during this global pandemic! I’m not sure about your familiarity with the Insurance Brokerage industry, but it’s safe to say that the systems used are fairly outdated and far less efficient than they could be. The amount of time spent on printing, signing, scanning, and sending back and forth via email is not necessary when there is an innovative solution available to synthesize the process. A big reason that this innovation has not yet occurred, however, is that the Insurance Provider applications change annually and data security requirements are evolving and stringent.
Not only is BlockForms committed to being ahead of these application changes and security requirements, we are a fully mobile solution that delivers on the demand for tools that simplify time-consuming and inefficient tasks, remotely!
Q: What are the company’s plans and goals for the future?
A: I’ll keep this one brief and mysterious. Any form reliant industry can use BlockForms to transform their business processes. We have our eye on potential next moves, however we’re sticking to Employee Benefits for now.
LOS ANGELES, March 10, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Preccelerator® Program, a Santa Monica, California-based early-stage startup accelerator, announced today it has accepted BlockForms, a company addressing the InsureTech market, to its 14th class of companies.
In 2012, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles launched the first-of-its-kind Preccelerator® Program to provide select start-ups with co-working space, mentorship, sophisticated legal services, curriculum and access to a strategic perks portfolio with the objective of helping grow a founder’s idea from business concept to a funded company. Over the past eight years, 47 companies have graduated the Program and have raised over $16 million in the aggregate.
Len Lanzi, Managing Director of the Preccelerator, commented, “We are excited to welcome a hardworking and enthusiastic founding team to our Preccelerator. Tanya Vycetic, CEO, Benet Heams and Ali Akhtar are a great fit for our program; we are looking forward to their successes.”
BlockForms is a platform built for Employee Benefit Insurance Brokers to transform the process of managing multiple insurance provider applications for their clients. BlockForms delivers an intuitive, reliable product that improves client engagement and employee performance by streamlining data collection and forms management. The encrypted, cloud-based application allows service teams to invite clients to complete simplified forms, automatically map responses to multiple insurance provider forms, edit forms, obtain electronic signatures, and send fully executed forms to insurance providers in one secure application. Simply put, BlockForms makes it fast and easy to sign up customers, collect client data, and apply for coverage across multiple insurance providers.
Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is a Southern California-based business law firm with robust corporate, public securities, mergers and acquisitions, entertainment, intellectual property and business litigation practice groups focusing on the representation of, among others, venture-backed emerging growth companies, middle-market public companies, large technology companies, entertainment and digital media companies, investors, venture capital funds, investment bankers and underwriters. The firm’s clients represent a broad range of industries with a concentration in the technology, entertainment, apparel and medical device sectors. The firm’s mission is to provide technically excellent legal services in a consistent, highly responsive and service-oriented manner with an entrepreneurial and practical business perspective. These principles are the hallmarks of the firm. For more information, visit http://stubbsalderton.com.
About the Preccelerator® Program
The Preccelerator® is a novel platform offered to select start-up companies out of the Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Santa Monica office that provides interim office space, sophisticated legal services, education, networking, mentorship and $500,000 in usable perks from Google Cloud for Startups, Amazon Web Services, and HubSpot, among others, with the objective of helping grow a founder’s idea from business concept to funded startup. The program also retains more than 100 active strategic mentors providing free office hours and discounted services, and provides over 75-plus educational workshops and networking events each year. The Program expanded in 2017 to accept a greater number of companies in more formalized classes, depending upon where the companies are in their evolutionary growth, and expanded benefits, including cash investment, to accepted companies. To apply to the Preccelerator, visit www.preccelerator.com.