What is Belleville Analytics Inc. (Belleville)? Describe your company.
Belleville is an app, a web based application that is designed to help manage group benefits plans. There is a whole space that does the benefits plan management aspect of the industry around it and it is called Global Brokerage Industry. A lot of their processes are not web based and it is a lot of manual work. I am essentially bringing services that you would receive from those companies or that you would require from a good broker, but I am bringing it to the plan sponsor or to the individuals with the group insurance, so that they can see what any broker advisor would see internally.
On top of that, we are doing project work throughout the industry as well. I am doing work in the pharmacy benefits analytics, underwriting processes at insurance careers. We are taking on some technology projects, as well, that are related to group insurance.
What is your name and title?
David McDonald, Founder of Belleville Analytics Inc.
What inspired you to start Belleville?
I had a pretty normal path for an actuary, which is a profession that specializes in insurance and pricing insurance and calculating risk. I was in the group benefits consulting space right out of school, at a major global firm, so I was organically in the industry since the day I left university.
Since then, I have been at two global brokerages. I have seen all the sides of the industry. Small brokerages, small groups, and consulting that is geared towards big companies. After seeing all sides of it, I realized that all these massive firms are not always scaled or built to implement and write innovative software efficiently.
There are a lot of teams, there is a lot of politics, there is a lot of red tape, and I think that they would be the first to admit that that they are not always the best at developing. They are mostly just servicing their clients. I saw a niche to fill out my vision for what the future of the group benefits brokerage industry is, which is moving the model more to a software as a service platform and less of creating PowerPoints for your client.
What does ‘Belleville’ in your company name mean?
There are a lot of broker advisors out there, smaller firms, and you see a lot of company names. I did not want it to be my name, I did not want to be anything health-related, I already see a lot of names like that. I just wanted something different. So I went with Bellville.
I always liked the name. It translates to ‘a beautiful town’ in French. I have family around Belleville, Ontario, so I was always in and around there growing up. I like that part of Ontario, I had good memories associated with it.
Who makes Belleville? Describe your team.
The team consists of myself, the founder, and Alan Chung. Alan is a computer science co-op student from the University of Waterloo.
What kind of person will succeed in your company?
Someone that is creative and learns things quickly! I think these are two good qualities. It is a startup so everything is new. If you can think of new adventures, new ways to do things, new things to try, I am always open towards that and like that type of energy. I would want someone who would embrace and succeed in that type of freedom that I would give them.
And other than that, just learning things quickly, developing a good understanding of the group benefits space is definitely a big deal, because there are not many people that, I would say, have my knowledge or insight of the industry, combined with technical abilities. That is really the key thing, to find people with the technical abilities and bring them up to speed about this industry.
And I think one big thing I want is someone who is motivated and dedicated to help grow this company and someone who is really invested in the future of the company.
What inspires you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Just so that I am not finished! There is a lot to do! I do not feel like I have put my best foot forward with this whole turning benefit consulting into SAAS product yet. I’ve been working pretty well and I’ve been getting there but I cannot go to bed at night knowing that I did do everything I could do, so that is what just keeps me going.
I think that the business model makes sense, and I am gaining support from individuals in the industry who seem to like the idea as well, but I just do not think that I have done all that I could do yet, so I want to keep moving it until it is BIG.
What is your special talent or a hobby?
Doing more projects in the world of data science. It seems that there is a lot of data and a lot of creative things you can do with it.
Sometimes, when I still have the energy to do work that is not associated with my company, I do like to take on some data science projects. One thing I did that I thought was kind of unique… there is a guy on YouTube that reviews sodas, and there’s a whole micro industry of craft sodas out there. I guess they are not too hard to make. So he reviews them. He’s done probably 400-500 reviews. I have a whole dashboard with a map of where all these craft soda reviews are and what rating he gave them, what type of sodas they have, everything.
I just did this from scraping his YouTube audio and translating texts and audio to recognize the types of soda and what his rating out of 10 is. I think it is a pretty cool database. I probably have one of the better craft soda databases out there probably. It was not too hard either, it is going through all these YouTube videos in a pre-automated fashion.
Other than that, we are towards the end of summer and I like to golf. It is a good way to go out and see friends, especially during COVID times. I definitely want to be golfing more. I watch it on tv and watch YouTube videos on how to get better. It occupies a good portion of my brain I would say!
What are some current projects you are working on?
A few that are geared towards Belleville Analytics.
One is working with a major insurance company in Canada. They are top 5 in health and dental premiums. I am helping streamline their underwriting processes. Underwriting is looking at a company’s health benefit claims and assessing whether rates need to go up, whether you need to charge more, charge less, and how much more. It’s a long-term project, it is big for me and it is quite interesting.
I always worked on the consulting or brokerage side; I actually never saw how some of these carriers work. Working with insurance carriers now is giving me deeper perspective on the industry. There is a lot of people who have been consulting for 30 years and selling insurance, but have never actually worked for the insurance company so I do think I actually know quite a bit more now.
Another project I have been working on is with a pharmaceutical consulting firm. They consult to big pharma or pharmaceutical manufacturers. With my background in a group benefits industry, I’m able to do data analysis exercises for them that analyze different plan provisions in the industry, how generous, and how restrictive drug plans are in the industry, so that they can provide insights to their clients whose livelihood is trying to figure out how much money they can get through the insurance companies and where to market their drugs, which insurance companies are going to carry it, which will not, or which require prior authorization. I also get to do a lot of small ad hoc coding projects for them too, to help them out.
The other type of work that I have been doing that is probably the most related to scaling a product is working with brokers. I have worked with a couple of smaller independent insurance brokers now and I’m just using my system, my web-based technology to help them with their group benefits renewals and brokerage needs. It seems to be working well, so that is a good sign, and I hope to continue to get out there.
How can we assist you? What is your current ‘ask’?
I am always looking to talk to parties that could be interested in my services, whether they are HR benefits decision makers, at major companies, or really, any company, or if they are independent insurance advisors, I want to talk to them. Just meeting more relevant parties, meeting people in the industry, or entrepreneurs that may have a sense of what I am doing and seeing where these connections can get to.
One word that describes TechPlace to you? Why?
Looking at the good view, I can see Lake Ontario, people moving on the QEW, if you look north, you’ll see escarpment, you can have a panoramic view of Burlington.
Further, TechPlace seems to be a good space for smaller companies to grow and develop. And my office can accommodate few more people, and I am looking forward to that.
How can I contact you?