More than 50 brokerages in Canada and one in the U.S. use the 30-year-old's platform
The second-youngest in a family with six children had graduated from SFU in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and was well on his way to the courthouse. But McCann, a licensed insurance broker, took what he thought would be a temporary job in the field and fell in love with its possibilities.
His gig was mostly driving around Western Canada to ski resorts and working with them on insurance plans. “Senior insurance guys would come in, and I’d just learn so much,” the Burnaby native recalls. “It taught me how the system works globally, and I spent the next five years building templates for types of insurance. You wouldn’t believe how complicated drone insurance is, for example.”
In early 2018, McCann decided to launch his own company, now called Apollo Insurance Solutions, to get ahead of the burgeoning insurtech trend. Vancouver-based Apollo provides brokers (mostly those who work with small to medium-sized enterprises) with an easy-to-use platform white-labelled for their own businesses.
“There have been players that have come in and said, You guys are dumb, and we’re going to disrupt the system,” McCann says. “I think that’s an arrogant approach,” he maintains. “We really think that empowering the existing broker relationship is the play.” Apollo, which made its first transaction last October, now has more than 50 brokerages in Canada and one in the U.S. using its platform.
McCann starts his day by meeting Indochino CEO Drew Green, one of the founders of Apollo and chair of the board, for coffee at a downtown hotel. The two go over numbers from a recent angel funding round (which pulled in $1 million) and talk about how the members of the recently appointed advisory board (which includes former Plentyoffish Media executive Kim Kaplan and Buyatab founder and CEO Matias Marquez) are meshing.
“I go out of my way to meet 50 to 60 entrepreneurs a year, and from day one I thought he was going to be really successful, and I wanted to be involved,” Green says of McCann, adding that “0.1 percent of entrepreneurs can actually raise capital–it’s not easy, it’s actually quite complex.
“And man, he’s probably one of the best I’ve seen at doing it efficiently, where it makes sense for the business, the investor and the employees,” Green notes. “That’s really impressive, raising a million dollars in the time he did.”
McCann meets with his team of 13 (Apollo also has three employees in Toronto, where he spends about half his time–“everyone in the insurance industry in Canada is over there”) at the company’s Gastown office.
They form a circle to brief each other on what they’re doing today. The session is ended by whoever leads it doing a countdown and three quick claps. It’s a team-building exercise implemented by McCann, 30, who earned a scholarship to play varsity football at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota before going to SFU.
He met Apollo co-founder and editor-in-chief David Dyck at the latter. “He was the student society president, and unlike some of the other ones, he actually got shit done,” says Dyck, who was an editor at the school paper, the Peak, with a straight face. “He’s just a visionary; he had the idea for Apollo completely mapped out.”
Often, McCann will have lunch with a client or someone in the business. Today he brings Apollo’s head of broker engagement, Margo Lyons, for pasta at Zefferelli’s with Joshua
Krenus, co-founder and CEO of Alteri Insurance Brokers.
Krenus is one of dozens of brokers who use Apollo to lighten the load for them and their employees. The two trade some industry secrets, and Krenus—who’s not much older than McCann—shares some advice on building a company from the ground up.
McCann and Lyons make a couple of routine stops on the way back to the office, grabbing business cards for some new staff and hitting the bank. McCann gets frustrated with a certain banking institution’s insistence that he sign paperwork at a different branch than he’s picking up cheques from. “I just hate being inconvenienced,” he says. “There’s almost always a smarter, faster way to do things.”
A couple of blocks later, Lyons is making fun of him for refusing to buy clothing online. “I was scammed once; I won’t do it again,” McCann says, his smile hinting that he’s very aware of the hypocrisy.
Every two weeks, the team has an “end of the sprint” meeting to talk about what everyone has accomplished. On McCann’s list: putting together the previous week’s official launch–which opened Apollo to the public and attracted some big industry players–and securing new clients.
They also discuss the next two weeks, and McCann will be busy. He’s going to Toronto tomorrow for that whole time, hoping to lure more customers. “Canadians spend $50 billion a year on insurance,” McCann says. “If it was more efficient, better structured, it could be half the price. And that’s what I’m going to say to everyone I see in Toronto.”
Something tells us he won’t regret skipping law school.