Sean Harper and Lucas Ward ran into each other in a local coffee shop. That chance meeting has resulted in a startup that is disrupting one of the largest industries on the planet, and a business worth as much as $500M.
Lucas and Sean have taken on the inefficiencies and inconvenience of the insurance industry with a fast-growth company that just keeps doubling. They now have hundreds of employees and were valued at between $100M and $500M when they raised another $47M in funding last summer.
We got together for a special episode of the Dealmakers Podcast. They shared how they got started, how they raised millions, and their tips for company culture, surviving startup life and starting new ventures.
From Small Town To Big Time
Lucas Ward grew up in a much different environment than where their company is headquartered in Chicago today.
It was a small town in rural Missouri. One traffic light and a Burger King. His high school graduation only had 60 people. From way back then he saw the power of the internet for connecting to the big world out there.
Lucas didn’t grow up with a lot of money. His first computer came from Walmart. Then he started to learn to build his own.
His high school computer class was basically Lucas running around to try and fix the school’s computers. He got an A.
At Missouri State University he earned his degree in computer science. Then went to work in corporate America and open source. He had never been on a plane until going to work for Accenture. Then he basically started living on them.
They set him to work big batch processing systems. Processing millions and if not billions of records. They rebuilt frameworks. Accenture took it open source. He began working with their clients all over the US and in Europe. They included the state of IL and even Chase bank. Through this work, he was introduced to startups. Including SpringSource, which was acquired by VMware.
Kids That Code & Dangerous Entrepreneurs
Sean Harper is what I call a ‘dangerous entrepreneur’. Most of the highly successful entrepreneurs who end up raising the most capital and build fast-growth startups with the biggest exits either come from a consulting or VC background. Sean has both.
These experiences really help you understand how to solve big problems. You learn how to break them into smaller problems, and get the insights to help identify patterns that make companies successful.
Like many successful startup entrepreneurs Harper started out coding at a pretty young age. At just around 11 years old his parents encouraged him to start getting into tech. This is back when you’d have to buy a book to learn how to program something on your early PC.
He learned one of the fastest ways to create something was to do it on a screen. That took him right into business. Because when you create something, you have to get others to use it, learn to promote it and want people to pay money for it.
Sean kept chipping away at these challenges. He learned you can just leap and start and figure it out on the way. His first eCommerce startup led to creating a payment startup to lower processing fees.
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