Andrew grew up outside of Boston. He majored in Computer Science and minored in Art, Business, and Math while being a Kleiner Perkins design fellow, Google ambassador, and Apple WWDC student scholarship winner. After that he worked in both design and software engineering roles, at both large companies and startups in Boston and the Bay Area. Andrew wanted to add meaning to his projects, so he decided to start his own, Catch.

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 originally posted in Liberalitas

 

What was the tipping point that sparked you to create Catch?

I was recently out of school and having worked a few jobs and freelanced a bit, I started to get frustrated with the experience of managing benefits. Most of us use the internet without a deep understanding of SSL. We get on planes without knowledge of Bernoulli’s Principle. We buy international products at low prices, yet know little of the Bretton Woods Agreement. While I think we’ve probably gone too far in devaluing understanding, this isn’t entirely a critique– it’s largely what it means to live in a developed society. We build on what was built before. We create layers of abstraction that make progress accessible to more than just the experts.

The same thing hasn’t really happened with finance. The pillars-- savings, investment, insurance, and credit– still require a depth of understanding that for the privileged is difficult and for the less fortunate is almost impossible. The same type of abstraction, simplicity, integration, and accessibility hasn’t been created. But this system isn’t natural or inevitable or fixed. It was cobbled together by people, and it can be changed.

The pillars-- savings, investment, insurance, and credit– still require a depth of understanding that for the privileged is difficult and for the less fortunate is almost impossible.

I wanted to push back against it. I drew up some early versions ideas and through some long months of work and a lot of luck, I finally got the funding to build a team and get it off the ground.

Did you model Catch after an existing organization?

A few come to mind that I like, all for pretty different reasons. Apple. Airbnb. Netflix. Khan Academy. Gusto. Medium. Vox. The ACLU. The Obama Foundation. The Gates Foundation. Commonwealth (D2D). Building an organization that can maintain a relentless and optimistic energy is an exciting challenge, and not an easy one. But from day one it’s been paramount to all of us to build a team that’s deeply talented, diverse, and driven.

With the growth of the gig economy, how are investing services and insurance companies adapting?

The short answer is that they’re not. The nature of work is changing pretty quickly, and it’s not changing the same way for everyone. The gig economy is only once a piece of it. The changes we see are complex and a result of a lot of factors, the most notorious of which include automation, globalization, and commodification. We’re seeing two sides of one coin: flexibility and volatility. This isn’t the first time that some types of change outpaces others. The insurance industry seems ill-equipped and disinterested in addressing the next set of problems. Investing services don’t work with volatility. But it’s about getting back to basics: these are tools. They are the tools we have to make life a little smoother, but they’re not working for a larger share of people.

The insurance industry seems ill-equipped and disinterested in addressing the next set of problems. Investing services don’t work with volatility. But it’s about getting back to basics: these are tools. They are the tools we have to make life a little smoother, but they’re not working for a larger share of people.

Where does Catch fit into this picture?

We're building a platform that helps you manage taxes, time off, retirement accounts, health insurance, and life insurance in one place. And that’s only the beginning. We’re building an experience that’s approachable to start and lets you learn more over time. We smooth income to work with volatility, not against it. We automatically adapt your plan when a big life event occurs. We’re looking at savings, investment, insurance, and credit as building blocks for better solutions, whether you're navigating a newfound flexibility or staying afloat in newfound volatility. A decade from now, all of this will be attached to you, not an employer. Employer benefits aren’t going away, but they’ll plug into a personal and portable plan.

Congratulations on recently launching Catch in August 2018, what was the most difficult challenge you faced pre-launch? Are there any challenges you anticipate?

We’re incredibly excited to finally launch Catch. We have live an early beta and will be continuing to build it out for a full launch early next year.

The challenges are never-ending, especially as we work in the system we’re looking to change. Moving the first real dollar in our platform. Getting licensed for investment and insurance. Managing team dynamics. Getting funded. Iterating on UX to stay true to our users’ needs. Making the right tradeoffs in our technology stack. Working through bugs. Keeping the larger view in focus while getting the details right.

It’s incredibly challenging, and it will always be. But that’s why it’s worth the effort. To really take something complex and distill it into a simple, elegant solution always involves understanding and working with the complexities, not ignoring them. For us, that means navigating the regulatory landscape, choosing the right partnerships, and working relentlessly to create a great product.

If Catch grows to what you dream it can, how would it change the world?

The problems we see and are trying to solve are far bigger than Catch. They include addressing a crippling, out of control student debt problem. They include underwriting insurance policies on a wider array of inputs to serve a growing segment of volatile earners. They include finding ways to group insurance risk differently, so affordable health care isn’t just up to your employer. They include learning how to empower the disruptors and the disrupted.

All of this seems like it was designed poorly, but it is the way it is because it wasn’t really designed at all. The jargon is awful– many people we talk to don’t know that a 401k and an IRA are the same thing other than employer contribution and contribution limits. The complexity is often predatory– rather than seek robust health insurance, many are told to rely on our their own HSA’s. We ask young people out of school to learn a system that doesn’t make sense, after teaching them nothing. When they don’t save we call them irresponsible and when they expect better of society we call them entitled. New parents, on no sleep, are left to figure out how to coordinate what has to change when their first is born. Uber drivers are expected to know exactly how and how much to pay in taxes, how to afford and find health insurance, and take care of their own retirement. It’s just broken.

We ask young people out of school to learn a system that doesn’t make sense, after teaching them nothing. When they don’t save we call them irresponsible and when they expect better of society we call them entitled.

Catch is a really simple idea. It’s that you, as an individual, can set up a safety net that’s integrated, flexible, and clear. It’s that all of the complexity around all of these “serious” things can be managed and understood easily.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

The first is to not aspire to be an entrepreneur. It’s a mindset, not a destination. The passion for what you’re solving has to be first. This is often emphasized without clarity on why.

Entrepreneurship is objectively fairly insane. You’re subjecting yourself to long hours, a singular focus, daily criticism, and giant obstacles. Steve Jobs joked that “any rational person would give up”. The article you’ll read about a glamorous round of funding is often surrounded by months or years of challenge and frustration, not constant affirmation and success. It’s painstaking work. And how much the goal means to you will be what decides whether it’s worth it.

Remember what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. There’s going to be a lot of noise and it’ll be hard to find the signal. It’s not always clear what to pay attention to. Keep an open mind, but don’t let it push you around too much. And finally, try not to do this alone or the grooves in your thought process will get too deep.