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Bulgarian Snejina Zacharia, co-founder of US-based Insurify, on why Sofia is a top location for an R&D office

Bulgarian Snejina Zacharia, co-founder of US-based Insurify, on why Sofia is a top location for an R&D office,
Image credit: Insurify, Snejina Zacharia, CEO and co-founder
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US-based digital insurance agent Insurify recently announced establishing its first European office in Sofia, Bulgaria. The company operates through an AI-powered platform that aggregates calls from across hundreds of insurance carriers in the United States and provides the end consumers an easy way to search, compare and buy insurance online. 

Insurify was founded in 2013 by Bulgarians Snejina Zacharia (CEO) and Todor Kiryazov (CPO) and quickly grew as one of the leading companies in the US insurtech sector. In 2020, Insurify recorded a 2.5-fold increase in revenue on an annual basis and increased the number of employees more than 3 times. Servicing over 4 million customers, Insurify is able to compare car, home and insurance offers and has managed to sell insurance with coverage amounting to $170B.

The Recursive team met with Snejina Zacharia, CEO and co-founder of Insurify, to discuss the news about the new R&D hub in Sofia, as well as the mission of the company and the future plans for the new office.

What is Insurify’s mission?

Our mission is to really be the one-stop-shop for all types of insurance shopping in the United States, starting with car, home insurance, expanding into life insurance, and then adding renters and pet insurance and human health in the next few years. We aim to empower the end consumer to make the best decisions about their insurance and coverage. We provide them with the best recommendations through artificial intelligence models, about the carriers that best fit their risk profiles as well as the coverage that might be best for them. Over the last five years, we have done an impressive job with being able to sign and work with most of the largest carriers in the United States. Our power is in the ability to really customize the unique experience for every customer and to provide them with the best experience.

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Why did you decide to open an R&D office in Bulgaria?

I am a Bulgarian and I was always interested in the opportunity to be able to expand the business into the country. I have the first-hand experience of the training, the power, the education, as well as the work ethic from working in Bulgaria for several international software companies. It was mostly a question of “when” versus “if” we will ever have an office in Bulgaria. And the way things got started is that my co-founder Giorgos Zacharia (also president of Kayak – Ed. Note) introduced me to the former Vice President of Product Management and Strategy at Skyscanner, Filip Filipov. As we were talking about the option to set up an office in Bulgaria, the news about the closing of Skyscanner came the week later (Skyscanner announced closing its Bulgarian office in June 2020 after revenues collapsed, following the Covid-19 lockdown – Ed. Note), and that really accelerated the conversations and helped align our interests and bring an amazing team with superb engineers. Skyscanner is a very relevant business to Insurify because they’re practically doing very much the same type of work for travel as we do for insurance. 

What are Bulgaria’s competitive advantages?

I think that the most important thing is the power of being able to hire top world-class engineers and data scientists, because we also have an amazing team of data scientists in Sofia. Our Director of engineering and GM of the Sofia office, Konstantin Halachev, also has a machine learning background. Location was also important – being in Europe is slightly better than being anywhere in Asia. Finally, but not last, is obviously the fact that I’m Bulgarian, as is my co-founder – Todor Kiryazov (Chief Product Officer at Insurify – Ed.Note).

How do your operations work in Sofia?

The core of the site will be basically working as an extension of our existing team in Boston. We are structuring teams mostly around projects. Where people are located does not matter that much. The concept is aligning the teams around expertise, and that’s how we are running it. So it’s an integral part of Al of the innovation that Insurify is bringing in building as a company. So, the Sofia office is an integral part of the Al innovation that Insurify is bringing in and building as a company.

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Do you plan to connect with the local innovation ecosystem?

My understanding is that the team is already highly connected to the tech ecosystem, like Konstantin Halachev (Director Of Engineering at Insurify – Ed. Note), as well as other team members have been active participants and also presenters at tech innovation conferences. I expect that that team will continue to drive growth and innovation and continue to contribute to the tech ecosystem in Sofia.

What do you plan for the new R&D office?

We have 15 engineers in the office and our goal is to at least double it in the next year. We have already worked with the team for six months – we are making the announcement with a little bit of a delay. 

We would like to explore whether we might be able to also leverage some other back-office operations for the company. For example, we are in the process of expanding our in-house insurance agency, which is a new initiative for Insurify. Traditionally, we’ve always been 100% Digital, so that might be an area we would likely explore as we are moving towards the next phase of Insurify. I’m super excited about the opportunity to finally have our second home in Sofia, and I am excited to see how much the team and our product will grow by leveraging world-class engineers from Bulgaria.

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Viktoria is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive and a sophomore-standing student at the American University in Bulgaria. Combining her Business Administration studies while mapping the Southeastern European startup ecosystem is a positive-sum game for her as she has the chance to interact with the most active entrepreneurs in the region. Her favorite topics include venture capital structures, investments, as well as innovations in the scitech and fintech sectors.