Fulfilling and terrifying: Alumnus shares journey of starting his own company.

1.26.2022 Alumni News, MBA

Alumnus Brian Freeman (MBA ’09) speaks with Stacy Owen, Executive Director of Alumni Engagement, about his transition from a corporate position to entrepreneur.

Stacy: You spent 10 years with Hospital Corp of America (HCA) and had four promotions and five positions, most recently as AVP of Finance and Operations for the Operations & Service Line Group. Why leave?

Brian: Two Wake Forest alumni helped me land at HCA after b-school; leaving to start Mployer Advisor was a big decision and has been both terrifying and thrilling. Fortunately, I have a very supportive wife! I have always worked in healthcare; after graduating from Tulane, I spent two years in business development at Medical Systems Inc. The summer between my first and second years of the MBA program was an internship with Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company – again, thanks to Wake Forest.

During my time at HCA, one of the things that piqued my interest was insurance brokerage, especially after learning how it compared to another booming industry: real estate. The real estate market is an 85-billion-dollar space; the insurance brokerage space is 100 billion, with very few resources available for insurance buyers. I saw a big opportunity to help employers control costs, specifically what their employees spend out of pocket on benefits and insurance.

Few employers realize that who they select as their insurance broker has a more significant impact on cost and quality than who they select as their insurance company. The Mployer Advisor platform connects employers and employees to benefits and insurance plans by providing employers with actionable data to easily evaluate and select the best advisor for a company’s specific needs. Our site independently rates insurance brokers, and most have a profile on our platform. Brokers cannot pay to influence their ratings, and we only allow highly rated brokers to advertise.

Stacy: How would a company find you or even know to search for Mployer Advisor?

Brian: Great question. Employers find us two ways: the first is through basic google searches for a new broker. We want to be the leading digital destination for employers seeking health insurance and benefit related solutions. The second is by marketing heavily to employers to make them aware that new resources are now available. We have over 15K employers using the platform each month across the country.

Stacy: Is starting your own company what you thought it would be?

Brian: It’s more difficult than I thought it would be. Raising capital, executive operations, hiring talent as a one-man show was hard. I love the analytics, but sales, not so much – it’s just the nature of the work. The first person I hired was our Vice President of Sales.

We now have 25 employees and anticipate hiring 25 more by the end of the year. We recently opened a new office in downtown Nashville. Half of our staff is still remote. Interestingly, it’s the 22 – 24-year old’s who show up to the office every day. They have such a sense of community.

Stacy: You just secured $1.6 million in funding. How will you use this money?

Brian: We received this seed funding from Martin Ventures and other well-known investors, which is the second round of funding from Martin Ventures in the last year. We will deploy new features on our platform, hire additional leaders, and expand our insurance broker and carrier network.

Stacy: What have you taken from your MBA experience and applied to this role?

Brian: I’m convinced that we have better information and analytics than our competition because of Jon Pinder. What he taught us in Quantitative Methods helped me to build our models. His fingerprints are on everything related to analytics inside the company. Second, I have a group of friends from the program that has helped in so many ways – all are willing and supportive in their respective areas. I trade messages with five to 10 members of my class at a minimum weekly, and they have been impactful from financing to marketing and strategy. It’s fun!

Stacy: Any other fond memories of faculty members?

Brian: I loved Bern Beatty and worked on a project with him as a student. I remember meeting with him to review some of the work I’d done. He saw slightly misaligned text, different fonts and font sizes and told me that it was like “showing up to a meeting with dirty fingernails; you can do better.” I still use that analogy today. So many lessons from Wake Forest have factored into the launch of this venture; from entrepreneurship classes and Pinder analytics to Rick Harris and strategy.

Stacy: Congratulations on being nominated for the Greater Nashville Technology Council’s annual Tech Start-Up of the Year award. How did your team feel when they learned of the recognition, and how does the nomination influence Mployer Advisor’s next steps?

Brian: It is fun and a compliment to the team and the mission! The space we are working to impact is so large, very inefficient and covers nearly half of Americans. If we are successful, the impact could be considerable.