Meet Meeri Savolainen, Co-Founder and CEO, INZMO

Meeri Savolainen

Estonian born Meeri Savolainen is co-founder and CEO of INZMO, a Berlin based insurtech transforming the laborious insurance process with its full-stack solution where everything from buying a policy to making a claim can be done in an instant.

INZMO focuses on B2B2C solutions across multiple verticals from consumer electronics and bike insurance and most recently launched Germany’s first fully digital rental deposit guarantee service.

At INZMO, Meeri is responsible for administration, legal matters, company culture, marketing and financial affairs. Meeri has a Law degree from the University of Tartu, one of Estonia’s most prestigious universities and previously worked as a tax and corporate lawyer for Ernst and Young.

To fulfil her passion for breaking new ground to lead social change, she left the corporate world in 2015 and founded INZMO with co-founder Risto Klausen whom she has been working together on several projects since 2010.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m the co-founder and CEO of INZMO, a Berlin based insurtech focussed on serving the rental and home contents industry and digitising the laborious insurance process with our full-stack platform where everything from buying a policy to making a claim can be done in an instant.

I have a Law degree and previously worked as a tax and corporate lawyer for Ernst and Young. At INZMO I am responsible for overall execution, our resources and the image/brand of the company.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly – my background is law and I graduated from the University of Tartu in Estonia with an MA in Law. At the time this was very much the career path I wanted to take and I invested a lot of time in my studies to gain the qualifications to become a lawyer.

After graduating, I joined the team of corporate lawyers at Ernst & Young. I liked my job, worked with fantastic people and had an excellent experience. However, it was all a bit too safe and I felt I was capable of taking more risk and wanted more responsibility. I know I can go back into corporate law and consulting in the future. I’ve always been driven by innovation and I wanted to create something new, something that hadn’t been created before. I wanted to lead and develop my own team and achieve something bigger.

When I’m asked how I would describe success – for me, success is when you have the sense of fulfilment and I get that from building my businesses – seeing it grow, cultivating a great working environment, attracting talented individuals, and all of us pulling together and sharing the same vision for the business that we’re building. That’s my plan for the next few years.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, several! Starting from finding the perfect niche to funding the company.

One of the contributing factors for the low numbers of female founders in my sector and tech more broadly is without doubt the gender funding gap. And rather depressingly according to Atomico’s latest State of European Tech report, it appears the gap is widening with female founders having raised the lowest proportion of total capital since 2017.

However, the perpetual funding challenge has shaped the way I run my startup – and for the better. We’ve been forced to learn to grow without VC cash, to do more with less and with an approach geared towards responsible and sustainable growth

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

On a personal level I’ve learnt to become more patient and have become a much better listener! As a fast-growing startup and working in digital insurtech which rewards hyperspeed, I’ve been used to quick fixes, being always on and had the same expectation of my teams.

The pandemic however changed all of our working lives. No longer working in-person as frequently with colleagues meant I wasn’t always aware of their personal situations (and vice versa) and how they were having to adapt to address unforeseen challenges.

And, because of that it was important for us all and particularly the senior team members to be better listeners, more respectful of individual situations and understanding of the need for flexible working patterns as we found it had a direct impact on levels of creativity, productivity, and collaboration.

On a professional level, I’m massively committed to gender diversity and really proud of the fact that my startup has a 60:40 female/male split. In fact six of the nine senior leadership positions are held by women.

As a female founder in insurance, a centuries old industry with let’s face it a bit of an image problem – male dominated, overly old fashioned, slow to change, clunky IT systems – I’m acutely aware more needs to be done to attract female talent to the sector.

Our gender balanced business has helped us appeal to a strong number of exceptionally talented female candidates who want to work with us because of the number of women already at the organisation, and who occupy the most senior positions.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My co-founder, Risto. We are very different personalities, we cover very different areas and have very different operational skills.

We find this makes for a successful working relationship as we know what the other is responsible for. Risto is highly technical and manages product and business development. With my background in law and a passion for organisational psychology, I’m responsible for all administrative, financial and HR matters.

However, in spite of our differing skill sets and division of responsibilities – as co-founders we very much share the same central vision for the business we’re building and are equally motivated to make it a success.

I talked earlier about the gender funding gap and there are obvious benefits to presenting a mixed founding team when it comes to the fundraising process.

How do you feel about mentoring?

Throughout my journey building INZMO, we’ve had (and are very fortunate to still have) several mentors (literally around 10 people) offering advice, support and help with various aspects ranging from fundraising, sales, hiring and leadership.

Our mentors have played a critical role in our success and have helped us avoid common mistakes startups often make in our industry. We are always happy to learn from others and take every opportunity to share these learnings with our team. We encourage and invest in a lot of resources for our team to have great coaches throughout their journey with INZMO.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

The lack of gender diversity within the insurance industry and particularly among senior levels is well documented. While there has been some progress, it has been frustratingly slow and the appalling sexism experienced by Amanda Blanc, Aviva’s, CEO at the firm’s AGM last month (May 2022) was sadly all too telling about the state of our industry when it comes to supporting gender diversity agendas.

The one change I would make to accelerate the pace of change would be to increase the representation of senior women in our field. A more diverse business is a more productive and innovative one. And we know having visible role models will have a substantial impact on our junior female colleagues. It sets the scene for their progression as well as the reality of the opportunities and challenges inherent in our sector and how best to navigate these. At INZMO we actively celebrate the female leaders in our business and encourage them to regularly share their knowledge – both about the industry and being a woman in insurtech.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

The best advice I’ve ever received was to ask myself this question before I embark on any project or adventure: “Why are you doing this?” – I would definitely offer this piece of advice to my younger self.

The important thing I’ve learnt about business is not what you do, but why you do it and I’ve applied this to both my professional and personal life. It helps to eliminate noise around you, gives a purpose and meaning to your actions and motivates you to achieve whatever goal you’re working towards. This is how I talk through company objectives with my teams and ensures we’re all on the same page and highly motivated.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’re always working on developing and enhancing our product portfolio. Looking ahead we’re planning to integrate AI and machine learning into our platform to take even more friction out of the customer journey and enhance the customer experience.

Our ambition is to become a one-stop shop for the tenant’s home insurance needs – from insuring the actual moving process to contents and consumer electronics insurance. And we want to make everything in the insurance process instant. Not only the purchasing of a policy, but in the future, we also aim to make claim settlements in minutes after receipt of a claim.