Bold Penguin got started in Columbus in 2016 in the commercial insurance sector. Founder Ilya Bodner says the company built software to make the quoting and buying of business insurance or commercial insurance easier.
"It was very easy for us in Columbus to attract insurance companies to integrate into our platform because of proximity and what we do — we weren't disrupting we were an enabler," Bodner says.
One of the company's early investors was American Family Ventures, based out of Madison, Wisconsin with headquarters in New York. Bold Penguin, he says, was raising money to grow fast and go far.
"As we grew the company to hundreds of employees, transacting a little over 100,000 quotes per month and being an enablement tool for different agents and brokers and different entities that sell insurance, we figured that in order to continue on this world domination plan we need a lot more capital, first of all," he says. "Secondly, we needed to go back to our roots and really be humble as an organization to be an enablement play. So, as we went on our journey to find who is the right group of people surrounding us to help grow the organization, the choice really came down to three."
Among those options was to go public, either directly or through a SPAC. Another option was to raise a larger Series C round. Or join one of the several companies that had been knocking on the company's door. Ultimately, Bold Penguin was bought by American Family Insurance Mutual Holding Co. in January 2021. That, he says, was the best route for several reasons.
First, and most importantly, he says it was important to keep his team together.
"We have a really tight-knit group of people that are all geeked out about building technology and commercial insurance for the independent insurance agents," he says. "I mean, how many people are there out there like that? Well, we found each other, and we wanted to keep the band together, so we were able to get the acquirer to be comfortable with keeping the team together, having complete independence and autonomy to go out and do our own thing."
He says the company is also loyal to Columbus and the Midwest, so finding a suitor in the Midwest that had similar values was a plus.
Bodner says he also wanted to make sure Bold Penguin could remain independent and neutral, and maintain its focus on building technology in the space.
"The number was right, the opportunity was right, we were able to keep the gang together and our clients going and growing, and so the rest is history," Bodner says. "It had a huge impact on us and, of course, the company."
Bodner spoke at last year's Columbus Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about the company's acquisition, how it decided that was the best choice and the benefits the deal offered. Hit play to catch the full interview.