December 17, 2018
Meet the Startups

With millions raised, Dream Payments seeks help with strategic shift

HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon
HBJ Photo | Matt Pilon
Brent Ho-Young, CEO of Dream Payments, is hoping the Hartford insurance accelerator can quicken his company's recently shifted business model.

While most insurtech startups come to Hartford seeking connections and later learn of potential funding opportunities from the state, Dream Payments took the opposite tack.

The company secured $10 million in financing, including $1.5 million from Connecticut Innovations, the state's quasi-public venture fund, several months after winning the pitch competition VentureClash in 2016, and opened a Stamford office.

This summer, it restructured its business model, abandoning sales of its payment-processing services to merchants to focus instead on financial institutions and insurers. It laid off a small number of employees connected to the decision, the Stamford Advocate reported in July.

In November, Dream Payments won a spot in Hartford InsurTech Hub's 2019 accelerator. CEO Brent Ho-Young said he plans to set up operations in Hartford as his 22-employee company pursues insurance customers. In an interview, Ho-Young called the accelerator "growth on steroids" for companies targeting the insurance market.

"To use the accelerator as a platform to connect with insurance carriers and prototype or develop new products for them is just a phenomenal opportunity," Ho-Young said. "I think without the accelerator it'd just take a lot longer to get that growth."

He said Dream has already landed its first insurance customer. Early next year, that insurer will launch rapid payout functionality for travel insurance claims, enabled by Dream's technology.

He said there are other insurtech accelerators around the world, but his sense is that Startupbootcamp, which runs the Hartford accelerator, is among the best.

Indian startups make Hartford inroads

After participating in the InsurTech Hub's inaugural class, Aureus Analytics and Pentation Analytics have both stuck around the city for the past seven months, with no plans to leave.

The India-based companies are hoping to raise capital and secure customer contracts in the near future.

Aureus, which uses AI technology to analyze customer sentiment, is in the midst of a pilot program with Travelers and three other companies outside of Connecticut, and recently signed a customer in Texas, according to CEO Anurag Shah.

"In 2019, hopefully we look at putting it into production," Shah said of his work with Travelers.

One of the key lessons he took away from the accelerator was about product messaging.

"How do we present it to [potential] customers in a way that makes best use of their time?" Shah said. "Sometimes we do a great job at technology, but converting it to a language a business buyer relates to is the more challenging part."

Meanwhile, Pentation, which offers analytics software, is working to secure a pilot project with one company and completing a second with another, which it hopes will translate into its first U.S. revenue.

Kamal K. Das, chief operations officer of the 35-employee company, said he expects to recruit several hires for its Upward Hartford office downtown in the New Year. Pentation is also trying to raise $2 million.

Das said InsurTech Hub's mentors gave key advice on product design, branding and the U.S. market, and he credits the program for helping Pentation make connections with new partners.

"The connections we made have brought in leads that we are pursuing for closure," Das said.

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