Ottawa pro cyclist’s insurance startup ready to shift into gear

Angella Goran says existing plans fail to serve needs of customers with active lifestyles – a niche she plans to fill

Athlete and entrepreneur Angella Goran is taking a leap into the insurance industry with a line of products designed specifically with active lifestyles in mind.

Ms. Goran, a professional cyclist who also founded SokJok – a retail-based social enterprise that sells athletic socks while donating to youth initiatives – was biking coast-to-coast across Canada a few years ago and heard from many other fellow athletes and adventurers about the problems they had encountered while participating in or competing in athletic activities.

“I was hearing more and more people saying, ‘I’ve seen accidents happen, I’ve had my bike stolen, I was travelling to a race but my kid got sick so I had to cancel and lost $2,000’ … It became this repetitive story,” she says.

She came up with an idea: A comprehensive insurance plan similar to a Canadian Automobile Association membership, but specially tailored for people who live athletic lifestyles and whose needs aren’t all met by other insurance plans.

At a tech conference in Toronto this month, Ms. Goran announced the soft launch of her new firm, Global Sports Insurance. The startup, which plans to officially launch in mid-November, will sell a product line called Athletica Protect that covers items such as gear and equipment, accidental death and disability, and travel for athletic events (including rental cars, key loss and ticket refunds).

The plans will be available to customers in Canada and the United States, who will be covered anywhere in the world. They’re offered in a three-tier coverage system, ranging from $300 to $1,200 a year. In February, the firm also plans to add an on-demand insurance line, which will let someone buy a short-term policy at a low rate to cover them for a specific event or to borrow equipment, for example. Athletica Protect will also double as a loyalty program with special offers and benefits.

“You’re getting the membership perks of a program that’s focused on athletics and sports, and then an aggregate of some of the best policies and products that we have in the insurance realm that people who do sports would have to tap into,” Ms. Goran explains.

“If somebody chooses to live an active lifestyle, they’re choosing to do that 24/7.”

Bootstrapped so far, Global Sports Insurance is meanwhile reaching out to angel networks in search of $500,000 in financial capital. More importantly, Ms. Goran says she’s looking for investors who will be helpful partners in expanding the firm’s network and market reach.

The company projects revenues of $1.4 million in the first year, based on a conservatively anticipated 1,000 subscriptions.

“We already know the forecast of the potential behind this product line,” says Ms. Goran. “We will actually profit within our first year.”

The firm has received support from Marc Roy of Sportstats, an Ottawa-based athletic statistics website with an estimated 700,000 members.

Ms. Goran says that partnership will help the company with marketing and visibility. With access to Sportstats’ participant data for major events such as marathons, triathlons and obstacle races, she was better able to give insurance underwriters an encouraging sense of the scope of the company’s target market.

It’s within that niche market that Ms. Goran sees plenty of potential for peer-to-peer network capabilities. Customers who like the plan and have received good service are likely to recommend it to their friends and fellow athletes who could benefit from it, she says.

Establishing and expanding that network is crucial – for hers or basically any startup.

“My background was an elite athlete, so it’s easy for me to reach out to the larger names in my sport for their support,” Ms. Goran says. “You could be in the middle of a forest screaming, but if nobody’s out there to hear you it doesn’t really matter.”