Mechanical Engineering, Marine Corps and Marketing Chops
Meet Vertafore's VP of Marketing, Ben Deda
Ben Deda has successfully embedded himself in the Mile High City's entrepreneurial scene. With stints at FullContact and Galvanize and a co-founding credit for the launch of Denver Startup Week, he made the leap to 40-plus-year old Vertafore, an institutional insurance player last year. He says his military experience provided him established for him the necessity for a shared mission within an organization, and how to quickly pivot with limited information.
We recently had the chance to pick Deda's brain about life in Denver, what it takes to succeed and if insurance is boring.
COLORADOBIZ: You served in the military. What branch? What lessons proved most valuable from that experience in your professional life?
BD: I spent seven years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer and a recruiting officer. The biggest things I took from my time in the Marine Corps were the importance of developing your team, having a shared mission and understanding of the leader’s intent, how to quickly make decisions with limited information, and the impact of doing the hard stuff all the time. Needless to say, these lessons transcend the military and have been incredibly impactful in my professional life.
What was your educational background: First jobs?
My degree is in mechanical engineering, but I’ve never worked a day as an engineer. I was commissioned into the Marine Corps immediately after graduation. My first full-time civilian job was as a Plant Manager for TruStile Doors here in Denver.
What brought you to Colorado?
My wife’s sisters had moved to Colorado and it was on our list when my tour of duty in California ended. There was an opening at the Marine Corps recruiting station in Denver and my wife could transfer with her employer, so we thought it was a great chance to come here. We’ve been in Denver ever since.
You worked with high-profile local companies including FullContact and Galvanize? Can you describe some specific memories/skills you’ve taken away from those experiences?
I worked with a great team of people in what was sometimes a challenging environment, but we always managed to build real value for our customers and employees. When we closed our first major customer at FullContact, the entire team - which was less than 10 [people] at that time – celebrated together. Graduating our first data science cohort in Denver at Galvanize was another one that stands out. We ran into a number of challenges along the way, but seeing students get the job of their dreams made it all worthwhile.
You worked to help launch Denver Startup Week. Why was this important to you? What has changed the most about the community’s startup landscape and what are the greatest challenges/opportunities in Denver and Colorado at large looking ahead.
FullContact had just come out of the TechStars program in Boulder and opened our new office in downtown Denver. The team had experienced a powerful feeling of community in TechStars and didn’t have the same in Denver. We knew there were great people and companies doing great things so we thought it was important to bring them all together at an awesome event.
The biggest change in the community has been the size of it. In 2012, you pretty much knew every startup. Now there are ones I am learning about every day that I never even knew existed. That’s great, but it does provide the challenge of keeping a larger community connected. Thankfully the “give first” mentality is being maintained. We never want to lose that because I think it is what truly sets us apart.
Describe your first contact with Vertafore? What intrigued you about this company?
I was introduced to Vertafore through Vista Equity Partners, who I was introduced to by Andre Duran at Ping Identity. The idea of a software company that has been around for over 40 years and has massive market share going through a major transformation was very intriguing. I met the executive team at Vertafore and was really impressed and knew I wanted to join the team
How would you describe Vertafore’s competitive edge in the insurance industry? How is this industry at large evolving?
Vertafore partners with the entire insurance distribution channel in a way no one else does. We help connect agencies and carriers so they can provide a great experience for their customers and be more efficient in their jobs. The industry in evolving just like the rest of the business world, where customers expect great user experiences even if they are buying personal or commercial insurance policies. This means that providing better connectivity and eliminating non value-add work to allow more time with customers will become even more important.
Describe your role with the organization? What are current projects, mandates, goals looking ahead for you within the company?
I lead our marketing team and our partners team. Our job is to build brand awareness, brand engagement and generate demand by telling the Vertafore story and building long-term relationships with our customers. Right now, we are focused on getting continuous feedback about what is important to our customers, crafting the right messages that communicate how we can add value, and figuring out the right way to get those messages to our customers at the right time. Our goal is to be the trusted technology partner for the insurance distribution channel and help them build the business they want to build.
What myths would you like to dispel about your current industry?
There are a number of narratives that the insurance distribution business is going away or that it is a stodgy and boring industry. There are a number of changes in the industry that are creating challenges and opportunities. Companies that have a growth mindset are going to be able to take advantage of that and create tremendous value. This also creates great job opportunities for people. Insurance is about providing trust and security so the economy can function and grow. That’s a great thing to be a part of and you can do so in a role that combines relationship building, problem solving, and working with great technologies. That’s definitely something someone new to the job market or looking to make a change should check out.