Meet EaseCentral, a five-year-old cloud software startup that aims to help insurance brokers modernize their operations.
Strictly speaking, the San Francisco-based company doesn’t compete directly against Zenefits. Its self-declared mission involves modernizing systems used by existing employee benefits and insurance groups—primarily those that serve small and midsize businesses. In other words, it wants to help existing brokers compete more effectively against Zenefits’ cloud-enabled insurance brokerage services.
“More than 15 years ago, I was one of the first to adopt online technology for employment benefits enrollment and communication,” writes founder and CEO David Reid in the company’s blog. “It’s an understatement to say that a broker’s need for effective software has only grown since then.”
Reid’s co-founder is Courtney Guertin, co-founder and CTO of Kiip, a mobile rewards network.
In an interview with Fortune, Reid admitted it’s tough to have a client discussion without Zenefits coming up, but he categorizes his strategy as “fundamentally different.”
The EaseCentral service addresses tasks such as automated paperless enrollment and employee onboarding, Reid said. Like Zenefits, the service uses profile data from third-party payroll services.
“We can work with any vendor to make sure that the platform is integrated with whatever payroll system that employer uses,” he said.
After a test in Minnesota, EaseCentral has concentrated initial sales on California. It currently serves about 1,000 brokers representing more than 10,000 employers and 300,000-plus employees.
This week, EaseCentral disclosed $2.1 million in seed funding led by Freestyle Capital. Those funds will fund the expansion of a customer support organization in Las Vegas. EaseCentral is also eying additional markets including Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas, Reid said.
“While companies like Zenefits have grown incredibly quickly by bypassing the legacy structure, another massive opportunity likes in providing user-friendly software to these very brokers,” writes David Hirsch of Metamorphic Ventures, which also was part of the seed round.
As of late June, Zenefits claimed more than 10,000 customers. Last year, it generated around $20 million in revenue and as of May its valuation was around $4.5 billion. CEO Parker Conrad told Fortune sales could quintuple this year. The biggest current threat to its strategy: a defamation lawsuit by payroll provider ADP.
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