Entrepreneur and businessman Neil Mitchell has over three decades of experience in Risk Management, Property & Casualty Insurance and Insurtech.
A co-founder in Player’s Health, he was also an early-stage and Series A investor in the company that specializes in risk management services and insurance solutions for athletes and sports organizations.
In addition to co-founding and investing in Player’s Health, he served as an Executive Officer Board member and was the company’s President of Risk Services & Insurance Solutions. Although no longer involved in the operations of Player’s Health his involvement continues as an active and passionate advocate, investor and shareholder in Player’s Health.
Before stepping into the entrepreneurial arena, for 25 plus years, he served in various client facing, management and leadership roles for Marsh Canada, a subsidiary of Marsh, a global leader in Insurance Broking and Risk Management.
An endurance athlete himself, Neil Mitchell was an Ironman Canada and Ironman USA finisher, and has combined his love of cycling and the great outdoors with philanthropic endeavors such as the Ride for Mental Health, Tour for Kids – Ontario and the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride – Coast to Coast Ride Against Cancer Foundation.
What were you in search of when you co-founded and invested in Player’s Health?
In the half dozen or so years leading to the conclusion of my career at Marsh Canada I had developed a strong interest in the emergence of Insurtech and had the opportunity to attend numerous Insurtech events in the US, UK and Canada.
Those events afforded me the opportunity to meet many Insurtech entrepreneurs, Angels and VCs, re/insurers, re/insurance brokers and subject matter experts who had a shared interest in all things Insurtech. Through those many meetings, events and interactions with like-minded professionals, I began to see an opportunity for an Insurtech that would be able to digitally capture and collect risk and exposure data and use that data to create risk information and insights. This data and insights would enable re/insurers to better identify risk, manage and mitigate risk, segment risk, select risk, underwrite risk, transfer risk and price risk.
That idea became real when I attended an OnRamp event in Chicago. At that event, I met Tyrre Burks and was introduced to a company he had founded called Player’s Health. In the months that followed we began to chart a new course, a pivot, for Player’s Health, from being an injury management application to a niche focused risk services and insurance solutions organization.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I don’t think I have a typical day. I would say that I try to do some form of cardio exercise each day, usually in the morning. I find that cycling or running clears and focuses the mind and creates an energy level for the day. Apart from daily exercise I make a point of having a minimum of three business development calls each day. I really enjoy connecting and networking with people in the marketplace. Being active in business development is critical to finding, validating and acting on opportunities. In business – like sports – I think you have to be actively practicing your craft in the marketplace to achieve some level of success.
How do you determine whether or not you will become involved in a business opportunity as an advisor and or investor?
I’m well aware that there’s a lot I don’t know about a given business opportunity. As such, I’ll spend a considerable amount of time discussing the pros and cons of a given opportunity with others in my network and seek their advice and insights. If the feedback is positive, I’ll then have meetings and discussions with the founder, prospective Angels and VCs, re/insurers, re/insurance brokers and industry colleagues. Everyone has their own unique style and approach for validating or walking away from an opportunity. My approach tends to be, in large part, driven and led by the feedback and perspectives of others who are much smarter, more experienced than me.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The profession and practice of Risk Management is real, effective and necessary. For our planet to face and overcome the challenges of today and tomorrow Risk Management is now, more than ever, a critical operational and management discipline. One needs only to reflect on recent Risk events, such as Pandemic, Wildfire, Cyber, Solar, Drought, Flood…… to know and acknowledge that these risks and many others left unmanaged will have catastrophic effects on our planet, our health, our ecosystem, our economies and our communities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very curious, perhaps to a fault.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Slow down. Ask more questions. Avoid saying “Yes” all the time. It’s okay to say “No”.
Tell us something that few people would know about you.
When I was two and a half years old, I lost my mother due to complications arising from the birth of my younger brother. That was a profound loss. It wasn’t until much later in life with the support of family, very close friends and therapy that I have been able to process and grieve that loss.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Seek out problems to solve. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Be a student of “your game and position”. Engage in continuous learning about everything there is to know about your industry and your focus within that industry. In the world of insurance/insurtech, success will be determined by details and relationships. To have credibility with clients and insurers you need to: 1) know what you are talking about in order to properly advise clients and 2) have trusted relationships with underwriters to arrange the required insurance protection for your clients and to secure claim payments on the most difficult of claims. Details and relationships are the currency for building and maintaining perhaps the most important asset an insurance professional/entrepreneur will ever possess – trust.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Hard to pick one, there have been many. Failure is often the result of making mistakes. The entrepreneurial journey, and life in general, is about living and learning through mistakes. One strategy that I have used to overcome failure is to engage, share and talk through my failures with family, close friends and a professional therapist. Being able to talk about failure openly in a trusted, non-judgmental environment is liberating. There is something very powerful that comes from being open about one’s failures with those you trust. Knowing you are not alone in your life experiences and to find out that others have experienced similar failures creates hope and makes overcoming failure a reality.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Lease/rent land near a suburban/urban area to grow fruits and vegetables and sell that produce to city dwellers who are in search of locally grown food.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My foam rollers. I have a couple of foam rollers that I use before and after cycling and running. In the absence of these foam rollers, I would not be able to enjoy cycling and running.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I like Hubspot. It’s great for marketing and sales. It has a variety of functionalities that enable my personal sales and marketing efforts to be managed in one location. I really like the workflow automation, sales pipeline mapping and performance tracking features. All of these features help and support me through the sales journey.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Into Thin Air,” by Jon Krakauer. If there was ever a great case study for Risk Management (or the lack of it) this account of the 1996 Everest expedition is it. The big goal was achieved – the ascent. Yet the often less talked about, yet bigger goal of a Mountain expedition – a successful descent and return to base camp – is a goal to be planned for and heeded. Plan your work and stick to the plan – through to conclusion. Don’t get distracted by the “shiny objects”.
This book reveals the deadly consequences of flawed leadership in extreme outdoor pursuits. Caution was literally thrown to the wind. All the warnings that mountain professionals take into account were ignored for the sake of personal and professional glory – get to the top. It is so ironic that while Jon Krakauer and others stood victorious on the top of Mount Everest all were blind to the radio calls/warnings from their base camp team and the classic, obvious and observable signs that a deadly storm was bearing down on their expedition. They had multiple opportunities to abandon their deadly pursuit, yet they ignored the signs. This story provides many lessons to be mindful of, regardless if one is climbing a mountain or building and leading a business.
What is your favorite quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- The pursuit of real life experiences and adventures are more important than the pursuit of things and results.
- Family and friends last longer than careers and money.
- Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to step away from convention and routine – it may result in you finding your passion and destiny.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.