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Insurtech is booming and the insurance landscape is being fundamentally reshaped. ARMD is a startup that is focusing on a heavily under-protected and underserved community – tradespeople – representing a £6.5+ billion market opportunity in the UK alone.

ARMD’s research shows that less than half of tradespeople have tool insurance, and for those that do, it can take weeks for insurance companies to settle claims, often leaving them unable to work. So ARMD is reinventing the way tradespeople protect their livelihoods using a combination of technology & insurance.

We got to know ARMD’s founder Devin Chawda better in an exclusive interview:

Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and what brought you to start your own business?

I have always had a passion for business and technology, and that has been reflected throughout my career. Some of my earliest memories are of when I lived on top of our family-owned grocery store, and as a child I would often get involved in stacking shelves and talking to customers.

Later my dad started his own shoe factory in North London, so I created a specialist website selling ballroom dancing shoes to the US. This became my first venture as an entrepreneur, albeit in a small way! I then continued to leverage the power of the internet and bring different businesses online.

I had my first major success developing a new way to sell mobile phone contracts online, which at the time required physical contracts to be signed. The success of this then allowed me to start a smart IoT security company, which I then sold in 2019 just before founding ARMD. Ever since an early age the idea of running my own business seemed like a very natural thing to do, and I’ve not looked back since!

How did you come up with the idea for ARMD?

Actually, the idea came to us! We were exhibiting at the Installer trade show for my previous business where we were showcasing our new smart home security products, and tradespeople kept asking if they could use them to protect the tools in their vans. We started to look a bit deeper and uncovered the true scale of the problem.

Then after some further research and focus group work, speaking to literally hundreds of tradespeople, we realised that a deterrent and smart alarm was only part of the solution, and the main problem was not being able to work. It then became our mission to not only better protect, but to get these people back to work as quickly as possible. ARMD was then born!

What is ARMD in a nutshell and what are some of its features?

In a nutshell ARMD exists to better protect tradespeople and their livelihoods. We are doing this by creating an ecosystem of technology products that can be used independently, thus creating multiple entry points and revenue streams for the business, or when combined provide superior levels of control and protection. Our unique proposition consists of 4 core elements:

  1. Record – A free tool inventory app for tradespeople to digitally record their tools.
  2. Protect – The ARMD Guard smart van alarm (launching 2022).
  3. Insure – Digital tool insurance that’s easy to buy and submit claims.
  4. Replace – An online shop selling over 20,000 tools from the major brands.

Can you tell us a bit about the insurance sector you’re targeting and the opportunity for growth?

The initial sector is tool insurance, which we believe is fundamentally flawed from the perspective of both the tradesperson and insurer. Currently there is a massive protection gap for tradespeople with 54% having had tools stolen but only 44% having a tool insurance policy. There are multiple ways to help protect the circa 3 million tradespeople in the UK and we are starting with tool insurance as that’s where the immediate problem lies, however we can expand in a few different directions including other complimentary insurances, strategic partners and expanding into other countries.

What has been the biggest learning for the company so far?

There have been quite a few learnings so far and I’m sure there will be many more! One of the standout ones is the level of mistrust and just how badly let down tradespeople feel. I recall on an early Zoom focus group a plumber mentioning that he gets up two or three times every night to check on his van from the bedroom window, waking up at even the slightest noise. He felt vulnerable and didn’t know what else to do to combat the spate of burglaries in the area. All the others in the group were nodding in agreement. This issue is literally stopping these guys from sleeping!

Ultimately suffering a loss whilst not being properly protected affects individuals from cash flow right through to their mental health. Tragically the suicide rate in construction and the trade sector is one of the highest of all, and sadly it’s increasing.

What part of ARMD’s journey are you most proud of?

Winning the 2021 Insurathon competition from Norton Rose Fulbright was fantastic validation that we are building something special, especially given the calibre of the other finalists. However nothing quite beats the feeling of those first few customers coming through the site or app and buying our insurance when we finally opened the doors to the public a few weeks ago.

We worked very hard for a long time and the result is a unique proposition that includes features that even large multinational insurance companies have not been able to deliver, such as digital tool claim submission. And of course the fact that our customers, the people we built it for, love it and have really positive things to say about us.

How will proceeds from this funding round be used?

Predominately the funds will be used to build our next generation of product and accelerate customer acquisition. We have a number of exciting sales partnerships underway in both the insurance and trade sectors so we’re eager to get those up and running. As only 4 founding team members we have achieved a lot with our MVP within a relatively short amount of time, and we are able to do significantly more with the additional planned resource. 

When you’re not working, what do you do in your spare time?

Running an early stage business and having a young family means I don’t seem to have much spare time nowadays! However whenever I get a chance I love to run. I’m lucky to live in a part of London that is near to the river and some beautiful parks, which makes it even more enjoyable.

What has been your biggest lesson in being an entrepreneur?

There is no substitute for hard work. Rarely does anything special come easy and unless you’re prepared to fully commit and throw yourself in, you’re limiting your chances of success.

If you could give some advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Enjoy the ride. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day throes of life, especially as a startup founder, but be happy and thankful for what you have achieved, which is very often a lot more than you think.

Thanks for chatting with us Devin! ARMD has had a super successful campaign being 123% overfunded, raising £369,230 from 203 investors. The campaign is closing soon but there is still time to join them and invest!