Suddenly people were flocking to the site and placing orders, they didn’t know what was going on at first. Then they realized they had sold some Camaros with a $30k-$40k loss on each. That was a sobering lesson for him.
Along those same lines is another story he shares. He had access to the company’s pricing model (the same company), and whenever you made changes to the model it would effect the prices directly on the site. One day he made a change to the pricing model that he thought was correct and it wasn’t. The change he had made had set all the prices on the web site to -$1, which was not what he had intended. He made that change at 5:30pm one night, and then proceeded to leave the office.
He was away from his phone for the next few hours, but when he came back he had 7 voicemails from people trying to revert his change. His co-workers had figured out the pricing model was not revertable and they had to reconstruct it from scratch. He learned very quickly the importance of a staging model!
After hearing those stories, I asked Meetesh as a CTO now how does he deal with his employees when they make mistakes like that? He says honestly both of those experiences taught him things he couldn’t have learned faster if someone else had told him. Those mistakes were probably some of the best things for him.
As a result, he now wants to create a culture where people are not afraid of failure. People should be able to fail within reason, and our jobs as leaders is to create the balance so they don’t fail spectacularly and they learn from those failures. He tells his team no one gets punished for making an honest mistake. If the mistake is made out of negligence or if continues to be repeated then he will talk with them, but no one is punished for making an honest mistake.
From there we move on to talk about his company, The Zebra. He describes the company as being Kayak for insurance. They started in the car insurance vertical. They are a search engine to help connect consumers who are looking for auto insurance with insurance carriers. Surprisingly there hasn’t been a real player in this space even though other industries have had something similar for 15 years now.
Prior to The Zebra, insurance had primarily been a lead gen, spam-filled space without price transparency. What they are trying to do is cut through all of that and provide value to consumers by educating them much the way Turbo Tax or Credit Karma did on complicated subjects.
In addition, they are striving to connect these same consumers, now better educated on insurance, with insurance carriers that are the best for them without them having to call and/or enter all their data in four or five different places. These educated consumers are now more valuable to the carriers because they are the right match for the carriers, and the carriers retain these consumers as customers longer and they are happier.
Today we talk more about how they work with carriers before we switch to diversity in hiring, a topic that is important to Meetesh and to his staff at Zebra. Tune in to hear him talk about how they hire non-STEM staff, how it benefits them and much more on this edition of CTO Studio.