Justin Kozak (Founder, Shield)

Justin Kozak joined Founder Shield to take on the challenge of structuring insurance solutions for emerging industries. With a focus on management, professional, and casualty lines of coverage, Justin has helped his clients secure tailored insurance programs focused not only on protection but also on growth and scalability. With expertise in mobility, IP, crypto, and financial services risk Justin has emerged as a thought leader in the industry today.

Image: Justin Kozak
Image: Justin Kozak

Can you explain your job to a five-year-old? 

My job is simply to help venture-backed companies find the right insurance. 

So, that could be anything from any type of business insurance, from technology related to MedMal to employee-centric to protecting the board of directors. Any sort of risk that a venture-backed company might face. We are on their side. We represent them. We go out to insurance companies and craft a risk management program for them.

What excites you most about your job?

So what excites me is really working with innovators. We focus primarily on venture-backed companies from infancy stage to fully mature, making exits, going public. We really see companies across the whole life cycle. I would consider these people trailblazers and just to have the opportunity to work with them, support them, and create relationships has really opened my eyes beyond evaluating risk as an insurance guy. So, from a business sense that's a big part of what I do, it's a huge kind of benefit to me personally and professionally to just see what makes these people successful, to see firsthand what they're putting into their life's work, the devotion that it takes to build a company really. So, the thing I like most is the people and just being a part of the impressive things that they're doing.

Which trend will change the future of medicine? 

So, this is probably a really common answer. I wouldn't say it's just going to change moving forward because I know that it already has caused impactful change, but I would absolutely say AI. 

The ability to better utilize and understand data will make things like diagnosis, communication, R&D just increasingly more effective over time. I'm not an AI expert, but it's all about data when it comes to that. So there could be a lot of positive momentum around those areas in the medical space. Also, it'll allow the best medical professionals, say doctors, to spend more time focusing on what they do best—on the patient's experience and roadmap to health and living a healthier, happier life.

And it also allows these medical professionals to just continue to stay on top of trends and new discoveries within the space and the field. It's probably changing at a faster rate than ever in terms of just the amount of knowledge and progress that has been in the medical space. So staying on top of that is probably not easy compared to, say, 20 or 30 years ago when it moved at a slower pace. So I think AI probably makes that a lot easier and allows doctors to be more effective in continuing to evolve.

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated? 

So for me—and I'll speak from a personal perspective as, a consumer or potential patient—I would say the rise of telemedicine and virtual care. For me personally, I never saw myself in that experience prior to the pandemic. And I think the rise of the remote virtual culture throughout the pandemic, it's pretty clear that there are great benefits to it, including accessibility. For a lot of people, it's hard to get to the doctor, whether it be because of location, a busy schedule, having to take care of their kids, or having a high demanding job—whatever it might be.

So I think that, throughout the pandemic, I've started to actually see it. Because prior, I would’ve had to experience it myself to really understand. It clearly was a vital part of health and wellness throughout that kind of remote world that we lived in for a few years. And we honestly, frankly, are still living in it.

Some of our fastest-growing clients are in that space. We've seen that growth, starting with the pandemic and throughout it, and that continued growth now. 

Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention? 

I have to give a shout-out to one of our longer-standing clients, and they are—not to be too focused on it—in the telehealth space. That would be a company called Spring Health. They are a comprehensive mental health platform that's accessible through employers and health plans. 

There's a lot of options for remote mental health support but I strongly believe in how they're making it accessible through a benefits package, which really encourages people to utilize it rather than more of the direct-to-consumer options. I think It's probably much more likely that people will actually adopt this and utilize it. 

I think we're really losing the stigma around mental health support. I think it's become much more widely accepted and acknowledged as something that's really important compared to even 10 years ago. So it is important that people continue to adopt this. 

And like I said, we're still very much in kind of a remote society, particularly with the workforce. So, I think. with the absence of peers, support can feel really far away. People a lot of times are sitting by themselves every day. Having accessibility to this kind of platform through your employer in today's world I think is just really important.

So I think there can also be a snowball effect to that. We talked a little bit earlier about how people are the key ingredient to a successful business. Or I'll even say, successful company culture, which leads to a successful business. This could make for happier and healthier employees and increase employee retention.

Their mission is really great, being focused on mental health. I think that their business model of going through employers is a really great way to highlight what they do and the positive impact that it can have.

And ultimately, being in the venture-backed community, I want to see all of my clients thrive, right? Building a company is really hard and building a strong team is really hard, but this is something that can help this space continue to grow and be successful. It's something I really care about.

Where would you put a million dollars? 

I'm not diabetic, but I've had a lot of experience with people in my life who suffer from diabetes. I've been exposed to some of the challenges around that. And there are people who have taken the bull by the horns to manage it on their own and take advantage of what resources are available.

But just given my exposure to a community that has to live their life in a little bit of a different way than I do based on that disease, I would like to find a pretty impactful company to invest in, just as something closer to home. 

I do have a client called Perry Health which is focused on that as a telemedicine platform as well, around real-time monitoring of blood sugar levels. I'm very happy to be able to work with a company that's focused on that particular area. But with a million dollars, given what I've experienced through my life with people that I care about, I would fund a company like Perry that would be impactful in that area. 

What's the best advice you've ever received? 

So for me, it would be just to be yourself.

Again, it's a remote world today. I think people want and crave a genuine relationship these days. Especially with so many products and services, like you're talking to AI or robots or answering machines and everything like that. So it allows us to build trust, which I think is becoming more and more important for the reasons that I stated.

I do think things AI is great for a more efficient digital experience. I don't think it's going to replace humans. That opinion, I think, is pretty popular. But ultimately, like I said, I don't believe that. I think the human connection—particularly in medicine—is needed. We're certainly seeing advances in our industry from an insurtech perspective, but, I still have clients who, in certain situations, need me on the other end of the line. So, I think tech advances will bring us to places in medicine—in any industry—that we can't really go on our own, but relationships and trust in an ally will be the backbone of continued progress.

So, I’ll be myself, be a human being, create personal relationships. And so far, it's worked for me. I love that advice that parents give a lot to their kids. 

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