‘Raise twice the amount of capital you think you will need’

EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist Mark Dowds of Trov

Having sold his previous company and put himself into a position where he was suddenly ready for a new challenge, Mark Dowds established Trov in 2012 to create the world's first on-demand insurance platform. Now its chief strategy officer, Dowds is responsible for the company's growth as it expands internationally. Its mission: to enable banks, technology companies, retailers and car manufacturers to deliver digital insurance solutions for new and emerging risks.

This isn't his first foray into new ventures. Over the past two decades, Dowds has helped get a plethora of ventures off the ground in Canada, the United States and Northern Ireland. He's also the co-founder of Ormeau Baths, a technology hub in Belfast that hosts 200 entrepreneurs focused on tech, gaming and film.

Dowds was previously an investor in Bullet Time Ventures, an early seed investor in companies including Uber and Twilio and he is currently an investor in Anthemis Venture Fund.

But his focus at present is targeted at growing Trov which, having received $115 million in capital investment, appears to be on the upward path.


What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Partnering Google to power the insurance that sits behind their autonomous vehicle fleet.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

The most memorable “back-to-the-wall” moment was when we decided to double down on building an insurance platform with the financial backing of a strategic partner. We staffed up, refocused the company, and then the promised financing disappeared. We overcame the moment by staying true to the right direction and believing we would succeed. On the other side of it, we are more valuable as a company for losing the promised financing.

What were the best and the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

Worst piece of advice I ever had (early days and pre-Trov) was from an investor who told me to just focus on delivery and not worry about capital. Best piece of advice I ever had as an entrepreneur was that my role hinges on the art of mitigating risk.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have received $115 million of capital investment since we started the company to enable us to grow aggressively and internationally. The majority of our capital has come from strategic partners within the insurance industry, which is a hint towards our future success.

Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?

Trov started before the hashtag “insurtech” was coined. Over the past seven years, we have definitely felt the change within the industry and are continuously trying to sail where the wind is strongest.

What is the one piece of advice you would give Government to stimulate the economy?

Invest in technology and entrepreneurship skills at a high-school level. I am often shocked by how sheltered young people are from the real skills they need to succeed in an experience economy.

What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make and what is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Most entrepreneurs believe that if they work hard, they will win. It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. I would encourage every entrepreneur to step five years into their future, assume success, and then structure the company and capital requirements accordingly. Hire the best people in the industry and raise twice the amount of capital you think you will need.

What motivates you to keep performing at your best?

I believe that our world can continuously improve if we give our best to the people around us. I want to be a living example of how vision can shape reality and how generosity can inspire a better future.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business