You may be unaware that the seedling for Decent started more than a decade ago, while Nick Soman, Decent’s CEO and founder, was unexpectedly (and fortunately temporarily) paralyzed.
During that experience, Nick pledged to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Having great access to healthcare at the time he was paralyzed was life-changing for him. After founding another company and consulting for many others, he learned how inaccessible health insurance is especially for small businesses and self-employed professionals. Nick wanted to change that — and the idea for Decent was born.
Today, Decent makes health insurance affordable for small businesses, a group that employs half of America but is often left with expensive and mediocre healthcare options for covering their employees.
Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with Nick and Laura Lorek, founder of Silicon Hills, and the Ideas to Invoices podcast, where he speaks about why Decent exists. Check out the entire podcast by clicking the image below or here (Apple or Spotify).
Laura: More than a decade ago, you were learning to walk again after being fully paralyzed by an illness called GBS. And you say a lot of your motivation to start Decent came from that experience. Can you tell us why you founded Decent?
Nick: When I had Guillain-Barré syndrome or GBS, I went from a fully functional 30-year-old adult human to not being able to walk to being on a breathing machine so that I needed help to breathe. And I really had to think about the fact that I was going to die for the first time in a significant and honest way. And I don't wanna die.
I'm laying in a hospital bed, I'm fully mentally functional, and I thought I can't control as many things in life as I wish I could. I had a lot of time to think while paralyzed in a hospital bed. And I started thinking, well, what can I control? I can control how I spend my time and decided I only wanted to work on something I really cared about.
And I'll even take it a step further. My real bar was that when I start companies, I want them to be meaningful enough to make me cry and ultimately, that's what's behind Decent.
I am the only one in my family who's not a primary care doctor. That's not hyperbole. That's my dad and my mom and my sister and my aunts and my uncles and my grandparents. And I decided not to go down that road in part because I watched my parents get less happy over time as they entered leadership in a managed care organization and had to think as much about things like insurance as compassionate patient care. I saw upfront the tired look on my mom's face when she would come home after long hours, my dad saying sharp things at the dinner table about whether the folks who worked on the insurance side really cared about the patient. I care very much about my parents and care very much about human beings, and making healthcare more affordable is very meaningful to me. So that's why I started Decent.
Laura: And what has been your biggest win so far? What have been your proudest achievements?
Nick: It's really about the people that we've been able to serve. Decent evolved a little bit through the time that we launched. And, well, my greatest win came out of the time of greatest pain for the company.
When originally launched, we were exclusively serving self-employed people and we were doing it in Texas, which is where we've been for the last four years. And we came to market with an ACA-compliant health plan that was 40% cheaper than market average rates, people really loved it. The self-employed people we were serving gave us a net promoter score of 79 in an industry where the average is 14. We were so proud. The greatest wins are when I get to feel like we're doing our job and we're getting closer to our mission and we're taking care of people.
When I say that the greatest sort of proud moment came out of the greatest pain, well, unfortunately the law changed on us — we were told by regulators that we can't serve self-employed people anymore because of this change in federal law. That was very heartbreaking at that moment.
And what happened is that we got messages and emails and phone calls from the people that we were looking to serve. You can actually find some of them online. I wrote a blog post called Decent has to stop offering affordable health insurance to self-employed people in Texas, and they wrote in and they were grieving with us. Honestly, I was so proud of that because I thought, wow, we've built something that not only is helping these people the way we wanted to help them, but they're really gonna miss it. And that's why we're really dedicated to continuing on this mission of finding another way, not only for that group but really for everyone. And now we can serve small businesses with at least two employees get that affordable health insurance that I think is really important for everybody.