Take Brazil, for example, where there are nearly 280 million mobile phones for 200 million people(yes, more than one per person). By offering affordable micro-insurance plans to the lower middle-class and poor communities in Brazil, CQS International can bring a peace of mind to individuals who never previously had that luxury. And by getting customers to install an app, the company can analyze personal data to offer consumers the best insurance rates possible, or customized insurance products right when they need them.
Nobrega didn’t stay quiet about his idea. He shared it, and it caught the attention of an investor in Hong Kong who made an initial investment, along with commitments for further investments based on CQS International meeting certain milestones.
According to Nobrega, acquiring this initial capital was the most demanding process, and part of his success came from an ability to confront dozens of “No’s” before a single “Yes.” Perseverance was key, but Nobrega also says listening was essential. Potential investors often give an entrepreneur a reason as to why he or she said “No,” and entrepreneurs can use this information to revise their pitch before contacting the next investor.
Team Building and Calculated Risks
The initial investors validated CQS International’s potential, and Nobrega went to work putting together what he calls “The best team in the world.” For many budding businesses, building a successful team is a science. For Nobrega, effective team building mirrored his experiences in the Special Forces, where he says, “A team is everything. A team is family.” Some of Nobrega’s criteria for a successful team included:
- A 24/7 mentality and energy
- Able to take constructive criticism
- An entrepreneurial mentality
CQS International’s marketing guru Bob Pritchard is the company’s CMO, and a tech firm in Argentina, Inworx, is working with Nobrega’s U.S. technology and innovation team to develop the company’s data platform. Through the team building strategies Nobrega inherited from the military and the expertise of his core team, Nobrega and CQS International were able to collaborate on new methods to move into the Latin American markets.
According to Nobrega, “We went into Brazil and originally the idea was simply to go online, which would have been a nonstarter. We could have set up a website, done all sorts of digital marketing, and it would have taken years to make traction–if we ever did.”
Daniel Heuri, head of CQS International’s Brazil platform, and Pritchard saw an opportunity to accelerate the company’s visibility in Latin America by acquiring brokers in local markets. To recruit brokers, Nobrega and his team decided to host a VIP event where they invited key investors and brokers to the Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida.
CQS International was low on funds at the time, and it would have required an $80,000 investment to create an event suitable to introduce the company to its audience. It was, according to Nobrega, an investment that many entrepreneurs would not gamble on, because if it didn’t work, there wouldn’t be much left for plan B. However, Nobrega was confident investors and brokers would see the value in CQS International and the expertise in his team. It turned out to be a wager that paid off. The event brought CQS International its Brazilian broker, two Argentinian brokers, key investors, and a strategic partner at Liberty Mutual.
The Future of CQS International and E-Insurance
CQS International, now valued at $170 million, went live in Brazil on March 6, 2015, but this is only the first step. Similar demographics and insurance demands in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico have prompted CQS International to bring its micro-insurance platform to these markets. In the summer of 2015, Nobrega plans to reenact the Boca event in Hong Kong, and then launch in Asian markets, specifically Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. But ultimately he knows the big opportunity is China. “If we crack China,” Nobrega said, “Then it’s game over…in a good way.”
Despite successfully entering the Brazilian market and building CQS International, Nobrega remains humble and focused on simpler pleasures. Commenting on his company’s success and prospects for the future, Nobrega said, “Who knows where it will go from here. Right now I’m happy to have a house and a car, and not have to sleep on a couch anymore.”
Joshua Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong.