Limitless Possibilities Podcast Episode 7 with Bill Meara

July 22, 2022
Limitless possibilities podcast
In this episode, your host, John Pelle, Director of Communications at Acrisure, is joined by Bill Meara, President of Acrisure Cyber Services. Bill is an established entrepreneur across multiple lines of businesses, with a passion for building unique "360 solutions" that create value for customers.

 

Bill's entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to Acrisure, where he leads the Cyber Services Division. In this episode, he dives into Acrisure's unique cyber services offering, talks about the value of teamwork and "thinking creatively," and provides an inside look into how the Cyber Services Division plays a critical role in the company's continuous and exponential growth.

 

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Further Reading:

Acrisure.com

Acrisure on LinkedIn

 

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TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

 

John Pelle:

Welcome to the Limitless Possibilities Podcast. I'm your host, John Pelle and joining me today is Bill Meara, President of Acrisure Cyber Services. Bill, welcome to the program.

 

Bill Meara:

Thanks for having me, John.

 

John Pelle:

So Bill, you’ve been with Acrisure now a few months and joined Acrisure to lead our Cyber Services Division, not Cyber Insurance, Cyber Services, which we’ll get into quite a few times this episode. By background for a long time, you’ve been an entrepreneur with experience across multiple lines of business. In particular, you founded two of the largest US based out-of-home advertising companies. And from 2013 to 2020, you served as the CEO and Chairman of Access Sports Media in partnership with Columbia Capital. So, a thread running through a lot of these episodes, a lot of entrepreneurs at Acrisure, you are among that class. And I’m excited to just get to know you a little bit more and share more of your background and what drew you to Acrisure and what exciting things you have in store for us. So again, thanks for taking the time to be with us today, Bill.

 

Bill Meara:

Yeah, no, I appreciate you having me. I was looking forward to doing this. I’d obviously been following the recording that Graham did as well as Soz and some others. You’re doing a fantastic job. I think it’s really important from a communications perspective for people to get to know others on the executive team on an individual basis, so looking forward to having this conversation today.

 

John Pelle:

Yeah. And I think, at the end of the day, we’re all people. So, whether you’re out there listening as a client, a prospect, a partner, an employee, whoever, we’re all people. And so, getting to know the person behind the business is often the best way to get to know about the business. So I want to start. We chatted recently about your background. You had a pretty interesting first job like a lot of people do, you’re not automatically dropped into a senior leadership position. Tell me a little bit about this out-of-home advertising space. What drew you to that initially out of college and how you found us running a brand new division within a now $23 billion valued company?

 

Bill Meara:

Yeah, of course. Great question. And certainly feel fortunate to be at Acrisure. I’ve always had that entrepreneurial DNA from being a young kid. I grew up playing a lot of sports and in the summertime, I’d run makeshift lacrosse camps for kids and find ways to make a few dollars to get me through the summer. So I always had that drive and interest in building businesses. I was at Trinity College in Connecticut, my senior year and I was making the trek into New York City and interviewing for investment banking jobs. It was funny. I was coming back from my final interview and I was taking the subway and I was just noticing all of the advertising on the sides of buildings and billboards and ads on buses and trains and trolleys throughout the city.

 

Bill Meara:

I had a, I would say, “Come to Jesus moment”, about, “Hey, I’ve always had a passion for media and advertising. And I feel like I’m a relatively decent business development person.” I took a big leap of faith. We started an outdoor advertising company at the time, which was Meara Media, which transitioned into Vector Media with just a laptop. I just started reaching out to transportation companies. The first one was New York Water Taxi in Manhattan. It took commuters from Uptown all the way to Wall Street. We sold our first campaign to American Express. We transitioned from there to the double-decker buses that you see in Manhattan that take sightseers around and we would sell those to the movie studios, fully wrap buses with ads for the movie studios or fashion companies or whatever it may be. And so, we had literally no capital. The only capital that we had was from selling advertising. And so, it was a big leap of faith. Very difficult at times, but turned out to be a very successful nine figure top line revenue business in about six years.

 

John Pelle:

And now, you’re running a Cyber Services Division in one of the biggest insurance broker FinTech companies on earth. So, how on earth did you get from where you started to this? And I’m assuming there were a lot more dots to connect that got you here and affinities between what you started in those businesses and what you’re doing today.

 

Bill Meara:

I think it’s a good question. I was named the CEO of Access Sports Media in 2014. Access Sports Media was an up and coming sports digital media technology company. And so, when I stepped in the company was bleeding cash and employees were ready to walk out the door and there was no strategy, but we had partnerships with a hundred pro sports teams throughout the United States. And so, the idea was how do we pivot this really quickly. Instead of just selling very specific ads in stadiums, let’s create this 360 degree solution where we can go to national brands and we can sell them a sponsorship within major league baseball or the NBA or the NFL where they could get social media through the players, experiential marketing, signage that you see on TV, scoreboard integration, data and analytics versus selling a one trick pony. And so, it was a difficult undertaking, but I think we came up with a strategy that was a differentiator.

 

Bill Meara:

We changed the dynamics financially from burning cash to 1600% EBITDA Growth. And we added a lot of employees and increased our typical ad deal from $60,000 to $400,000 a deal. We worked with pretty much every Top 100 Brand in the world. And it really happened because we realized quickly what we had, wasn’t enough. And then I transitioned into an operating partner role at Abry, which was one of the original investors in Acrisure. And again, there’s this pathway to eventually meeting Greg and him understanding and I think, valuing people with a lot of different backgrounds to continue to push the narrative at Acrisure that we want to continue to be limitless, we want to continue to grow, we want to continue to expand.

 

Bill Meara:

I think one of the really cool stories about Acrisure is that you have this convergence of small businesses. Entrepreneurs who actually went out with limited resources, started their own agencies were very successful. When I say very successful, we have criteria to acquire agencies. And that’s financial criteria that are, it’s impressive. The businesses that we acquire, they’re performing at a high level. Those operators, those entrepreneurs, those founders, had what it took to be diligent, aggressive, creative, entrepreneurial and build companies that are now part of the Acrisure Ecosystem. And so, for me, thinking about the opportunity to come here which was obviously a different path in the cyberspace than I had traveled in my career, I just love the makeup and the ethos of Acrisure as a company.

 

John Pelle:

So you’re in these companies, you’re founding them, you’re running them, selling them. Most importantly, you’re growing them. What is your philosophy for growing a company and really Cyber Services, to go back to that division? It’s a company within a company, as cliche as that might sound. It is a division that necessarily supports the sales force, the partners and the business. How do you bring your philosophy that you establish in those organizations and what are you doing to bring that in house now?

 

Bill Meara:

So, that’s a fully loaded question, but I will start with the foundational answer, which is in all of the companies that I’ve been involved in running, whether it was Vector or Fuel or Access Sports Media, I expect everybody to think creatively and to figure out ways to drive revenue and to add products to our portfolio or offering that are synergistic, that can add additional value for our customers. And so, anybody from account management to marketing, to sales, to technology, to finance, we all work as a collaborative group and always have. And the amount of opportunities and leads or ideas that have come in from people outside of sales, within our companies that have actually matriculated into new revenue opportunities, I would say it would probably be about 20% to 30% of the overall revenue that we generated from those companies. And so, when you think about Acrisure, and you think about the entrepreneurial spirit in a business like Acrisure Cyber Services, which frankly was a very small company that was acquired Protos 15 months ago, and renamed Acrisure Cyber Services, is essentially a startup.

 

Bill Meara:

We had a disaster covering data backup business, and that’s a very competitive space. And I think we all believe that there were a lot of other assets, resources, talent, experience, products within Acrisure, specifically the technology group with Sulabh and Jorel and Anthony and people like that, who had built this incredible technology offering on the cyber security side, where we could actually come together and become very quickly overnight, a more diversified, expansive business that had an incredibly broad set of clubs in our bag. And so, the only way that would’ve happened is for people to check their egos at the door, realize that this is a massive opportunity. The cyber security space will grow from $157 billion this past year to $500 billion by 2028. We’re in a very unique situation in the fact that we have two million plus clients that we can bring a resource and solution to help protect their businesses. We have an immense bench of talent.

 

Bill Meara:

And so, everybody coming together as one, was a major factor in taking this small foundational element. And like we talked about the other day, finding the walls to put up, and let’s find the windows to put in and who’s going to put the roof on. Who’s going to answer the door? All of those things to building a much bigger house. And that’s honestly what we’ve all been focused on, what we’ve all been doing between Michael Amaral, as our Chief Revenue Officer and Adam Abresch finding the tie that binds between cyber security and cyber insurance, which it’s really the cyber resilience story that we continue to talk about throughout the Acrisure world. It’s a unique situation and the fact that it had a startup feel to it, but there were a lot of puzzle pieces laying around and we just needed to figure out how to start putting them together.

 

John Pelle:

So from an Acrisure partner standpoint, one point that I know you drive home quite a bit, and that we continue to drive home as a company, is Cyber Services is not Cyber Insurance. So, maybe if you could just distill that for our listeners. Really, if you could crystallize, what is the Cyber Services offering that you had mentioned and I love a good name drop. So, Jorel, Anthony, that team, Mike, Adam, Queena. Those folks are building and collaborating, working on a solution. What is the solution? And then I want to come back to that for any clients or prospects out there, because Cyber Services is dominating headlines. I want to cover off on how a client can get engaged, but let’s start with the solution itself Bill, and just explain at its highest level what does it entail?

 

Bill Meara:

Again, when I arrived here, it was taking a look at what we actually had in place. What our assets were. What our solutions were. In understanding what else we required in order to actually be able to execute our go to market strategy. And so, I think one of my strengths is always being able to understand what I don’t know and then learning as quickly as I can. One of the first calls that I made was to Sulabh and he tied in Jorel and the team. And we started talking about what they do on a day to day basis within their technology group. And what we learned was that their view was how do we construct a security blanket offering that wasn’t revenue driven, John. I think that’s a really big thing to make clear. They wanted to create a security blanket offering that protected our employees and our APs. You know, a collateralization of the best cyber security products in the world.

 

Bill Meara:

Whether you’re talking about phishing or whether you’re talking about malware, or data backup and disaster recovery, cloud security, all of those things were bundled into an offering that we call security blanket. It consists of products from SentinelOne, Rapid Seven, Abnormal Security on the email front, Silverfort which is a multifactor authentication platform, which is basically required by every cyber insurance underwriter today. And so, what we realized quickly was they had created this incredible security offering that we had the opportunity through conversations that they coordinated with those businesses, to bundle, package and resell to our clients and the external marketplace, that offering. And so, what you’re talking about essentially is a security solution that’s a Ferrari, you can essentially buy at the same price as a compact car.

 

John Pelle:

Why is that? Because this is an interesting piece too, that we’ve discussed before, I think. The access, the deployment, but I think the cost is also worth hitting on in that analogy.

 

Bill Meara:

Of course. Yeah. So, those companies that I mentioned are already vendors of ours. We’re a client of those companies. SentinelOne has 8,000 clients, we have 2,000,000. And so, there’s a huge market opportunity for them to collaborate with us, get their product out there at scale, continue to make very good margins on their business and give us the opportunity to bring their solution to our clients and create success stories and case studies. I think one of the elements that sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that the universe within Acrisure is enormous. Whether it’s our 14,000 employees in the access to the types of people and leaders that they have access to, or our two and a half million clients. All of those clients, essentially, should have cyber security, and they should also have Cyber Insurance.

 

Bill Meara:

And so, for us to be able to take a product into our universe and sell mass scale for those companies in the Cyberspace that I outlined, it’s a massive opportunity for them. And so, we were able to negotiate attractive economics that work for them, work for us. I think more importantly you have, again, collateralization of eight to ten products that are going to protect a business at a lot of different touchpoints. And if a small company were to go to all eight of those vendors and try to negotiate on an individual basis and then have a technology team to monitor and support those efforts, you’re looking at easy seven figures.

 

Bill Meara:

Now, what we’re bringing to the table and frankly, I don’t know of another company in the world that can offer this right now, you’re looking at us becoming and transitioning already into a MSSP and MSP in delivering value and a service and platform in expertise, in product, in protection that’s unmatched on a global basis when you think about it from a monetary perspective. It’s coming together with this 360 degree view of the world and how we all help each other create value because the great thing about Acrisure is that we have a lot of employees that are major shareholders in the company. And the ways to diversify and scale the $23 billion valuation to 60 or 80, is to monetize and grow other parts of our business.

 

John Pelle:

So, I think to really just drive home the point, it sounds like getting… If you’re an Acrisure partner or if you’re a potential client really, there’s not one business on this planet that can say, “You know what? I’m not going to worry about cyber protection.” I mean, you mentioned that the implications on even getting Cyber Insurance now, everything is so intrinsically connected to your ability to be and show that you are protected. Bill, I think you really did an amazing job as you do explaining why you are the person in the role, which I think that’s such an intriguing part of all of our leaders. There’s not always the light bulb moment, like this is the right person for the role. It’s really understanding the background where they came from, what makes them perfectly suited.

 

John Pelle:

And, I just think your entrepreneurial roots and just figuring out solutions, finding the teams and building the teams that can create great, strong, growing companies is extremely evident in your background. I’m personally very excited to see where this business goes. Fittingly the name of this series really is Limitless Possibilities, because everyone we’ve had on this program has a very unique take on what that means. Whether it’s personal, whether it’s business focused, whether it’s a hybrid. And I’m just really curious Bill, I got to ask you, what does limitless possibilities mean to Bill Meara?

 

Bill Meara:

For me, it’s all about thinking creatively about areas that we can pursue as a company, come together as one and build value for each other. In addition to that, positioning ourselves on a domestic and global basis to offer clients risk mitigation opportunities to protect their businesses and their families and their employees. And I look at that as our main job. Limitless to me means we know where we are today, where are we going to be tomorrow, and how do we all think about that? How do we all work together as one and brainstorm, and bounce ideas off each other, and pick up the phone and call somebody that you may have never met before within the company, because you know that they’re experienced in a certain vertical and you want their opinion on something or an idea. And so, it’s not the status quo. It’s what are you doing?

 

Bill Meara:

My vision is, “What are you doing as an employee here, as a partner here to help all of us create a lot more value for us collectively?” And so to me, that’s the goal here is that we get everybody thinking that way, everybody actually going out and executing, working with each other. That’s how we grow the business 2X, 3X, 4X, whatever it may be. Greg said it before, he looks at it we’re in the second or third inning. I think, people would see the size of the business, say, “Wow, you really only think you’re in the second or third inning?” I agree with him. I think that there’s a massive opportunity for us that people will create internally at Acrisure by working together as one.

 

John Pelle:

Awesome. This is Bill Meara, President of Acrisure Cyber Services, resident, culture guru, entrepreneur and overall team player. So Bill, thank you again for taking the time out of your day to share more about your division, your background. Again, all contact information links will be on the episode page. That email was [email protected]. I’m John Pelle and just think how could you be limitless today. Thank you, Bill.

 

Bill Meara:

Thank you.

 

John Pelle:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Limitless Possibilities Podcast. Follow Acrisure on social media and subscribe to the podcast to stay tuned for new episodes. We want to hear from you. So send us ideas, questions and suggestions for future episodes to [email protected].

 


 

Important Information:

For additional information, please visit our website at Acrisure.com. Products or services identified herein may not be available in all jurisdictions. The information and descriptions contained herein (a) are not necessarily intended to be complete descriptions of all applicable terms, conditions, and exclusions of the policies referenced, (b) are provided solely for general informational purposes, and (c) should not be viewed as a substitute for legal, regulatory, or other advice on any particular issue or for any particular reason. The advice of a professional should always be obtained before purchasing any insurance product or service, and you should not rely on the information provided herein for the prevention or mitigation of risks or as a full and complete explanation of coverage under any insurance policy. While the information contained herein has been compiled from sources believed to be reliable, no warranty, guarantee, or representation, either expressed or implied, is made as to the correctness or sufficiency of any representation contained herein.

 

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