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Tampa-based Software Startup Expands Into St. Pete




Like all inventions, VIPSoftware was born of necessity.

When the St. Petersburg-based intellectual property management firm's co-founder and CEO James Makris moved to Florida from his native Canada in 2006, he went through an acquisition process with a former company.

"He walked through the due diligence and compliance that was related to having a company put up for sale and acquired by someone else,'' explains VIPSoftware Chief Marketing Officer Matt Dreger. "Through that process, he worked with lawyers throughout Tampa -- including another co-founder -- in developing a process called VerifIP.''
 
This was the earliest version of the product that would develop into VIPSoftware.

"We discovered that our product didn't fit just within the intellectual property niche, but actually had to do with multiple business operations. So that's where it evolved into what we have now -- collaborative products,'' Dreger says.

In 2013, the company began to hone the product for select industries where its expertise could shine –- namely, the property and casualty insurance industry.

"We're going through a small evolution, really defining our product and market in terms of the products and solutions we offer,'' says Dreger.

From VerifIP to VIPSoftware

The company, which was housed at Tampa Bay WaVE in Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa for over two years, opened doors to a new corporate location in downtown St. Pete at 433 Central Ave in early January 2014. It also rebranded from VerifIP to VIPSoftware.

"We felt a new corporate name would better describe our current visions and solutions that we are bringing to market within insurance,'' Dreger notes.

Along with a new address and name, the company is also launching a new website, which "coincides with the more specific solutions that we've developed, specifically around the property and casualty agencies,'' Dreger notes.

Some things don't change, however: "We're keeping some of our developers at [Tampa Bay] WaVE, actually, because there are great benefits of the developers being able to bounce ideas off of entrepreneurs and to talk to other people that have a really strong technical background. That environment can be very beneficial to them, for new ideas and fresh perspectives.''

Dreger, who graduated from the University of Central Florida, previously worked at Tech Data, which is based in Clearwater.
 
He says, "I'm bringing in a strong go-to-market strategy and perspective in terms of 'what are the targets, how are we going to communicate, and how are we going to move along the customer experience?' ''

Streamlined Software

In the insurance market, customer experience is big.

"Customer attention and engagement is key,'' Dreger notes. "With the wealth of information available to consumers today, it's really important for insurance companies to engage customers and to ensure that they keep them as policyholders.''
 
The other pain point is diversification.

"A company in a state like Florida writing a lot of checks for claims in the event of something like a hurricane could potentially be wiped out. They're likely looking to diversify across different states,'' Dreger notes. "What we offer is agent and partner portal solutions as part of the collaboration process.''

The primary market for VIPSoftware's product is underwriters, who collaborate with policy-holders, agents, and/or claims management companies, and insurance agencies.

Key elements of the product include business collaboration, such as the ability to interact around a specific document or frame in one central stored location, and document management -- keeping documents up-to-date and uniform at all levels and ensuring that they are up to state standards. Agents and partners can access VIPSoftware tools from anywhere at any time.

"A single location for critical documents is really important from a compliance standpoint, for adjusters,'' notes Dreger.

Insurance companies that change a product or the way it is sold must submit documentation and compliance requirements for approval. Regulations and standards vary from state to state, so maintaining the most recent version in a single database helps clients streamline, Dreger says.
 
VIPSoftware's product is Web-based, cloud-based technology. The company also offers customers personalized, tailored mobile applications, complete with customized alerts, patent and trademark filing deadline reminders, and intellectual property auditing.

"The goal is to do everything you can for your customers and to differentiate yourself in the market by your products and your services,'' Dreger says. "And the hope would be that we are going to continue to grow.''

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer and editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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