The Incubation Period
Almost immediately after BerniePortal 1.0 was up and running, Alex and Brian’s brokerage customers began using it and gave valuable feedback on how it could be better. From 2009-2014, Alex took that employer feedback and worked directly and exclusively with the team in India to continue to improve upon that first version of BerniePortal.
The 11.5-hour time difference between Nashville and India suited him perfectly—he worked as a health insurance broker in Nashville from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and worked with the team in India late at night or in the early morning hours.
The health insurance brokerage, Bernard Benefits, grew dramatically during those years, partly on the strength of offering BerniePortal as part of the brokerage’s services package. That was how Alex and Brian were able to justify continuing to invest in the software. This was the “incubation period” for BerniePortal, as only employers who were employer clients of Bernard Benefits were able to use it. This allowed the team to focus on getting things just right before rolling it out to a wider audience.
In preparation for that, in 2014 Alex hired BerniePortal’s first developer in Nashville. He also traveled to India for the first time to meet and work with the team there in person.