Online health insurer targeting younger Australians wins top business award
A Melbourne-based online health insurer targeting younger, internet savvy Australians has taken out one of the top honours at the 21st Telstra Australian Business Awards in Sydney tonight.
Born out of the personal experiences of Chief Executive Andy Sheats, who believes that having to travel in-store and fill out complex paperwork should be a thing of the past, health.com.au won the national Start-Up Award.
Tasmanian artisan cheesemaker Bruny Island Cheese Co. was named the 2013 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.
health.com.au has set out to re-invent health insurance for younger and healthier Australians. Since its launch, it has become one of the nation’s fastest growing health insurers - already attracting about 40,000 customers in this highly competitive market.
With an online background working as a senior executive with realestate.com, Mr Sheats said product innovation was critical to the company’s success and was shaped around clarity and transparency so customers had a greater understanding of what they purchased.
“We started health.com.au because, as members of the big corporate health funds, we found it really hard to make sense of our own health insurance policies even though they cost us thousands of dollars,” Mr Sheats said.
“We think just popping into a store to make a claim and do paperwork is a thing of the past, since it means 30 minutes fighting traffic and 20 minutes jostling for a carpark – we just thought there had to be a better way.”
Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said the 2013 national winners and finalists were even more diverse than recent years, reflecting the weakening of mining-sector driven growth.
“There were more technology-based solutions coming from the finalists this year, more gender diversity in the finalists’ leadership, and a strong focus on substance and sustainability, both economically and in the broader social and environmental sense,” he said.
“health.com.au is a prime example of a company embracing technology to turn an established industry on its head. Targeting the 25 to 35 age group, the business is the epitome of a first-class start-up. The judges said it had incorporated brilliant innovation in its business model, applying the Internet effectively to the health insurance industry.
“The judges were impressed by the focus on staff development and integrity, and, by being well-funded, it has great growth potential and a very exciting future.”
The winners of the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards are:
health.com.au, Melbourne, Victoria
ENIQUEST, Warana, Queensland
Starting with little funding and operating from a small tin-shed, Don Pulver has built Eniquest into a successful Australian manufacturer of power generation products. The business, which develops unique and highly innovative products that are immune to overseas competition, has grown from humble beginnings to now winning contracts with some of Australia’s largest organisations including the Australian Defence Force, BHP and Toll Australia. Judges said the company started operating in Australia when local manufacturing was contracting and the company now has significant exporting opportunities.
Small Business Award
Bruny Island Cheese Co., Bruny Island, Tasmania
A 10-year odyssey through France, Italy, Spain and Australia to fulfill his obsession with artisan cheesemaking led Nick Haddow to Bruny Island to establish his own specialist cheese and agri-tourism business. Bruny Island Cheese Co., which uses traditional techniques to make its range of cheeses, has grown through using direct marketing channels such as email and social media and its own cellar door retail outlet. Judges said they were impressed by its innovative business model – artisan traditions using local produce, manual techniques and craftsmen combined with latest technology in packaging, marketing and sales.
Medium Business Award
Becker Helicopter Services Pty Ltd, Marcoola, Queensland
Starting from a rundown tin shed, Mike and Jan Becker launched Becker Helicopter Services in 1995 in Noosa and its academy is now internationally recognised, attracting both civilian and military personnel, employing 70 people and operating 18 helicopters. Being the first civilian helicopter training academy to offer Advanced Night Vision Goggles training, which had previously been the domain of military aviators, has been critical to securing multi-million dollar international contracts. Judges said that with seven centres across the Sunshine Coast, the husband and wife team had displayed a tremendous passion for flying which had evolved into a company that specialised in training allied forces and night vision goggle flying.
iKOU, Blue Mountains, New South Wales
iKOU founders, husband and wife team Naomi and Paul Whitfeld, were stunned when a national retailer ordered 1.5 tonnes of their bath salts only weeks after they launched their wholesale spa product range in 2008. Today, their 500-strong product line featuring natural home grown skin care and body products, candles and organic herbal teas can be found in world-leading hotels and spas including Six Senses Luxury Resorts which operates throughout Asia. Judges said the company had displayed a very clear and focused vision from the outset and a passion for a profitable yet ethical business approach. It had been astute by mitigating its risks through diversifying from retail into premium hotels.
Telstra Australian Business of the Year
Bruny Island Cheese Co. , Bruny Island, Tasmania
For more information about the Telstra Australian Business Awards or to nominate for the 2014 Awards, please visit the Telstra Business Awards website.