Nick Soman, Co-Founder and CEO of Decent

More than a decade ago, Nick Soman was learning to walk again after being fully paralyzed by an illness called GBS.

His motivation to start Decent. which provides affordable health insurance, came from that experience.

“When I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome or GBS,  I went from a fully functional 30-year-old adult human to not being able to walk to being on a breathing machine so that I needed help to breathe,” Soman said. “And I really had to think about the fact that I was going to die for the first time in a significant and honest way.”

Soman didn’t want to die. He realized he couldn’t control as many things in life as he wished he could.

“I had a lot of time to think paralyzed in a hospital bed,” Soman said. “I started to think what can I control? I can control how I spend my time.”

He decided he only wanted to work on something he really cared about.

“My real bar was I said when I start companies, I’m not interested in working on something unless when I think deeply about the problem, we want to solve it, it’s meaningful enough to make me cry. And ultimately that’s what is behind Decent.”

Soman is the only one in his family who is not a primary care physician. That includes his dad, mom, sister, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Soman decided not to go down that road primarily because of the problems his parents encountered with insurance companies when they were treating patients.

“My greatest win came out of our time of greatest pain for the company,” Soman said.

Decent came to market with a health plan marketed to freelance workers that was 40 percent cheaper than market rates. Then a federal law changed and that meant Decent couldn’t serve the self-employed market anymore, Soman said.

There is a movement afoot that could potentially open that door again, Soman said.

“I really miss that population,” he said.

It may not be this year or next year, but Decent plans to find a way to serve that market again, Soman said.

Decent also recently won a  Muse Creative international design award for its in-house Small Business Monsters marketing campaign. Decent has put the campaign monsters on billboards around Austin. The monsters include personifications of all the frustrations that come along with being a small business owner like the Red Tape Worm monster or Paperwork Pest or Nickel and Demon. Decent helps companies offload their payroll, HR, and benefits frustrations.

Also, Decent recently announced a partnership with One Medical, the concierge medicine startup that was recently acquired by Amazon. Decent now has the only health plan in the country with One Medical as an in-network primarily care option.

The pandemic also had a big effect on Decent’s operations.

Self-employed people didn’t have insurance and more people bought insurance from Decent when COVID-19 was happening, Soman said. Decent also saw a massive spike in virtual primary care services, he said.

Soman said he talked to his parents a lot about tailoring Decent’s healthcare options to fit the patient’s needs. He recently lost his mother and that’s been tough on the entire family. As a primary care physician, she helped him shape Decent’s products along with his physician father. The right role for insurance is not to be dictating someone’s care, Soman said. It’s to stand in the background and be that safety net and make sure customers get what they expect, he said.

Decent has about 60 employees, Soman said. The company last week laid off a few employees to cope with the turbulent market. But Decent plans to hire strategically as it begins a national rollout next year, Soman said.

“Which is by far, the biggest thing we have coming,” he said.

Every signal company that has been on Decent’s healthcare and PEO plan has chosen to renew, Soman said.

“Once we get people this care, we are taking of them,” he said.

Decent has raised more than $50 million to date, including a series that closed in December of 2021.  The company doesn’t need to raise money for some time, Soman said.

For more on Decent, please listen to the whole podcast, pasted below, or on iTunes, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, Player.FM, iHeart Media, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.