Peter Colis co-founded Ethos in 2016 because of what happened to his co-founder, Lingke Wang. He went through a bad experience with life insurance in college, where he was “upsold on an expensive life insurance policy he didn’t need and couldn’t afford.”
While trying to resolve the matter, the two of them realized that this experience wasn’t unique to Lingke. They found that a good number of Americans actually “don’t know enough about life insurance, or have the right coverage for their families.” So, Lingke and Peter Colis started Ethos.
At Ethos, Peter Colis works as the CEO. They enjoy capital backing from Sequioa, Accel, Google, and Goldman Sachs, which have reached more than $100 million.
Peter Colis and Ethos value “clear thinking, intellectual honesty, continuous improvement, all-in commitment, teamwork, and self-awareness.” As they serve their clients, the company works hard to “be world class and to conduct ourselves with the highest integrity.”
At Ethos, Peter Colis leads the team in using “predictive technology to quote life term insurance rates in about 10 minutes via its app.” The app also “verifies applicants’ self-recorded data with their actual medical and pharmacy records, requiring no medical exam for most buyers.” The company’s policies are also “designed specifically for its platform,” and they have “level premiums for 10 to 30 years and cap out at $1.5 million in coverage.” These policies are available in every state but New York.
More important than being right, is how you make people feel. Peter Colis, Ethos
Jerome Knyszewski: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Peter Colis: We launched less than a year ago in June 2018 and are growing so quickly that we’re onto our third office in less than a year. This growth is inspiring to us, that people are excited about what we’re doing at Ethos and want to be a part of this shift in the life insurance industry. Lingke and I are constantly evaluating how we can improve on what we’ve started here — everything from product strategy to how we take care of our people. One of the ways we do this is actually by heading out to a park near our office to unplug — no phones or laptops — to get into a different headspace and just spend time brainstorming new ideas.
Jerome Knyszewski: Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
Peter Colis: I was working in account management at an advertising agency in Chicago at the beginning of my career. My responsibilities there afforded me invaluable insight into not only managing people but getting the best out of them. This position required me to be responsible for the work of team members who didn’t report to me, so I had “indirect authority”. This indirect authority taught me a lot about leading by motivation and respect versus authority and orders. More important than being right, is how you make people feel. I try to emulate that at Ethos every day.
That personal passion for this idea you’re bringing to the world is a major driver of its success, but you have to remember to invest in yourself outside of your business.
Jerome Knyszewski: What advice would you give to other people in the insurance field to thrive and avoid burnout?
Peter Colis: This advice is more so for founders, but it’s relevant for any industry — and something I certainly experienced building Ethos. It’s difficult not to let your emotions and identity become one with your everyday business successes and failures, especially when you’re just starting out. That personal passion for this idea you’re bringing to the world is a major driver of its success, but you have to remember to invest in yourself outside of your business. A few things have been excellent for me: I meditate frequently and am an avid chess player.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Peter Colis: I stand on the shoulders of giants. My father, George, has been my biggest supporter since day one. He pushed me to expand my view of what was possible, that I could accomplish a great deal with focus. Still today, he is often my first call when I need great advice.
I would make life insurance a public service. Peter Colis
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Peter Colis: I would make life insurance a public service. Every family deserves protection and it’s unfortunate that not every family can afford it, meaning people have to gamble on the financial security of their futures. Life insurance as a mandatory public service and safety net system would mean no family would ever have to make that difficult decision.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Peter Colis: Follow me and Ethos on:
- Twitter: @getethoslife
- Facebook: @ethosinsurance
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!