CTO Sessions: Joel Friedman, Aclaimant

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? “I'm too curious of what could happen over the coming years to dismiss something as overhyped.”


Name: Joel Friedman

Company: Aclaimant

Job title: Co-founder and CTO

Date started current role: September 2013

Location: Chicago, IL

Joel Friedman is the CTO and co-founder for Aclaimant, an insight driven workflow solution for risk and safety management. His educational background and years of senior software developer roles have given him the knowledge and experience to excel as an innovator, team leader, and expert in the field of insurtech. As a versatile and experienced developer, Friedman co-founded Aclaimant and developed the first version of its claim resolution management system. As CTO, he continues to contribute to the growth of Aclaimant by expanding and managing the development team and refining its unique offering.

What was your first job? My first job was delivering newspapers. I started delivering the local weekly paper while I was in middle school, and then moved up to delivering it daily.

My first job after college was with a trading firm called DRW Trading Group. I worked with DRW for five years as a senior software engineer.

Did you always want to work in IT? My professional career has always been in software development. However, growing up with a father in IT and an older brother who was just as interested in following in my father’s footsteps, I wanted to do something different and get my law degree. After starting college, I realised that I truly had a passion for the technology industry.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2007. In 2019, I was recognised as one of the Top 50 Tech Innovators in the United States by Intercon because of my contributions to the Insurtech industry.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Although I have worked in several different companies and industries, my roles have always aligned with computer science and IT. My education and work experience have always revolved around using programming to make people's lives easier.

What type of CTO are you? My management style is hands-on. In order to be an effective CTO, I make sure I understand the machinations going on within all departments at Aclaimant, not just the development team. Having a holistic understanding of every employee's function is necessary as CTO. Additionally, being closely tied to the day-to-day helps me feel grounded.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I am interested in any emerging technology that can improve the lives of its users. My interests are not restricted to any industry; however, the continuous improvements and research being done in the fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence paint a promising future.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Technology is an infinite expanse of improvement and functionality! I'm too curious of what could happen over the coming years to dismiss something as overhyped.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? As a cloud-based platform that hosts clients’ data, security is extremely important to us. One of my initiatives over the past year was to make Aclaimant SOC 2 Type 2 Compliant, which certifies us as a company that follows strict security and confidentiality guidelines that ensure the protection of customer data.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? The current claim reporting and management workflow in the insurance industry is completely antiquated. It involves stacks of papers that never get filed, faxes that are sent and never read, and a glut of disorganised data. Aclaimant has transformed the industry by centralising, streamlining, and optimising these out-of-date practices so that users can manage claims comfortably and efficiently.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Most of our customers have to balance their time between different systems, vendors, and data sources. Aclaimant centralises that process so that it is a one-stop-shop for all risk management needs.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Aclaimant has a team of customer success managers that are constantly receiving feedback from our clients with suggestions for improvements and new features. Our product team takes the feedback and designs the technology around the business goals of our users.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? These two facets – product/service strategy and tech strategy – are irrevocably related. We do not consider one without considering the other.

What makes an effective tech strategy? The most effective strategy is to develop solutions that apply to our entire customer base. Constant improvements in speed, security, user interface, and functionality are the cornerstones of our technology.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As the role of CTO continues to progress, I believe there are a few areas in which CTOs will need to focus an increasing amount of their time on.

Security - Not only are the laws around the security and privacy of information collected changing frequently, they are also numerous as states and countries are forming their own that have slight differences. To compound this, the number of systems companies are using is increasing year over year.

Vendor Selection / Procurement - A lot of this goes with my security comments above. As systems increase and security measurements do too, the CTO must be continuously aware of how these two forces interact. This starts at the selection/procurement process but continues through the life of a vendor.

Data and connectivity - With the influx of various systems across an organisation it is imperative that the data can be shared between them. Data is the key to many organisations and having them siloed within a system without connectivity can be a challenge for the entire organisation.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest career achievement was co-founding Aclaimant. It is not just about the company that Aclaimant has become today; while that is part of it, what I truly consider the greatest achievement of starting Aclaimant is the people on the team that have helped make it possible.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would not change anything! Learning from mistakes is necessary for personal and professional growth.

What are you reading now? I am reading a few books right now, all related to science fiction or dataRiding one of my bicycles, building or fixing things around my house, and spending time with my family.

Most people don't know that I… met Bill Gates and even got to speak with him for a few moments about what he’s most excited about in technology.

In my spare time, I like to…a job which takes a special person to be able to shape the minds of the youth.

Ask me to do anything but… Teach kindergarten. My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and I have learned that it’s science.