Being a rabbi and an entrepreneur are more similar than you might think. Sam Fromson can explain. The part-time community rabbi at Golders Green Synagogue, Fromson is also the co-founder and COO of YuLife, the revolutionary insurtech company (where insurance meets technology).
Tech-driven YuLife aims to encourage positive lifestyle changes in its users by rewarding healthy living, and turning financial products into a force for good. Fromson co-founded the company with insurance entrepreneur Sammy Rubin in 2016, a year after he took on the role at Golders Green, and says there is a surprising symbiosis between his two careers.
“I feel like the ‘rabbi me’ and the ‘start-up me’ are quite similar, particularly when it comes to building a community,” says Fromson. “As a founder, a lot of ‘start-up life’ is about inspiring people and it’s the same for a rabbi – telling a story and inspiring people with that drive to achieve.”
Fromson, who has a background in finance, believes his training and experience as a rabbi has equipped him with the key skills necessary to thrive as a start-up entrepreneur – and vice versa. “Start-up founders are constantly talking about the mental health challenges they might face, and faith is a powerful component of that – realising that you are not in control of everything. Of course, as a founder you need to put your all into the business, but at the same time we are trained as rabbis to realise that we are not in control of everything and ultimately we are in God’s hands as to whether something succeeds or not, and for me, that’s been useful to remember. For example, you could prepare and prepare for a pitch with high-profile investors and they don’t even respond to you, and then you could meet someone serendipitously, who ends up being a long-term business partner.”
Fromson and Rubin met at a charity dinner. “We got on really well and met up the next day in Orli in Hendon – that’s where the idea for YuLife was born.” The duo spent six hours together talking through a potential model, before going away to write their business plan.
So how does it work? YuLife provides large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) alike with an end-to-end life digital insurance solution and engages with each member. Through its game-style app, users can earn virtual YuCoins, aka “the currency of well-being” for completing everyday wellness activities, such as walking, meditation, mindfulness and cycling, in return for vouchers and perks from leading brands, including ASOS, Avios, Nike and John Lewis. Members can also choose to improve the world through donating to charity, planting trees, or cleaning the ocean.
Today, YuLife is one of the UK’s most successful start-up stories. It is used by over 1,000 businesses, including Capital One, Co-Op, Sodexo, Land Rover and Tesco.
YuLife has expanded into the US and South Africa, as well as into new categories – it has teamed up with Bupa to offer dental insurance for example – and is constantly adding new partnerships to its growing suite of tools. Last year, YuLife more than doubled in size to over 230 team members, aka ‘YuCrew’.
But the mission remains the same: to turn financial products into a force for good. “By doing this we help people live their best lives. And put their health and wellbeing first – inside and outside work.”
The YuLife HQ is in Old Street, London but employees are allowed to work from anywhere. “We have a hybrid working model,” says Fromson. “There are no set days when people have to come. We have two meetings a week for all employees and regular team get-togethers.”
The company is often credited as being one of the best start-ups to work for, with employee wellbeing at its core.
Father-of-four Fromson acknowledges that mental health continues to take its toll on the workforce. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people not working in the UK due to long-term sickness has risen to a new record – more than 2.5 million are not working due to a variety of health problems, with mental ill health particularly on the rise.
Fromson says we need a holistic solution. “Companies can’t support people who aren’t in work getting into work, but they can do a huge amount to support the health and wellbeing of their employees and ensure they stay performing and not succumb to chronic ill health as a result. If you can help your team to stay healthy, engaged and connected then you have a huge advantage – you get the best out of everyone.”
He continues: “From a government perspective, there are widespread social interventions needed to support people in chronic ill health coming back to the workplace. The NHS does a wonderful job of dealing with people with acute problems, but there is so much more that can be done in terms of planning and preventing long-term ill health. We need to encourage people to look after themselves on a daily basis.”
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