STARTUPS

Austin firm The Zebra -- the ‘Kayak for car insurance’ -- doubling staff size, moving HQ to East Austin

Posted July 10th, 2018

The Zebra, an Austin company that last year raised $40 million and has been backed by Texas billionaire Mark Cuban, has big plans for 2019.

The Zebra says it expects to double its workforce from about 100 employees to 200 by the end of 2019. And next summer, it expects to move into a new 40,000-square-foot set of offices in a newly constructed five-story building at 1801 E. Sixth Street.

This company’s growth has come under the leadership of Keith Melnick, who was named CEO of The Zebra last year. Melnick -- one of the founders of the popular travel-reservation site Kayak -- steered The Zebra toward focusing on creating a real-time search engine that shows actual quotes for buying car insurance and scaling that business, rather than expanding to other kinds of insurance, although that option could still be in the company’s future.

TheZebra.comThe Zebra is an Austin-based startup that offers quotes comparing more than 200 car-insurance providers.

Of its plans for 2019, Melnick said: “With the new office space, The Zebra will customize our ideal environment for attracting and retaining the best talent in Austin. The new location has the perfect mix of exciting East Austin energy, accessibility for all commuters, and proximity to the best of what downtown and the East Side have to offer.”

The Zebra has been housed at the top two floors of a building at 98 San Jacinto, next to the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, since 2016. Its offices feature a rooftop terrace that overlooks a large chunk of downtown. The company has been touting its employee perks as it ramps up hiring, including monthly maid services, an in-house barista, employer-paid health premiums, commuter benefits and unlimited paid time off. 

The startup launched in 2012 in Pittsburgh but relocated to Austin in 2013 with funding from Silverton Partners. It allows users to search for car insurance from more than 200 companies; it makes money on those referrals and does not feature insurance ads on its website and is not backed by insurance companies. The company has said it’s trying to disrupt the $220 billion car-insurance industry. 

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