Josh Jackson ’17 G’19 is on a mission to make dental care affordable and accessible

Josh Jackson at a 2019 Blackstone LaunchPad – Techstars Propel event in NYC

We live in an age where traditional practices are becoming faster, smoother, and more efficient. Contacting your aunt across the country once required a piece of paper to travel 3,000 miles. Now it takes a tap of a button. Similarly, trading used to require a phone and a broker. But now, on-line trading has never been simpler. Today, seamless connections allow individual investors to react to the market within minutes. However, there are still practices which are slow and inefficient. One of them is the dental insurance industry.  Josh Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Promptous is about to change that.

Jackson graduated from Syracuse University in 2017 with an undergraduate degree in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He then completed a master’s degree in information management in 2019 from the School of Information Studies.

“I’ve always had a passion for technology,” he explains.  As a technology enthusiast, pursuing a master’s degree at the famed iSchool was a logical choice.  “I would look at the course catalog and think ‘this is amazing,’ and when I went on the iSchool I felt very much at home with the professors and the classes.”

Jackson was in a blockchain management class during the spring semester of his first year in the graduate program when he conceived of the idea for Promptous.  “It was around March that we formulated the idea at a very high level, and then crystalized it over the May to June time frame.” Jackson, along with a cohort of fellow tech enthusiasts, including co-founder Phil McKnight, banded together to work on creating a company that summer, incubating at the LaunchPad in Bird Library.

“We found that there was a big gap in the dental insurance market,” he recalls.  Jackson had grown up in the dental industry, and had spent seven years working in a practice, and saw first-hand the problems facing patients, providers, employers and insurers.  It was a complicated system.  And, as he learned, that meant that about 74 million Americans have no dental insurance.

“Promptous’ mission is to help create an ecosystem where going to the dentist with benefits is an affordable, frictionless, and outcome-based experience for members,” says Jackson. “Our platform allows employers to easily set up fully customizable and self-insured dental benefit programs with automated claims and reimbursement workflows. This approach combined with our ability to leverage consumer data, allows us to help build dental plans that enhance traditional value for oral health needs while lowering overall group costs.”

Promptous solves major problems and inefficiencies which exist in the current dental insurance industry.  This leads to substantial differences in total dental spending estimates based on “market” versus “actual” fees. Employers that provide dental benefits for their employees through an insurance carrier pay on average 30% a year more than self-funded employers. Additionally, organizations which provide dental benefits through an insurance carrier have difficulty communicating procedure cost and cost breakdown in a timely and easy-to-understand format. This failure to transparently communicate cost in a timely and easy-to-understand manner results in claim denial, unsatisfactory claim payment, delayed payment, and legal disputes for dental providers.

“Promptous has developed Policy Hero as a web and mobile platform that gives employers and their insurance brokers the ability to create customizable, high value, pay-as-you-go, group dental benefit programs,” he says. Once enrolled in a plan, Policy Hero gives employees the ability to get real-time coverage estimates from their elected dental plan, submit claims, and reimburse their dental provider, from a health reimbursement account (HRA), using Promptous’ issued physical and virtual debit cards. The platform is fully integrated with the DenteMax PPO network giving Promptous members access to treatment discounts and a growing network of more than 260,800 dental access points nationwide.

Jackson and the Promptous team did extensive research as they built the platform and learned that patients, providers, employers and insurance brokers loved the solution.  Working with Syracuse-based OneGroup, they continued to build out both their product and their value proposition.

Promptous is now testing its beta with OneGroup and is beginning sales on its B2B software as a service (SaaS) platform. A live HIPAA-compliant beta test is receiving rave reviews. The company recently received seed investments from LaunchNY and CenterState CEO through The Tech Garden. “We’re excited to have Launch NY and CenterState CEO be part of our team and have their support for our mission. For us, they are the perfect regional partners that can help us achieve a true social impact here in CNY.”

Policy Hero is being embraced by insurance brokers across the northeast. “We’re chatting with many brokers who are interested in engaging at the completion of the beta test. They are interested in having a cutting-edge new product offering like this to offer.”

Jackson credits this success, in large part to the resources at Syracuse University and its innovation hub, the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars.  “I love the LaunchPad and its mentor-driven model. Promptous wanted to build something that can grow and scale very fast, and the LaunchPad helped provide resources, expertise and connections to do just that.  It helps turn student ideas into real companies.”

For Jackson, Promptous is more than just a dental coverage platform. It is a fusion of his passion for technology, social impact, venture development, and a way to make sure that people across the country have access to affordable dental care.  It is a way to make people’s lives better while doing what he loves.  It is what keeps him coming back to it every day, just as excited and driven to make it a success.

Story by Krishna Pamidi, LaunchPad Global Fellow