While pursuing his EMBA degree at the Robinson College of Business in 2009, Van Wilberding also served as senior manager of global threat analysis for The Coca-Cola Company. He constantly interfaced with Filippo Marino, director of intelligence and executive protection for McDonald’s, which was and still is Coca-Cola’s biggest customer.
“I had to suck up to him a little bit,” Wilberding laughed.
Toward the end of 2017, the men went into business together. Their company, Safe-esteem, is poised to seriously turn the duty of care and travel risk management industry on its head with the introduction of Safe-xplore. This patented technology allows executive protection and travel risk professionals to objectively quantify risks to business travelers across the dimensions of crime, accidents, and health. The latest version includes COVID-19 risk metrics and analyses.
Safe-esteem also is developing a mobile app to help consumers make smarter, safer decisions. Individual users can chart the course of their day based on when risks are projected to peak. They can adjust their commute time to avoid a car crash or change their walking route to grab lunch, evading sketchier streets. From an organizational perspective, professionals across departments and functions can build a common understanding of their greatest threats. Because of that mutual awareness, leadership can engage in focused, productive conversations on how to address risks like violent crime, communicable disease, and traffic accidents.
“This allows businesses to manage human capital risk in a much more effective way,” Marino said. “If your staff members are required to travel to an unsafe area, you can change your policies and procedures to encourage remote meetings.”
Why is this so disruptive? For starters, Safe-xplore is exponentially more accurate than similar products on the market. The platform harnesses data from the World Health Organization and national as well as local government agencies, providing hyperlocal detail down to the neighborhood level.
“The legacy approach would rely on a nominal scale that is subject to interpretation, and make
blanket assertions that, for example, the cities of Chicago and Paris pose medium risks. That kind of pseudo-quantitative assessment understates actual risk,” Wilberding said. “The truth is that one neighborhood in Chicago might be safer than another neighborhood in Paris. We give people objective insights, not subjective nonsense—and we do it in a cost-effective way.”
Which brings us to Safe-xplore’s other disruptive trait: affordability. The big players in the business-to-business risk management arena launched their solutions in the '90s, when the development and implementation process was much more expensive. Investing in a full-blown data center is no longer necessary, now that tools like Amazon Web Services are available.
“We created a pricing model that fundamentally removes the barrier to entry,” Marino said.
Conceiving a great idea like Safe-xplore is one thing, but bringing it to market requires special acumen. Wilberding learned to speak the language of business through the EMBA program. His marketing strategy coursework forced him to think like the customer and ultimately decide what features to include in product lines. And the classes he took with risk management and insurance faculty enabled him to view enterprise risk management through a business lens, and to grasp how technology can be leveraged by multinational corporations.
“It is crucial to have business plans that are absolutely bulletproof,” Wilberding said. “My EMBA from Robinson equipped me with the ability to analyze and articulate strategic plans to potential investors.”