Accelerated innovation: Asia and Europe spotlight

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accelerated innovation

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And…it’s December.

I caught up with a pal earlier in the week who said, “the days are longer and the months shorter”. I couldn’t agree more. Time is flying.

For all those who haven’t been able to get to the shops to buy Advent calendars, never fear, we’re keeping the anticipation rolling with our very own Sønr calendar.

With thousands of people accessing Sønr across 2020, we’re in a unique and privileged position of being able to analyze immense amounts of usage data as to what the industry is really interested in when it comes to accelerated innovation.

accelerated innovation

And so, we’re doing a countdown of the most popular profile pages across the 1.5 million companies we track.

Interestingly they’re a mix of startups and incumbents, ranging from the States to China, and covering all aspects of insurance. Four days in and we’ve had a comparison site, followed by commercial, auto and life insurance.

Before I dive into market news, one of the team shared this with me yesterday. We’re doing some Eastern Europe market analysis for a client and she came across this:

accelerated innovation

Right, let’s get into it.

Health still grabbing headlines
One of the business’s we spent a lot of time analysing is Ping An. Last week I read through a great write up of how a traditional insurer transitions to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s tech giants.

It’s written by IMD in Switzerland and definitely worth a read – In The Field With PingAn.

Key takeaways for me are:

  • heavy and early backing of Cloud technology
  •  1% of revenue investment into R&D every year
  • continuous development and incubation of new tech ventures, two of which have now reached Unicorn status

Keeping with China and Tencent also announced it’s to invest a further $150m in health insurtech Waterdrop; the new funds are to expand its digital platform and bolster technology.

The crowdfunding and mutual-aid platform, which is one of the main competitors to Ant Group’s mutual aid platform, announced earlier this year that it was planning on going public, targeting a valuation of $4bn.

One thing I always enjoy when analysing the Asian tech scene is the sheer scale of their businesses, even those just starting out.

In Singapore, mental health app Intellect is celebrating a double whammy this week just six months after launching – it hit one million users and closed its Seed funding.

Interestingly their CEO, Theodoric Chew, said he founded the startup after seeing funding being poured into similar mental health apps in the US and Europe, and worried about Asia being left behind. I’ve a feeling it might not be too long before we can start bringing some learnings from his business back West.

Across the waters in the US and teletherapy startup Joon Care has raised $3.5m. Not big money at this stage but another really important business – its focus is on the mental health of 13-24 year-olds.

On average, around half of the 50m teens and young adults in the US suffer some form of mental health disorder. During the pandemic, this has increased to 70%, with suicide now the second-leading cause of death in that age group.

The Joon Care app helps teens and young adults suffering from depression, anxiety and stress, by providing easy access to affordable, personalised and digitised mental health care. Definitely a good thing.

Finally, it looks like life insurtech Bestow is set to acquire Centurion Life from Wells Fargo. Centurion has been in runoff for several years and their coverage maps nicely to Bestow’s.

We dug a little deeper into Bestow’s numbers. Since launching in 2017 it has issued more than $10 billion of coverage across 49 states and saw sales increase by around 5x YoY between March and September 2020 despite the pandemic. Not a bad start.

Europe, we still love you
German digital contents startup Getsafe has partnered with GoCompare as it continues to firm up its position in the UK. The insurtech is targeting the 20-35 age group who are demanding digital-first experiences, which Getsafe believe still aren’t being met.

accelerated innovation

Two interesting facts:
1. GoCompare is to be acquired by Future Publishing. The founder of Future is Chris Anderson, the owner of

2. IKEA plans to sell insurance in Germany soon (through iptiQ)

You’re welcome.

Another cross-Europe partnership, this time between Tractable and PZU, Poland’s largest insurer. The partnership is to focus on streamlining its auto claims, 20% of which would previously have required inspection post-repair.

Tractable’s AI system now means PZU can inspect repairs instantly and remotely. The two revealed they have already been working together on the down low since 2018, handling over 150k claims.

I caught up with Adrien Cohen, co-founder and President of Tractable a few months back. If you’re interested in claims, it’s definitely worth a listen/read.

Windward has been doing their bit for UK/Scandinavia relations, with an interesting partnership with Danske Bank. They’re providing them with a predictive intelligence solution leveraging dynamic risk profiling and 10 billion data points for enhanced Sanctions Compliance and Maritime Trade Finance services.

Appreciate it’s not everyone’s thing but I like it.

Finally, another partnership announcement from last week was Generali teaming up with Ticinum Aerospace to develop Deep Property, a solution which combines satellite data with street-level images.

accelerated innovation

Deep Property uses an AI-based report to extract risk-relevant characteristics of buildings, including number of floors, year of construction, and what materials have been used in construction. With corporate underwriting becoming ever more science based, this is a nice play by Generali to strengthen underwriting and claims capabilities.

Auto and the new entrants
One from last week I thought worth sharing was UK’s Caura launching a new insurance product which enables users to search and select a quote within the app, and purchase cover in less than a minute.

accelerated innovation

If you don’t know Caura, it’s worth downloading their app (as long as you’re an iOS user). Their pitch is ‘car ownership made easy’ and is a one-stop shop to manage MOT, road tax, parking, and servicing and now aims to offer a better search-and-buy journey than typical price comparison websites.

Another nice bit of accelerated innovation comes from IMS. Accelerated innovation is a little niche but massively relevant in the world of homogeneous telematics apps.

They’ve launched One App, a new development framework (see video below). The long and short is an insurer can now build telematics capability into their in-market app whilst providing a customised experience to build engagement and loyalty.

accelerated innovation

Last, of all, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned GM launching OnStar; I think this was announced just after I hit send on the last SøNws.

For those who haven’t seen it, following in Tesla’s footsteps, GM is launching its own car insurance, through OnStar, directly to owners. Initially offered to employees, it will roll out to the general public by the end of 2021.

The plan is to offer discounts to GM owners that are part of its Smart Driver Program, which launched in 2016. The telematics service, which already has 7m users, will leverage data on habits such as acceleration, miles driven, and hard breaking to personalise rates.

Above all this what really interests me is who they have recruited to run it – Andrew Rose, formerly Chair and CEO of, owned by Admiral Group. I know Andrew reasonably well and have only ever been impressed by the guy. Hugely capable, entrepreneurial and connected. I can’t wait to see where he takes this.

Cyber hotting up
It’s been a busy week for cyber. A couple that stood out.

International insurance broker Howden is to acquire Safeonline, a cyber and tech specialist. The plan is to bolster Howden’s cyber resources and ‘supercharge’ its growth. Safeonline’s CEO Chris Cotterell, will now become the Chair of Howden’s cyber division as its scales its presence in the US.

And Coalition, the cyber insurtech set up in 2017, is enjoying fast track growth as it doubles its annualised premium revenue to $100 million.

They’re an interesting company to look into with a pretty mixed book of clients. Their USP is they don’t simply base an assessment on what a client submits on a paper application; they electronically scan a company’s devices for RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) 65,000 times a week.

In May these guys secured $90m funding at a $900m valuation. Not bad in 3 years, right?

That’s all from me folks. Keep well and safe.

As always, shout if you have any questions or want to talk about how we might help you drive growth and opportunities.

I was hoping next week’s SøNws would be written from the Austrian alps but I’ve just heard Covid seems to have put pay to that one.

If you have a private jet and a Swiss chalet (I hear they’re still open for skiing) you want to lend me, I’m sure we can sort out some kind of Sønr license contra deal.

Have a good weekend.


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