AI applications beyond okay, Saudi investments and plenty of new innovation

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new innovations

Last night I read about Jeff Bezos cashing out nearly $2bn of his Amazon stock over the past few days.

The impact?

  1. This reduces the value of his stake to $110bn. Oh, okay
  2. He retains his position as the world’s richest man. Brilliant

Reading the article it reminded me that he’d made the commitment to sell stock worth $1bn each year to fund his rocket company Blue Origin with the ambition to allow millions of people to live and work off-Earth.

Good for him, his company made a tidy $10bn profit last year.

Do I think he could do something more useful with his money than colonising space? F*ck yeah, but it’s his money, he made it, and that’s okay in my book. To a point.

new innovations

And that gets me on to Adam Neumann.

If you don’t know the name, Adam is the co-founder and Chief Exec of WeWork. A couple of weeks ago, as I’m sure you may have read, he also cashed out.

His take was $700m.

Whilst his company worth $47bn it lost a quite stunning $1.9bn last year. And there’s something about him cashing out just so much before he’s turned profit that really troubles me.

I get the model of investing serious sums into growing footprint/audience before capitalising and turning profit. And WeWork’s not alone. The model applies to Uber, Tesla, Spotify, Ofo, Pinterest, Lyft…

Maybe I’m just a too cynical/old school but surely there’s a duty to see your company to making some serious profit before buying a $21m San Fran house? Especially one that includes a guitar-shaped room.

That’s your investors’ money still. Surely? Anyway, seemingly not.

Right, time for some market news.

Sø.Nws, sponsored by SoftBank
SoftBank (the guys who invested a total of $10.4bn in WeWork) has announced their second Vision Fund. This time a whopping $108bn focused on AI-based tech.

Interestingly, unlike its first fund, it doesn’t include any Saudi money.

But that’s okay because last Friday the Saudi sovereign wealth fund found a home for its cash, backing the $550m round into Babylon, the UK healthtech. Now valued at $2bn, Babylon is funding a mix of product innovation and expansion into the US and Asia.

Back to AI and possibly my favourite discovery this week – Microsoft has invested $1bn in OpenAI, the research lab dedicated to create Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

new innovations

If you’re not up to speed on AGI, the theory is an AI system as flexible and generally intelligent as a human being.

Let’s pause for a second and let that one soak in.
An AI as intelligent as a human being.

You mustn’t worry though, ‘OpenAI’s mission is to ensure the tech benefits humanity’. Right you are. No wonder Bezos is investing in interplanetary colonisation. There’s got to be somewhere to escape to when the robots take over.

Another aspect I love is that OpenAI investors are capped to a 100-times return. Just brilliant. I might write in the same on the Tällt term sheet if we ever decide to raise.

Emergent economies brought to you by the letter I
Yeah, why not, let’s kick this one off with SoftBank too.

This week, Grab, the on-demand transportation app (think Uber for Southeast Asia) announced how it would spend the $2bn SoftBank put into the company’s previous round.

Grab and SoftBank apparently met with Indonesian government officials and have agreed to use the money to help modernise the country’s transportation infrastructure and economy with the development of an electronic vehicle ‘ecosystem’ and the establishment of a second headquarters for Grab in Jakarta. Good on them.

Other Indonesian activity this week includes Allianz investing into Halodoc, a local healthtech platform with 7 million patients per month, and Axinan and Sompo Indonesia partnering to provide on-demand insurance for millennials, through Axinan’s app Igloo.

new innovations

Why all the focus on Indonesia?

Very simply, they have a population of 264 million, half of which is under the age of 30, and an insurance penetration of less that 2 percent.

Keeping with emergent markets and you have a couple of interesting India health plays this week.

Visit Health, the AI-based app offering preventive and curative, primary healthcare solutions announced it’s raising $10m to build its distribution network.

And wellness startup Wysa announced a $2.2m Seed round. We’ve been taking a look at these guys for a client and they’re a super interesting business. Pitched as ‘your 4am friend and AI life coach’ they’ve helped over 1.2m people from 30+ countries making it one of the global leaders in AI for mental health. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in this space.

You wait ages then three come along at once
Not sure quite why but it seems to be peak auto innovation season.

Let’s kick off with a few more obvious insurance-related ones.

Aviva Canada and Highline BETA have joined forces to launch a road safety and smart city accelerator in Toronto.

Zurich have launched Doppo, Spain’s first digital auto insurer. Currently serving as a pilot before commitment to rolling out to other countries, customers can tailor coverage to only insure a vehicle for a self-determined percentage. Interesting.

new innovations

Geico, the second largest auto insurer in US, has launched DriveEasy, a usage-based car insurance. To be frank it resembles pretty much every other UBI product in the market using smartphones to monitor driving habits and provide a score with corresponding rate adjustments. It’s just they’ll be pushing the tech mainstream due to their enormous footprint.

A new entrant into the world of insurance is Indian CarDekho Group, who secured a further $20m on top of its $110m Series C in January. It has announced a foray into the motor and health insurance sector with InsuranceDekho.

And a slightly more obscure one, but very much transferable to the world of insurance is Israeli startup, UVeye.

It’s come up with the tech to inspect vehicles for physical and mechanical flaws; from a tiny scratch to understanding exactly what parts were damaged in a collision.

new innovations

Toyota, who seem to be spending a fair bit this week, have invested $31m into the company. Its other play this week was a somewhat bolder $600m into DiDi the world’s leading mobile transportation platform. Oh, that’s right, it’s not Uber.

Finally, someone who could have done with the money is ForestCar. The pitch was an airport car sharing service – free airport parking in exchange for renting out your vehicle while you’re away.

They were earmarking part of their profits to plant trees and offset carbon. Sadly they couldn’t put down roots and had to leaf the market.

From Hippocorns to Down Under goodness
I’m a big fan of Hippo, the US home insurance company, and was chuffed to see Assaf and his team landed $100m at a $1bn valuation.

Over the past 4 years he’s properly transformed the market and I genuinely can’t wait to see where he can take the business.

Over the other side of the world and you have Insurtech Gateway landing on Australian soil. I was judging the Insurance Times Tech & Innovation Awards this week and these guys were one of the finalists for the Investor/Corporate Innovator of the Year awards (sponsored by some pretty incredible folk at Tällt Ventures no less).

I hadn’t quite appreciated what a great business they were. There was a definite appetite for incubation over investment, a preference for the seriously brave and different tech disruptors, and the fact that they are FCA authorised, thus being able to provide a sandbox environment for testing their cohort’s products in weeks rather than months.

Spøtlight: The Rightmove of Reinsurance
I first met Ben Rose a couple of years back. Each and every time I’ve met him since, he’s impressed me. From the work he was doing at Aon Inpoint, to how he presented as part of BIBA’s winning hackathon team, through to what he’s now up to at Riskbook.

In his own words ‘Riskbook is the first independent, hyperconnected reinsurance marketplace for efficient matching of risk and capital’.

A great startup is made up of exceptional people, product and market potential.
This checks all three, in spades.

Free 40 page report on Organic Innovation
That’s right, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Our Organic Innovation report is officially out. You are very welcome.

Robb, our Proposition Design Director, has distilled over 30 interviews with innovation leaders across insurance, into a 40-page thing of beauty.

And once you’ve read it, you should probably drop us a line and explore how we might help you future-proof your business.

There’s so much opportunity out there and we can help you tap into it. If you want to find out how, drop Robb a note [email protected]

That’s all folks. The sun is shining, it’s Friday.

Have good weekends all.


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