There are some Friday I wonder what to write. Others where so much has happened in the past fortnight I don’t know where to begin.
Today is the latter.
WeWork is too obvious a start but boy oh boy what reading that makes. And what impact it has for the wider market – from deflated/delayed IPOs to mainstream awareness of investor-led market manipulation.
At the other end of the spectrum is the stepping down of Metro Bank’s Chairman, Vernon Hill. Interesting fact, he once likened himself to Steve Jobs. Now if there was ever someone who was less like Steve Jobs and who completely misread market trends and changing customer wants, it was Mr Vernon Hill.
My favourite example of Metro Bank’s innovation: dog bowls in branches.
A little more relevant to our world, it was announced yesterday that Amazon acquired Health Navigator, a 12-person telemedicine company. The intention is to roll it up into the Amazon Care employee healthcare pilot; their second acquisition in as many years.
Other than the blindingly obvious step into healthcare, it’s also a brilliant lesson in innovation strategy.
These guys are a tech firm sitting on a mountain of capital. They employ just shy of 100,000 engineers globally. Why don’t they just recruit in a bunch of smart health folk and build a telemedicine company?
Pace. Focus. Cost. Proven product/market fit. Oh so many reasons.
And many parallels with the insurance industry - incumbents sitting on huge cash reserves, struggling to adapt at the pace of the market around them and yet, the majority at least, still not quite sure what to do about it all!
If you are in that majority, I’m sure Vernon will need some pals to join him on his dog walks. Failing that you can always buy a license to Sønr. Either or.
Right, let’s chat tech.
Doctors tell insurers not to worry about the bird flu...it's tweetable
Let’s kick off with Indonesia. It’s one of the first digitally native medical systems in the world and, with private healthcare market sitting at 2% penetration, screams growth opportunities. One of the companies tapping into the growth is Alodokter which this week announced a $33M Series C.
They already have 20 million monthly active users who use their app to chat with doctors, book appointments, discover personalised content and manage their health insurance. To put this in perspective I live in the UK and this morning have successfully failed 3x to complete the automated voice system at my local doctors.
Other investments include a $50m raise by Viz.ai, an Israeli/US AI software company which has developed software to identify large vessel occlusion – a disabling type of stroke – from a CT scan. And keeping with the AI theme, Healx in the UK, announced a $56m Series B to leverage the power of AI to discover new treatments for rare diseases and to launch their Rare Treatment Accelerator programme. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing more with my life.
Are we nearly there yet?
In the same week BMW and Audi complain about lack of regulations for self-driving cars, self-driving trials have kicked-off across a couple of London boroughs. In a bid to prove the technology can operate safely on the UK’s cramped roads, the cars, designed by UK company FiveAI, will be carrying one of 130 volunteers everyday for two months on a circuit through our very own London town.
And if that wasn’t enough, check the below for a glimpse into the future. The Swedish self-driving truck startup, Einride, has just raised $25m to aid expansion into the US.
Not wanting to sound too Chris Eubank, but I’ve always wanted my own lorry. Not sure running a SaaS business really lends itself to owning one but who knows what’s around the corner for Tällt.
A couple of other interesting stories this week.
In the cyber world, QBE has partnered with Corax to underwrite and manage cyber exposure. And our friends at Manchester Story have led a $3.3m investment into Cowbell Cyber, AI-driven cyber insurance for small to mid-sized enterprises.
On the finance side TrueLayer, the open banking API startup announced its expansion into Australia, making it the first European open banking specialist to establish a presence in the APAC region. If you don’t know these guys, definitely check them out. We’ve been tracking them for a while and love what they’re up to.
And finally a couple of tech related snippets that hit close to home.
One was Barclays and venture-capital firm Anthemis Group looking for female entrepreneurs to build businesses that can eventually sell the London-based bank new software or other products. Brilliant.
This week, in stark contrast, was a leak from EY employees on a training course the company was giving at the height of the 2018 ‘Me Too’ movement.
When women speak, they shouldn’t be shrill.
Clothing must flatter, but short skirts are a no-no.
Women should look healthy and fit, with a “good haircut” and “manicured nails.”
Guys, guys, guys.
The other news that got me this week was Papa, a digital health company that provides “grandkids on demand” to older adults to help cure the loneliness epidemic, announcing a $10 million Series A. Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in a couple of businesses focussed on digital inclusion for the elderly and I genuinely love this one.
Founded in 2016, Papa taps into the gig economy to reduce social isolation in older adults in America. The company connects older adults with college students, who are looking for part-time/gig economy work. The students offer companionship but also rides, help around the house and so on.
And the best bit - major health plans pick up the bill because the company has demonstrated the service can significantly improve health outcomes for older people. Love, love, love.
Before I shoot, next week we’ll be putting a call out for a new cohort of Sønr Insiders, a 2-month programme kicking off 1st Jan 2020 (albeit sooner for APAC).
We ran the 2019 programme with the likes of Bupa, Aon, Hiscox, Aviva and Ageas to name a few.
This time we’re focusing on new organisations who are willing to roll out and evaluate our new Sønr Enterprise, and in turn, help feed us our 2020 roadmap.
We’re limiting the number of companies to 12. If you’re keen to be considered drop me a line and I can share some more details.
Right, I’m away to talk to investor folk before signing off for the weekend. That said if you’re a SaaS focussed VC who reads this (or you know one who should) and we haven’t met, get in touch. Plenty to chat through.
Have good weekends all. For those that care, enjoy the rugby :)
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