From incrementalism to nasal swab robots

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Hello all.

In pulling together a deck for a client’s board session last week, I ended up re-reading a bunch of articles/reports we’d recently published.

Excuse any repetition for those who’ve read these, but we’ve had a tonne of new subscribers over the past few months and I thought they’d be worth sharing again.

They feel like a must read with all that’s going on right now:

  1. Shifting from incrementalism to rapid transformation – a view on the pros and cons of internal vs open insurance innovation (partnering with external tech)
  2. Innovation in a recession – where there’s crisis, there’s also an inflection point where the world after is unlikely to resemble the one before it. The question is do you double down on innovation or pull back? (clue: the answer is neither)
  3. The expense of being a close follower – to copy what’s already in-market is to copy the artefact of past effort. What happens when there’s the strategic imperative to respond and the corporate innovation muscles aren’t strong enough to respond?

Right, time for something fun.

Taiwan-based Brain Navi has developed an autonomous nasal swab robot. Sure, why not?

insurance innovation

As you might expect, there’s both clever tech under-pinning this and a market need to both reduce infection risk and relieve pressure on healthcare workers. Coming soon to a test centre near you, it’s already passed its clinical trial and is with the US and Taiwanese regulators for approval.

And now, for some insurance innovation from around the world.

Accelerating innovation through partnership
If I was to cite one market trend that has the most accelerated innovation across insurance, it’s got to be the partnerships between insurers and startups. And this past fortnight is no exception.

AIA has announced an exclusive Asia-Pacific partnership with Holmusk. Holmusk will provide access to its digital health coaching and network of nutritionists, further enhancing AIA’s weight management and chronic disease management solutions.

Keeping with health and data and coaching platform Dacadoo has partnered with SOMPO to help launch Sompo’s new health app Linkx Score, which will use data from exercise to predict health risks and prevent illness.

Aon has partnered with software company Skytek to track marine assets during this year’s hurricane season. Skytek provides real-time updated to fleets, storage facilities and more, even when they’re operating in hurricane-affected waters.

insurance innovation

Canada’s iA Home and Auto Insurance has partnered with fraud detection and claims automation solution provider Shift Technology.

But it’s not all about parting with startups – Allianz is working with Commercial International Bank Egypt to offer customers protections against the cyber risks that come with banking services. Allianz Egypt claims it’s the first of its kind in Egypt’s banking sector.

Nor is it always insurance companies partnering with insurtechs – Uber has selected Inshur for a partnership in the Netherlands. Uber will launch flexible insurance policies for its drivers from the end of this month, purchasable from Inshur within three minutes. Nice work Inshur.

The future’s bright for Insurtech
Following on from our H1 and QoQ investment analysis, there’s been a continued glut of capital still pouring in to the world of insurtech.

Actually, before diving in, I posed the question ‘what is an insurtech’ to my LinkedIn network last week. Below is a great response from a pal, Jeff Ward, who has been working in the industry for, well, longer than I have:

Ask a technologist: “It’s Tech for the insurance industry.” Why complicate it?

Ask a disrupter: “It’s Tech that’s going to replace everything the insurance value chain, make it hugely efficient, depose the multi-billion dollar global incumbents and make us all very rich”.  

Ask an insurance incumbent: “It’s a highly efficient means of allowing people who don’t understand insurance to extract money from investors who don’t understand insurance to develop technology that we mostly don’t want because we do understand insurance”.

Ask a commercial insurance practitioner: “Tech’s handy when there’s a pandemic on but we’ll eventually get back to doing things properly”. 

I enjoyed that one.

At Sønr, we label insurtech as ‘technology or innovation that advances the insurance industry’. And interestingly, we’re currently tracking just over 80,000 companies globally that fit the bill.

Let’s kick things off with India where Google is looking at a $150m potential investment into Policybazaar in return for a 10% stake. It’s part of its overall plan to invest $10bn into India over the next 5-7 years.

Jumping the Indian Ocean down to Australia and Huddle has raised an additional $3.1m in funding to expand Open, their digital car / home / travel insurance platform for brokers, into new markets including New Zealand, the UK and mainland Europe.

insurance innovation

And a mixed bag of investments from the US.

Clara Insurance has rebranded to Brella and has raised an additional $1.5m. Brella is a supplemental health insurance plan that pays cash if you’re diagnosed any of its 13k+ covered conditions, and aims to make enhancing employee benefits super simple.

Climate risk insurtech The Demex Group has raised a $4.2m Seed round. The Demex Solutions Center offers tailored recommendations and its data analytics services can be licensed to other companies wanting to build their own custom climate risk management solutions.

insurance innovation

And ride-share insurtech Buckle has raised a $31m Series A with the plan to ‘reinvent the insurance model with new sources of data to underwrite risk, making insurance comprehensive, affordable, and easy to obtain for ride-share drivers’.

Finally a couple of super early stage companies which are worth keeping an eye on.

Founded in 2018 AgentSync has raised $4.4m in Seed funding off the back of a reported $1.9m ARR. AgentSync offers what it describes as ‘compliance as a service’ – helping insurance carriers and insurance agencies track insurance broker licensing data. For companies accustomed to doing this work with spreadsheets, AgentSync offers a faster method, built on top of Salesforce’s platform, saving time and lowering the chance of error.

And SynchronoSure an AI-powered underwriting startup that set up just last year has raised a $2.6m equity round.

A comment in their press release that caught my eye: “Our proprietary technology can use limited inputs from you using a few screens on your device and pulls the required underwriting information about your account for the world wide web, making the application process faster and easier.”

A bold statement for a company so young but looking forward to seeing where they can take their tech. Could be a good one.

New product/geography/cohort launches

A couple from the UK and a couple form the US.

LV= has launched Flow, a monthly car insurance subscription targeting millennials, which can be obtained through a snap of a driving license and 14 questions. It seems semi-slick.

And Lloyd’s has announced its fifth cohort for its Lloyd’s Lab accelerator. This time with a focus on COVID-19 products and solutions, including how insurance can support the response, and how to help customers adapt to our new way of working.

US Healthcare platform GOQii plans to launch operations in the UK, Japan and Southeast Asia by the end of 2020. GOQii offers smart wearables that can measure temperature, pulse and more, and has seen a huge uptake in interest due to the global pandemic – so much so they’ve reportedly accelerated their business plans by 10x.

insurance innovation

And Philadelphia-based Woop Group has announced the launch of its Concierge Quoting Service – a tech solution for customers who want to shop for home and auto insurance online, but don’t want to spend hours going to different insurance companies’ websites or dealing with awkward sales calls.

A few Sønr related things.

  1. Understanding the challenges of the market

Off the back of an amazing H1 2020, I’m keen to keep the pace of our business growth. To do that we have to make sure we continue evolving our platform and serving the needs of the industry.

If you, or your team, are involved in internal innovation or transformation programmes, I’d love to grab 15-20 minutes of your time to understand how things are set up, how you access insurance innovation intelligence, and most importantly, the challenges you currently face.

  1. Cementing our place as #1 market intel platform 

Over the past few months we’ve welcomed a handful of new clients who were previously using different market insights platform. This is huge validation for us and something we, of course, want to continue.

If you’re currently working with a 3rd party to help you track market trends or source startups reshaping the industry, or you’re struggling with keeping track of activity across multiple excel spreadsheets, I’m super keen to hear from you.

And as always feel free to give Sønr a 14-day free trial and I genuinely want to learn where we might fall short or we don’t stack up. Hopefully it will be neither and you’ll love it but equally, all feedback will be incredibly useful.

Last couple of things. A big thanks to my fellow judges for a fun session judging the Insurance Times, Tech & Innovation Awards yesterday. And huge congrats to the 3 finalists.

And to wrap things up, for this week’s Spøtlight we caught up with Michael Lewis the founder and CEO of Claim Technology. Michael is a super-bright, super-committed founder with a great business.

A quote from the interview:
Claim Technology is the first insurtech to design a tech stack that assumes there may be no claims handler in the process. By taking out a conscious human, we had to develop a ‘conscious machine’ that can power the digital, touch-less claim for any policy and bring the same level of empowerment to insurance as fintech has brought to retail banking.


As is often the case, I write this in between a series of calls. The last was with a friend in Germany (who is German) who just corrected my english. If that doesn’t tell me it’s time to wrap up, I don’t know what does.

Have a good one all.


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