Money still pouring into health
Let’s start with Europe and France-based Alan has raised a huge €185m Series D round – with its valuation now at €1.4bn.
I shared a stage with Jean-Charles, Alan’s founder, at an iFHP event in Portugal a few years ago. He talked about his vision for rolling out across Europe and there was a palpable sense of disbelief in the room. Personally, I’m loving this news and can’t wait to see the impact of this raise.
From their announcement it looks like the funding will be used to hire an additional 400 employees and reach 1m members in Europe over the next 2 years. Their current stats are over 155k end-users across 9.4k companies.
Another I’ve enjoyed tracking is Waterdrop, the Chinese healthcare platform. Despite rumours of pushback from regulators, it has now officially applied for a New York Stock Exchange IPO, which could potentially see the health insurtech raise around $4bn.
A couple of others that have raised some decent money this week are digital diabetes scaleup, Virta which announced a further $133m to help achieve its mission to reverse diabetes. Bold claims, although it points to the efficacy of pro-active management and lifestyle choices in addressing Type 2 Diabetes in a competitive space with the likes of Livongo and Omada.
And insurtech API platform Vericred has announced a $23m oversubscribed Series B round.
Vericred provides digital infrastructure to help connect up the health insurers and benefit providers with insurtechs, consumer apps etc. It reports it now has more than 300 carriers – including MetLife, Cigna, Guardian and Humana – on its platform.
On the M&A side of things Bright Health has officially entered the telehealth market with its new acquisition of Zipnosis.
Bright Health currently serves 13 states, offering individual, family, SMB and Medicare Advantage plans. The acquisition comes just after it was revealed Bright Health has plans to raise up to $1bn in an IPO, due in Q2.
Open innovation making everything a little better
Keeping with telehealth and off the back of acquiring the French telemedicine provider Qare last week, HealthHero has partnered up with Zurich to offer a telehealth service for its Group Income Protection and Group Life Customers.
Interestingly Zurich has also launched a Second Medical Opinion service, available across the UK, enabling users to talk to specialists face-to-face, or via telephone and video consultations.
Another big insurance innovation announcement this week was AXA’s partnership with Microsoft to build a new digital healthcare platform of health and wellbeing services.
After a successful pilot in Germany and Italy, the range of services offered will include a self-assessment and prevention tool, a medical concierge, a teleconsultation interface, a digital document vault, and home care services (e.g. medicine delivery) or a directory of healthcare professionals.
The service will launch in select European countries in 2022, before expanding worldwide.
An interesting play from Oscar Health earlier this week was the launch of +Oscar, a tech-driven platform business designed to ‘help healthcare clients drive improved efficiency, growth and superior engagement with their members and patients’.
Disruptor and enabler. Why not?
Scooters, e-bikes, and those 4-wheeled machines people used to own
Time to change tack. Let’s talk mobility.
Amsterdam’s mobility startup Dott has raised $85m citing high market share and profitability across 13 European cities with plans to head over to London soon. Personally, I can’t wait.
I live in Bristol where Voi are currently trialling their e-scooters and it’s a brilliant way to get around the city (even if I do feel/look 20 years too old to be riding them).
In Austria, a country that has fallen in love with e-bikes, hepster and Clark have partnered to meet the rising demand. hepster’s tailor-made insurance products are now available on Clark’s Austrian app, which enables users to buy, manage and claim super simply.
A couple of interesting announcements on the e-bike fleet front (yup, I never thought I’d be writing that either).
Israel-based on-demand insurtech Demandoo has partnered with Pizza Hut. And Zego has partnered with 10-minute grocery delivery startup Dija. In both cases to insure the other’s e-bike fleet.
If you haven’t come across Dija yet, they’re worth checking out. They’re UK-based and launched earlier this year by former Deliveroo execs. The good news for them is they’ll now be able to flexibly add and remove bikes from its policy as the company grows, and actively track how many bikes are insured at any given time.
From car sharing to broader mobility provider – this week France’s BlaBlaCar raised $115m.
Its intent is to develop a one-stop shared travel app that helps users find the best options for carpooling, buses and more (train operators are due by 2022). Amazingly, despite the pandemic, BlaBlaCar saw 50m passengers across 22 markets use its carpooling marketplace in 2020.
I’m not quite ready to jump in the car with a stranger but hey, I’ve got my first vaccine jab in a couple of weeks, so maybe soon.
Lemonade driving change across the market
I’m sure you’ll all have seen this one – Lemonade takes another step forward on it’s path to drive insurance innovation with the launch of car insurance later this year.
The company, which expanded into Term Life and Pet in 2020, stated it will use tech to ‘handle emergencies and pay claims fast’ as well as reward safe drivers and environmentally-friendly cars. Watch this space.
What I’m enjoying is just how fluid this market is becoming.
Insurance lines forced into reframing their entire value proposition (e.g. health insurance shifting from compensation to prevention, or pension providers shifting from a savings product manufacturer to a partner in financial wellness)
Consumers increasingly loyal to brands that provide both exceptional value and experience
A continued rise in open innovation and collaboration
Another great example of this is challenger bank N26 which last week announced the launch of N26 Insurance.
Starting with smartphone insurance for its German customers, the fintech also has plans for home, life, pet, private liability, bikes, electronics and large purchase cover.
All the products will be available to purchase, manage and claim via the company’s app or website, and will be offered through partnerships with insurtechs, such as Simplesurance.
Even though we’ve been working with BGL Group for years, I realise I never write much about PCWs. Now to change that.
Singaporean comparison site GoBear has been acquired by Australia’s financial comparison company Finder, as part of its global expansion strategy.
GoBear, which launched in 2015, serves seven markets across SE Asia, and will add to Finder’s 10m global consumer base.
In the US, The Zebra, which I’m a big fan of, has become a Unicorn – with a $150m Series D round.
The company doubled its net revenue in 2020, up from $37m in 2019 to $79m, and that it was on track for an annual run rate of $150m this year. The company plans to use the funds to accelerate growth and expand into renters and life.
And finally, in India, Policybazaar is making plans for an IPO, which could take place as early as next month if the company’s Board approves.
Sources state the SoftBank-backed venture could raise around $500m and value the company at over $3.5bn.
Policybazaar’s digital insurance platform serves more than 100m visitors annually and has stated it sells around 400k policies a month.
It’s not all about the shiny front-end
Where we’re seeing some of the most rapid change across the industry is very much behind the scenes. From hyper-automation to continuous underwriting.
If you’re not tracking insurance innovation across the world, firstly you should be, and secondly get in touch. We’d be happy to share with you the trends we’re seeing, walk through how these might map to your business and how you can explore new opportunities.
A few announcements that stand out this week:
Akur8 is continuing its recent partnership streak, this time with Munich Re – working with the insurer to bolster their Global Consulting Unit’s pricing capabilities.
In the last five months alone Akur8, which automates risk and demand modelling, has formed partnerships with Wakam, Duck Creek Xceedance, AXA Spain and Generali France.
Another is enterprise software provider Gradient AI which raised a $20m Series B.
Gradient AI’s SaaS platform helps commercial insurers automate underwriting results, reduce claim costs and improve operational efficiencies, with its SaaS platform leveraging a dataset based on tens of millions of claims.
One of my favourites – Open Banking specialist TrueLayer has raised a $70m Series D.
Founded in 2016, TrueLayer now processes over half of the Open Banking volume in the UK, Ireland and Spain, and has seen phenomenal growth in the past 12 months – its payment volumes alone have increased by 600%.
The company plans to use the funds to further expand geographically and build an open banking network to help banks and third parties develop new fintech apps and services.
And finally, an interesting set of results from a Sprout.ai and Zurich pilot that began at the end of last year.
It was announced that Zurich has managed to cut property claims settlement times to under 24-hours.
Sprout, which uses NLP and Knowledge Graphs to deliver automated policy checks, can reach a reading speed of 10,000 words per microsecond, leading claims to be triaged and processed within just a few hours, with more than 98% accuracy.
Not bad, right?
From Bitcoin to smart vaccination records AXA is the first all-lines insurer in Switzerland to allow its customers to pay their bills with Bitcoin after witnessing growing customer demand for more choice in payments.
The new payment option is available to all private customers from the start of April, with further payment options besides Bitcoin, including TWINT, set to go live in the near future.
It will tailor travel insurance to accommodate the numerous new entry requirements across the globe and will give travellers an opportunity to update cover limits, such as medical cover, in accordance with the destination country’s requirements.
A couple of others I could find a home for:
Congrats to those who were selected for the sixth cohort of the Lloyds Lab. The accelerator picked 11 startups out of its 177 applicants, with this year’s bunch focusing on geopolitics, data & models, claims support services and decarbonisation – plus a wildcard entry.
And finally I had a lot of positive feedback on covering Wakam’s open innovation activity in my last SøNws. Well, hot of the press, they’ve just announced a partnership with SO-SURE to create an innovative content insurance solution in the UK.
New clients and lots of media attention.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s been quite the 2021 so far and I’ve a feeling it’s only just beginning.
From a new client perspective, this week we’re proud to announce Munich Re now also use our Sønr platform. They’re a business I’ve held in high regard for many years and I look forward helping them discover and create new opportunities in and around the world of insurance innovation.
On the media front, I had the privilege of talking at this week’s Insurance2025 – The Broker Roadmap to the Future. Actually, I say ‘talking’ – it was a pre-recording from a few weeks ago when it was both freezing cold and my boiler had packed in!
A big thanks to Thomas Verduzco-Weisel for the Clubhouse invite – How to stay on top of global insurance trends? It was very good fun indeed and great to experiment with new platforms. Keep an eye out for his future episodes.
And last but not least Sønr has had a tonne of media coverage – from the UK’s Sunday Times to a feature in an Iranian magazine. I haven’t run it through Google Translate as yet but hopefully it’s all good!
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