Hi all, and welcome to another instalment of Sø.Nws, your official start to the weekend. Unless you’re on the West coast of the US in which case you still have the rest of the day ahead of you. Sorry.
You've got a friend in me
Matt’s out of the office for much of this week so it’s Diccon writing today, with news and ramblings on recent activity from the world of startups, corporates and investments.
For the last month or two, I’ve been focused on producing a Partnership Day for one of Tällt’s clients. This event will see a lineup of 10 amazing startups (carefully selected from a pool of 150+) join us for a day of creation & collaboration with the best minds from the client’s senior staff - a great way for any company to get a sense of what’s fresh, be inspired, and of course find new partners.
Reading through this month’s headlines, I reflected on how partnership has been the most successful route to market for many emergent tech companies. During my interviews with startups for next month’s Partnership Day, many wanted assurances that the client in question was genuine in their search for startup partners, and not just on a fishing trip for new ideas to pinch. It’s an important opportunity for them but of course they don’t want to waste their time.
Which brings me to my point: yes, partnership is a great way for incumbents to innovate cheaply, as our recent report detailed, but you need to find the right company to work with and manage the integration process carefully - two things which are made a whole lot easier through Sønr, as our new and existing clients will know.
So, let’s look more closely at a few of those partnerships. First up, the US life insurer Ladder is now offering cover to Radius Bank’s customers through the Radius app and online banking portals, reminiscent of the partnership between Anorak and Starling in the UK. Digital bank, challenger bank - call them what you like, but they open a whole new market to the insurers, and it’s a move towards where the user is, instead of chucking cash at customer acquisition.
Still in the US, insurtech royalty Oscar inked a deal with Berkshire Hathaway’s reinsurer National Indemnity in August which many believe heralds a big expansion in their chosen markets. Even with over $1.25bn of investment, and Alphabet leading a meaty round this time last year, having access to such capacity or distribution can be the key to unlocking growth, whatever stage the business is at.
Over on this side of the Atlantic, I saw that car subscription service Drover teamed up with gig economy insurer Zego to offer ultra-flexible cover to private hire drivers. The subscription model is growing in popularity, and when you consider Drover’s relationships with the likes of BMW & VW, and Zego’s bright future following a whopping Series B in June, you’d be right to assume that it may replace outright ownership or car finance for many in the future.
Last to catch my eye this week was news of Blink’s fresh contract with Canadian insurance & finance giant Manulife to provide flight disruption products to its travel insurance customers. Blink is a highly flexible B2B insurtech with a growing list of clients using its slick parametric (automated) product - if your flight’s delayed, you get a lounge pass. Further delays? Here’s a hotel for the night. Cancelled? Let’s rebook you. All of this with no need for notification of loss, instant settlement, and minimal work for claims handlers. With ever more stories like BA’s recent issues of IT glitches and pilot strikes, this type of product could become far more commonplace as travellers feel at risk of being let down by their airline.
Ol' money bags
In funding news, it seems that some peeps have had time to close big deals despite the holiday season and inevitable onslaught of OOOs.
Leading the charge is online mortgage broker Better.com, which banked $160m to power growth into all 50 states, and include life cover to the range of insurance products they already offer.
GV stuck another flag in their L&H sandcastle as they led a $60m Series C raise by another US life insurer, Ethos, making it their third round in 14 months. Not too shabby for a business started in 2016!
Hedvig, a Lemonade-alike insurtech from Sweden (perhaps we should call them Citronsaft?), raised $10.4M as they seek to expand beyond renter’s insurance, and into new territories, winning customers through “simply being nice”.
Lastly, Shanghai-based The CareVoice - a regular on these pages - announced an undisclosed “eight-figure USD” investment round last week. Their telemedecine platform for the L&H market has grown an impressive client list in China, and has grand plans to expand both their range of solutions, and their presence in APAC and beyond.
“So what?” you may ask. Well, if you take a step back and squint at the landscape behind the deals above, there’s a common theme, and that’s one of digital platforms expanding into traditional markets, displacing outdated products and services. It’s not a new message, but it’s not getting any less true. If you don’t want to be among the displaced or devalued, do something about it - do it yourself if you can, or find a suitable partner if you can’t.
Next stop, world domination!
Still thinking about expansion, it was interesting to see Cuvva step into travel insurance, having proved themselves with a pioneering pay-as-you-go motor product. They’re going (predictably) after a millennial market, with a low-cost, low-jargon digital offering that may be the first travel insurance purchase for many in a segment which is so often under-insured.
Across the Channel, health insurer Alan has taken a logical and much-anticipated step, expanding both its product range and, more importantly, the addressable market - finally offering cover to individuals as well as employers and freelancers. They are still limiting themselves to certain segments for now, but this is surely a round of in-market testing before they expand further and start to serve a mass market.
In both cases, a young startup has built a niche product for a niche market and proven the model, before moving outwards - made possible because they’re nimble, lightweight and quick to react. All qualities that that one might suggest you should look for, and would benefit from, in any great partnership.
That's all folks!
That’s pretty much all I have for you this week folks, but I hope you enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I did writing it, and I’d love to hear what you think.
Likewise, if you’re interested in how we run our Partnership Days, or how we use Sønr to research and track potential partners, I’d love to show you so please ask.
If you’re still after more fascinating insights, I would direct you to read our latest Spøtlight which shines brightly on Artificial - yet another promising insurtech with a growing list of partners using their powerful AI-based solutions to supercharge their sales channels.
Best wishes to you all, especially our new Sønr clients in Canada & New Zealand, and have a great weekend.
Sø.Nws is brought to you by Sønr, which in turn was created by Tällt.
Our vision is to accelerate corporate innovation and entrepreneurship by providing intelligence on the trends, competitor playbooks and global disruptive tech, and to create new opportunities with ambitious organisations around the world.