ITC Japan, Boris’ brother and conversational AI

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In the olden days I might have had a good rant about Adam Neuman wanting to buy back WeWork. After he got paid off  ~$500m having pretty much single-handedly collapsing the company.

But not this week. No ranting.
I might even start with an apology.

I’ve recently been on a soapbox bemoaning the lack of depth when it comes to interviews, webinars, panel sessions and the likes. In particular the absence of detailed and shared conversation on the intricacies of just how companies approach innovation.

And then I got an invite to a client event. One organised by the quite incredible, innovator extraordinaire, Dr Hayley Maynard of Chaucer.

This is where the apology kicks in.

The event? Well, it was a gathering of insurers, all pitching their respective innovation processes to a panel of broker ‘dragons’.

It was open (in front of 100+ folk from the industry).
It was collaborative.
And it was expertly curated to be great fun.

Essentially everything I said that wasn’t happening in the industry…well, it happened. And it was brilliant to see.

On each table, was a printed copy of this: Building for the future – Innovation as a strategic tool in (re)insurance

Read it (it’s good…plus Sønr gets a mention 🙏🏻)

  1. Let me know what you think
  2. What if Sønr built on this with a research paper synthesising the different approaches and respective results, from a range of (re)insurers around the world? Could be something valuable, right?

The long and short is I believe we need more of this.
A huge congrats (and thanks) to Hayley and the Chaucer crew for breaking the mould.

Sønr – it’s not all about the platform

A few recent conversations have made me realise we’re good at extolling the virtues of the Sønr platform. But we’re not so good at talking about how else we support clients.

Over the years we have built a team of researchers and analysts with deep insurance expertise and experience of working with leading insurers around the world. Plus they have access to Sønr’s unique data on 3.5m companies so you know their work is rooted in fact, can be produced quickly and is probably half the price you’re going to find elsewhere. Nice.

Example outputs/support…

  • Market mapping – insight into industry trends and competitor intel
  • Dealflow support, category reviews, and startup due diligence
  • Business need analysis through to PoC facilitation

If you’d like to know more about this or have something in mind to explore together, do reach out to me or Emily, our Head of Research.

Right, let’s get into it.

Who said Unicorns had become extinct?

A strong week of funding rounds.
A few standouts.

First of all our friends over at Artificial Labs have secured £8m to further build on their algorithmic underwriting. The business is getting some great traction and I’m keen to see them push on further.

If you’re not familiar with Artificial, we interviewed David King their Co-Founder alongside Rob Jarvis of Tokio Marine Kiln last year as part of the Insurtech 100 series. Definitely worth a listen.

In the US, Kin, the direct-to-consumer home insurance company and Insurtech 100 2020 cohort, closed a $15m round with a step up in valuation to over $1bn. A rarity these days.

A nice reminder from Sean Harper, CEO of Kin:

“Investors appreciate our focus on the fundamentals – maintaining positive unit economics, using technology for accurate pricing and better underwriting, and eliminating unnecessary steps in the insurance journey.” 

One, well two, that caught my eye this week came from Lloyd’s, marking their first investments from the Lloyd’s Central Fund. A fund created to specifically deploy into Lloyd’s Lab alumni.

The two they selected were Axio and REOR20.

I like the fund. I like the companies. Nice work team.

Eleanor Bucks, Lloyd’s Chief Investment Officer, commented:

“The Lloyd’s Lab is a centre of innovation for the insurance industry giving us as investors the opportunity to back great companies ourselves where we have a strong shared interest for our industry. We’re able to generate attractive return on capital and aid the growth of these companies for the benefit of the market.”


Great American’s open innovation

A company I’ve covered a fair bit in the past is Shepherd – a commercial insurance platform, currently focussed on the $10T construction industry.

These guys have just secured a $13.5m Series A and plan to double down on their engineering and underwriting teams as well as launch at least 2 new insurance products this coming year.

One other in the commercial space is CoverForce, which provides an API to deliver instant quotes and one-click binding. It has partnered up with Great American Insurance Group to give appointed agents and brokers nationwide digital access to their workers’ compensation, business owner’s policy (BOP) and other commercial products.

A great example of incumbents and startups working together. Nice work Great American Insurance Group.

Parametric and NatCat

Another great collaboration, this time with a parametric twist – IBISA Network, together with Swiss Re, SCBF, CLNL, and Tata Trusts, have launched a new product protecting against crop asset losses for Indian smallholder farmers.

The aim is to get insurance to those who need it most and ultimately eliminate the need to even raise a claim. When you think 80% of farmers in India are smallholders who are increasingly under threat from extreme weather, I can’t praise this initiative enough.

Keeping with parametrics, it was interesting to see Munich Re creating a whole new team dedicated to addressing natural catastrophe solutions.

In part, of course, they want to grow their share of parametric business. But they also push hard on wanting help reduce protection gaps and enable clients to become financially more resilient to natural catastrophe risks. I like it.

A healthy expansion from Oz to the UK

I feel I don’t cover health insurance as much as I should. I’m going to change that up in the coming weeks.

One to kick things off is workplace health and wellness startup Sonder which has entered the UK and Ireland. The Australian company, which works with Allianz Partners amongst others, offers employee mental and physical health, also has plans to expand into Canada, the US and SE Asia.

Across the pond, Sun Life US, the provider of employee and government benefits, has partnered with telehealth services company Virtual Me.

Virtual Me provides stand-alone tailored telehealth solutions for groups, families, and individuals resulting in the usual cost-savings, reduced time off from work etc. All good stuff.

Small business and cyber innovation

A partnership and a couple of new products.

BOXX Insurance has coupled up with AXA to launch a cyber solution for small businesses.

The solution includes a cyber risk score, 24/7 dark web monitoring, and expert advice on data breaches. It also offers digital risk assessments and cyber awareness training. And if that wasn’t enough, in case of a hack, users can access an instant response wallet for guidance. Nice.

On the product side Coalition, has launched its new Miscellaneous Professional Liability (MPL) Insurance coverage. Interestingly it only needs about ten additional data points to quote.

And WTW has launched a new cyber insurance solution, targeting SMEs with revenues under $50m per year.

It offers simple, competitive quotes, with a dedicated underwriting team, plus tools and services to help coverholders take better cybersecurity measures.

It’s interesting reporting on this stuff. Not just cyber but across insurance – It really feels the innovation focus has shifted from Horizon 3 to much nearer-term change. And I get it. There’s plenty of challenges in businesses today to sort and it can’t all be about creating new futures.

Conversation AI that’s worth exploring

An early-stage business you probably don’t know but maybe should is Indemn. They’ve just raised a $1.9m Pre-Seed.

They’ve built a fully conversation native insurance platform to make the whole process of learning and purchasing coverage a whole load easier. Interesting right? It’s well worth a look into as this stuff is absolutely the next generation of CX we need to be considering.

On that note, a company a little further down the road and equally relevant is The guys raised $150m this week. specialise in conversational AI and GenAI products and offer tools and workflows for creating custom AI apps or deploying pre-built, domain-trained chatbots. Including the world of insurance. Do check them out.

This is the stuff we need to start experimenting with.

The rising importance of carbon solutions

A couple of interesting developments in the carbon space.

CarbonPool which aims to be the first insurance company with a carbon credit balance sheet, has secured €11.2m of funding. Amongst a few VCs that put money were former Allianz board members Axel Theis and Christof Mascher.

The business was set up last year and is currently applying for an insurance license in Switzerland. It’s also discussing with the UN and the State of California about how insurance can secure the permanence of atmospheric carbon removals.

The other is Howden which last week launched a first-of-its-kind insurance facility for carbon capture and storage (CCS). So good.

The facility covers the risk of CO2 leakage from CCS facilities into air, land, and water and will de-risk projects critical to the decarbonisation of the global economy.

Hallucinations to travel cancellations

I realise I’ve now been writing nonstop for far too long. Let’s try and wrap this up.

Two new products I enjoyed reading about and couldn’t find a natural home were from Vouch Insurance and bolttech.

The former has introduced a product that covers financial losses from AI products or services including top-of-mind risks like large language model (LLM) hallucinations, algorithmic bias, regulatory investigations, and claims of IP infringement in systems that use AI algorithms.

And the second was bolttech’s launch of MyTravel – a ‘cancel for any reason’ product in collaboration with FWD Insurance. I’d definitely be taking this one up. A little too often probably.

London, Tokyo and Boris Johnson’s brother Leo

There aren’t many times in life you get to hang out with Boris Johnson’s brother, right?

A fact about Leo Johnson is he happens to head up Disruption & Innovation for PWC. Better still, he’s the guest of honour at an upcoming Camelot event in London on the 13th March.

He’ll be covering some mega trends – from climate to GenAI and geopolitical instability, to discussing innovation strategy and transformation leadership. The long and short is it’s one not to miss.

Tickets are available here.

Whilst a few of the Sønr team will be heading down, sadly I will be missing this one.

I have important business (and skiing 🤷🏻) to be done in Japan. On that note, shout me if you’re heading to ITC Japan and fancy catching up in Tokyo before/after. Or better still, fancy joining me on the mountains.

Right, that’s me. I’m done.

Do get in touch if you’d like to talk Sønr and to explore how we might help you with your innovation activities.

Otherwise have a great weekend.


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