Over the past couple of years there’s been plenty of talk of Insurtech entrepreneurs not truly understanding insurance. The usual retort? Normally some kind of dig along the lines of incumbents not truly understanding how to innovate.
And whilst everyone’s working out who is right, BigTech is waiting to pounce.
Or something like that.
Well, this past fortnight we’ve seen it all:
Insurance CEOs moving to Insurtech
Insurtech founders moving to insurers
Consultants moving to Google
More on this below.
No more ‘them and us’
You might have seen Mark Wilson, former chief exec of Aviva, last month launched his new auto insurtech Abacai. And this week? They acquired short-term insurer Dayinsure for an undisclosed amount.
On the insurtech side, Becky Downing, founder and former CEO of Buzz Group, announced she’s joining Admiral Group as Venture Director at Admiral Pioneer [the division of Admiral focussed on seeding, launching, and scaling new businesses]. So good and a great hire by Admiral.
And finally, one I’m sure you didn’t miss, our friend Nigel Walsh, former Deloitte Digital Partner announced he had joined Peloton Google. He’ll be leading their insurance business in North America as Managing Director of Insurance.
Well, won’t you look at all that?
I absolutely love each one of these announcements.
For too long there’s been a them vs us rhetoric in the market. But if you spend any time with insurtechs, or to that point, leading corporate innovators, you’ll know it’s open, collaborative innovation that will drive the industry forward.
I truly believe we’re now entering a new chapter where the only divide we see is between those who innovate and those who transform.
Just to be clear, the customer doesn’t care who it is that innovates. They care they can get the best product, at the best price, with the best experience. And possibly not in that order.
If you’re concerned you don’t know what that looks like, or you don’t know how to get there, drop me a line. That’s why we set up Sønr.
A lonely (but happy) unicorn running around Shoreditch
A big congrats to Sten Saar and Harry Franks for their recent $150m Series C. Zego is now officially a unicorn and is the first UK Insurtech to reach that status.
Ranked #9 in last year’s Insurtech100 these guys have been steadily building a great company and talk about the new funds being used to continue their expansion across Europe ‘and beyond’. This I like.
I’m also keen to observe the wider impact this announcement will have on the UK Insurtech scene.
As soon as there’s wider, public, recognition that we can grow unicorns in the UK, there’ll be an influx of new capital and new entrepreneurs entering the market. We saw it with fintech a few years back. Couple this with the IPOs taking place globally, and it feels like we’re about to enter a new wave of insurtech.
Exciting times. Maybe insurtech is just in its infancy after all.
Cross-selling AI, Embedded insurance and SMEs
It’s been a busy few weeks across Europe. Let’s dive in.
French B2B insurtech Zelros has raised a $11m Series A. Now working with AXA, +Simple, La Banque Postal and Groupama, their software helps advisors better up-sell and cross-sell P&C and life insurance products.
How they do it is the clever part and worth watching the video below:
The new fundraise is to help building business across North America, basing themselves out of Montreal (a city I could happily live in). Will be good to see how they get on.
With plenty of talk about open and embedded insurance, Germany’s API-driven insurtech platform Hepster has raised a $10m Series A round to broaden its offering and focus on automation.
With more than 700 partners, Hepster help businesses build new digital insurance products, which can then be embedded into the customer journey. They’re in an absolutely perfect place for where the market is going and I look forward to seeing how they scale.
And in Sweden, SME insurtech Helvengo, has raised undisclosed funding to help develop its product and to launch in Germany and Austria. Helvengo, founded by former Wefox employees, targets entrepreneurs and SMEs (another hugely interesting area for insurers right now), offering digital products that are tailored to specific professional groups.
Asian insurtechs leapfrogging the traditional constraints
There’s so much good stuff going on in Indian insurance right now. A couple that jumped out are Turtlemint, Riskcovry and Symbo.
I first met up with Turtlemint a couple of years back on an innovation immersion trip we organised for BGL Group. This week they announced a Series D round of just under $46 million. These guys are one of the big comparison sites out there and great to see them growing strong.
If you thought embedded insurance was just something we just talked about in the West, it’s worth taking a look at India’s Riskcovry. Still early stage but this week they raised a $5m Series A, less than a year after its last funding round.
They are a B2B plug-and-play service that enables companies to offer digital insurance products to end-customers.
And nearby (in an 8-hour flight kind of way) in Singapore, Symbo raised a $9.4 million Series A.
Symbo is another rapidly growing business and one to keep any eye on. They offer a platform that supports agents, third-party administrators, brokers, corporates and insurers in the purchase, distribution and administration of insurance across India and South-East Asia.
Interestingly they also recently acquired Vivant, a startup that helps brands and institutions create digital health platforms.
US, still the king of venture capital
Just as I talk about a growing divide between the ‘innovators’ and the ‘transformers’, there’s a huge divide into how much is invested into US insurtech vs the rest of the world.
Between Jan 20 and Feb 21 we saw around 49% of deals and 68% of total investments originating in the US. Crazy numbers. At some point soon there has to be a balancing of capital provision on a global basis.
For now, an important reminder that, when considering how your market is changing and which insurtechs are worth connecting with, you need to be thinking globally (and probably using Sønr).
A couple of rounds in the US that caught my eye this week was commercial insurtech Corvus raising a $100m Series C to help support its growth and expand CrowBar, its cyber risk data platform.
Corvus has seen some serious growth in the past year – reporting GWP up 250% in 2020 and exited January at a $120 million annual premium run rate with an average policy size of $9,000. Not bad.
The other was Beam Dental which brought home $80m in Series E funding.
The dental insurer has also seen crazy growth in the past few years – revenue up 600% in the last three years, coupled with 100% retention and a doubling of its member base in both 2019 and 2020.
Beam will use the new capital to expand to new markets, onboard additional employee benefits brokerages and add additional products.
Incumbents creating new opportunities
Three announcements I absolutely love.
The first is a new €24m healthtech ecosystem being launched by Sanofi, Capgemini, Generali and Orange in June 2021. It’s set to promote and accelerate new solutions in Europe.
The project will focus on selected themes for 1-2 year periods, and aims to bring together the founding companies, as well as other organisations and startups from across the healthcare, insurance, technology and education sectors.
The ecosystem will then promote knowledge and technology sharing and will develop new solutions from scratch.
So good. I’d have loved to have had a seat at the table when this deal was getting thrashed out. It’s just what’s needed and I can’t wait to see comes from it.
Another, this one launched by Baloise as part of its Simply Safe strategy, is FRIDAY.
Over the past four years FRIDAY has grown into Germany’s most popular digital insurer and last year set up a technology centre in Warsaw with an eye on European growth.
This week it announced it had its next milestone in sight: expansion into the French market. Their goal? To become the most popular digital insurer in France bien sur.
Finally, the Phoenix Group has announced it’s looking to spend a whopping £1.5bn on innovative new life insurance solutions in order to expand its ‘zombie’ life insurance business.
Some seriously big numbers but when you have 14m customers and £338bn assets under management, they’re going to be.
Acquisition and partnership. The two fastest routes to innovation.
A couple of interesting acquisitions over the last fortnight.
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