You have Diccon - of Future Disruptors podcast fame - steering the Sø.Nws bus today, as Matt flew to Canada earlier this week for a mix of work, research and some well-earned holiday.
Anyway, while he’s over there, here at Tällt towers we’ve just kicked off the research for a client mission to China in 2019. We love running trips like this, as we are able to really get under the skin of the latest leapfrogging tech and market trends and meet up with the most exciting startups on their home turf. Let us know if you have any recommendations of cool companies or interesting characters you think we really ought to meet and we’ll add them to our ever-growing list.
I didn’t want to talk too much about China today as it’s a favourite subject of Matt’s on these pages, but it’s just so fascinating! I’ve recently started reading AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee - a leading AI expert, previously of Microsoft & Google and head of Chinese VC Sinovation Ventures - and it’s striking stuff.
In this latest book, Dr Lee predicts that the accelerating competition between China & the USA in the AI sector will bring about serious disruption not just for the blue-collar workforce but white-collar jobs too; bringing to mind the economic ‘Tsunami’ warning from Allstate’s CEO Tom Wilson earlier this year and leaving me wondering how this will affect the Insurance and Financial Services sectors across the next ten years.
The more I read, the more I look forward to digging deep into China’s AI sector, and hearing first-hand about how all that state funding is supporting innovative new companies. If you want to know more about AI in the meantime, ask us about our market scanning tool Sønr - AI’s one of many tech trends that we’ve mapped across the Insurtech landscape and beyond, with hundreds of ventures listed from across the globe.
Along with the market scanning, a popular feature on Sønr has been the weekly Spøtlight, in which our very own Dan P sits down with an entrepreneur for a quick pow-wow. This week, he chats to Susan He about her company Aligned Business, which helps insurers and brokers build products in a matter of weeks via its Origami platform.
Coincidentally, the Aligned Business proposition doesn’t sound too dissimilar from the one I discuss on my latest podcast - Kasko. I caught up with the founder Nikolaus Sühr a while back to talk about his modular ‘Insurtech-as-a-Service’ proposition and how they’ve helped the likes of Allianz, AmTrust & AXA build and ship brand new, scalable insurance products remarkably quickly.
Kasko has even joined the likes of PensionBee, Habito and Wealthify by teaming up with UK challenger bank Starling to offer a travel insurance solution as part of Starling’s financial services marketplace.
This ability to follow and leverage Open Banking standards - and fast - is surely a model for the future and one to which insurers should aspire. We certainly think it’s important here at Tällt HQ and, as a result, will soon be publishing our latest Insurtech Disruption Trends report which explores what we’re calling ‘Open Insurance’.
“But what does this term Open Insurance even mean?” I hear you ask. Well, for us, it’s embodied by the new digital propositions that sit across APIs, public and private consumer data to build personalised products that match a customer’s needs far closer than the old, one-size-fits-all model ever could. It’s mobile-first. It’s on-demand. It’s micro-services. It’s probably machine-learning too and it’s definitely a growing trend.
As the effects of Open Banking regulation in the UK and the GDPR rules ripple outwards, we expect to see many more businesses recognise the opportunities these frameworks and datasets represent. We’ve detailed some of them in our report, so let us know if you’d like to see a copy once it’s ready.
2 year unicorn
In investment news, New England-based Devoted Health took in Series B funding to the tune of $300m in midweek. Founded in late 2016, Devoted offers simplified health solutions, complete with personal guides, to ease seniors through what has often been considered a tricky health care system.
This isn’t the team’s first foray into the health space - one of the founders, Todd Park, served as US CTO under Obama and previously helped found Castlight Health and Athenahealth, both health-tech companies with valuations in the hundreds of millions.
Devoted had originally forecasted a 2019 launch for their Medicare Advantage plans but have since accelerated their schedule after rolling out their plans to members in eight Florida counties.
The funding round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, whose portfolio includes the likes of Airbnb, Lyft and, unfortunately for them, a now-deceased Airware (RIP). New investors Premji Invest and Uprising also contributed to the round, which brought their total funding to $362m and raised their valuation to a whopping $1.8bn. Not bad for 2 years’ work.
Well, that’s all we have time for this week, but I do hope you enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I enjoyed writing it. We’re always here if you fancy a chat about anything tech- or startup-related so don’t be a stranger, and have a great weekend!
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