Organic innovation, CowTech and super smart homes

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Every other Friday I sit patiently at my laptop waiting for my brain to organise its thoughts before penning them as a Sø.Nws.
 
This week it has decided to lead with ‘perspectives’.
 
Over the past few weeks we’ve reached out to over 30 prominent figures across insurance innovation globally and asked them to tell us how they do it. Actually I say ‘we’; I’ve had nothing to do with it. It was all Robb. Thanks Robb.
 
Through the course of hours upon hours of interviews he’s explored what works, what doesn’t and where innovation is headed. Our research team has also generated a raft of quantitative data around the state of the industry, which has been combined with our own experience of helping organisations maximise opportunities through smart, customer-centred innovation.
 
The findings? Well, there are 40 pages of findings and they’ll be published next week.

If you’d like a hot off the press copy, give Robb a shout.

One consistent insight was the need for perspective - perspective both on what’s going on outside of insurance, and making sure you’re working alongside people from outside of the industry.
 
It all makes sense, right?
 
What we categorised as insurtech a few years ago is a very different makeup of what it looks like today.  
 
When we first launched Sønr we showcased around six thousand or so startups. At the time, this was the ‘insurance tech’ market. No more and quite possibly, it should have been many less.
 
Bearing in mind we only work with insurance companies, and we’ve been in this space for 3 years, it’s fascinating to see that we’re now pulling in 85,795 insurance related startups across Sønr. And this number is growing daily.
 
The reason for this is purely down to market demand.
 
As part of our on-boarding process we explore the trends most relevant to their business, what the market is up to and the innovation taking place outside of insurance. And then we map all this to the changing consumer and behavioural trends.
 
Note: we’re actively tracking around 1.4 million startups and scale-ups at any given time; all sectors, all geographies.
 

Without wanting to techsplain, and these are definitely my words, not Robb’s, innovation is no more than a solution (incremental or radical) applied to meet existing or new needs. The long and short is it’s not that tricky. Or at least it’s not if you know what’s going on it and you approach it right.
 
Appreciate it’s not always that easy.
 
 
The Oscars of insurance
That’s right, it was the British Insurance Awards last Wednesday. Firstly a big thanks to the Insurance Post for the invite and a spot at the VIP table (that’s how I like to think of it at least).
 
Always super special to be at the Royal Albert Hall and a big congrats to all the winners. My personal highlight – watching Rick Astley help one of the audience rotate the camera on her smartphone so she could get a selfie with him.

There’s definitely an insurance/tech analogy in there somewhere.

Right, market news. Let’s start with the more random highlights from the past couple of weeks.
 
What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.
In the same week as we learnt Elon Musk’s NeuraLink has applied to regulators to start trialling its brain-hacking device on humans, MoooFarm launched its facial recognition CowTech, designed to reduce fraud in the cattle industry. Just brilliant.
 
Let’s hope neither are an udder failure. Last one, I promise.
 
 
It’s all getting a little smarter at home
Absolutely loads of stuff in the home tech market this past fortnight.
 
Wyze, the low-cost home security camera has teamed up with Xnor.ai to introduce AI-powered person recognition capability into their tech. Not unique but at $20 a camera, pretty accessible.
 
Keeping with smartcams, Neos tweeted it had sold nearly twenty thousand during Amazon’s 36-hour Prime Day (think Black Friday or Cyber Monday…just for Prime subscribers). Interestingly they later untweeted this.
 
From smartcams to water leaks. Could you ask for more?
 
Hero Labs, founded last year by one of the co-founders of Neos, Krystian Zajac, has raised £2.5m seed capital with a vision to ‘solve real-life problems with truly smart technology’. He’s kicking this off with Sonic, an aptly named ultrasonic device which attaches to the water pipes. Launch planned for later this year.
 
Sticking in Europe for a sec you have Finnish insurer LähiTapiola partnering with GROHE, offering their Sense water safety system and, on the other side of the pond, Florida-based Olympus Insurance has partnered up with Roost, providing customers with its Smart Water Leak and Freeze Detector.
 
Whilst still at a super early stage, it looks like there may just be something in this preventative, home telematics tech after all.
 
Last interesting thing on the home front, and slightly askew to the above, is Habito – the once pure-play digital mortgage broker. It announced this week the launch of a proprietary lending platform and the offering of its own mortgages.
 
Mortgage applications in half the time, instant decisions, valuations instructed manually and all documentation handled digitally. All sounds bloody lovely. Let’s hope they’ve rolled it out to France by the time we buy our Tällt ski chalet.
 
Clients are welcome there anytime. Just saying.
Your plane’s late, please turn on your data roaming and click here  
Another trend stepping into the mainstream is parametric travel insurance. Omio, the travel agency, has partnered with Setoo, and Air France has partnered with Allianz Travel. Both offering an auto (of sorts) pay-out on delayed flights.
 
Delving into the latter a little deeper they state:
‘The link is automatically provided via SMS and email to a customer on flight delays of over two hours.’ Nice.
 
And then…
 
‘For getting the payment, they [the customer] need to click on a link and enter their booking reference and bank data.’ Hmmm. If only Air France had the booking reference and bank data, it could all be so easy!
 
From planes to cars and you’ve got a couple of big raises this week.
 
Melbourne-based Carbar raised $16.8m with IAG acquiring a majority stake. What I like about these guys is just how their business has evolved. Starting up in 2016 as a vehicle marketplace, they expanded into a try-before-you-buy model and then launched Carbar+ - a month-by-month car subscription. Next step, B2B domination.
 
The other play in the auto space was, of course, Turo. I say ‘of course’ in as much as I couldn’t move for the press covering it. A $250m Series E round valuing the business ‘past the billion-dollar mark’.
 
 
It doesn’t have to be shiny
When reading Robb’s innovation report I was delighted to see there were 5 rules for successful innovation. I mean, who doesn’t love both rules and a listicle?
 
Proving invisible can still be interesting, this week we heard speciality re/insurer Convex were partnering with Cytora to develop an AI-powered commercial underwriting solution.
 
In a similar vein, FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers, invested $1m in RiskGenius a UK based startup that applies AI and ML to automate underwriting processes. 
 
Hey, it’s interesting for some of us.
 
Finally - and okay, maybe a little more visible - Amperity the customer data and identity platform, has raised a $50m Series C. If you don’t know these guys and you’ve got a data play as part of your strategy (which is pretty much all of us), check them out.
 
 
It’s all good news
I’ll rattle through these. I realise I’ve probably taken half your day already.
 
Lemonade announced they’ve given $631k to 26 charities. Check out the beautifully illustrated ‘giveback’ page:
Oscar has moved into a swanky (seriously swanky) new NYC HQ and is on the hunt for over 100 new starters. Gulp.
 
Head further south and in North Carolina Metlife has settled on the nine insurtechs for its second Digital Accelerator programme. What I liked most when reading this was that eight of the insurer’s previous cohort (of ten in total) were now in a pilot process. That’s a good stat and encouraging read.
 
 
It’s not all good news
Not wanting to finish on a downer but hey, it doesn’t always go so smoothly.
 
Following the footsteps of Trōv pulling out the UK, it looks like French startup Valoo has closed shop entirely. Having raised over $10m in the past 5 years they really struggled on the distribution front.
 
Maybe the market’s not quite ready for on-demand.
 
 
 
It is all good news. Really
New locations: we’re currently exploring setting up offices in Oz. If you’re out that way and fancy meeting up, drop me a note. I’d be keen to chat.
 
August capacity: one of our clients has shifted a project back to September. It means we have some bandwidth to help out on new projects, namely across the research team. Yeah I know it’s summer and it’s time to kick back but if you’ve got something that needs a deep-dive or would like to explore a trend or market a little deeper, give us a shout.
 
Proposition development: we’re considering building out a full-time tech team to take concepts to market and co-invest, alongside our clients, in the creation of new products and services. Both are pretty embryonic at the mo and I’d be keen to shape this in partnership. If you’re up for a chat on how we might do this together, drop me a line.


That’s it. No running for me today. It’s tanking down in Bristol and the beer trolley is just moments away.
 
Have great weekends all.
 
Matt
 
Sø.Nws is brought to you by Sønr, which in turn was created by Tällt. 

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