Thanks to Matt F for picking up the last SøNws. Thanks also to all those who said he should carry on writing SøNws! I'll try not to take it too personally.
I’ve come back from holiday to a mountain of innovation activity from around the world but before I dive in, I want to plug Sønr a little.
Whilst we’re still a young business, the past 6 months has taught us more about the value of what we’ve created than any other. Our core business, as hopefully you’ll know by now, is our market intelligence platform – Sønr.
For the past couple of years I’ve been incredibly proud to be working with clients including Ageas, BGL Group, Bupa, HUK-COBURG and so many more around the world. Most recently it’s the flood of new companies approaching us that’s woken me up to just how valuable the information we house can be for their businesses.
An example of that, and something I’ve barely given thought to is our partnership data. Very simply, we track who is working with who (across 1.5 million companies!).
From an innovator’s perspective it signals a startup/scaleup’s inclination to partner with an incumbent. It’ll mean, most likely, they’ll have a proven PoC framework, a proven model for engaging with large corporates and an understanding of the operational challenges you face when engaging with externals. It’ll also show you whether they’re already working with your competitors!
To kick things off let’s start with a few partnerships we’ve tracked over the past couple of weeks.
Making new friends
As the image above shows, we have MAPFRE who has partnered with Shift to create a new claims process. Shift has joined insur_space, MAPFRE's startup engagement program, and over the next few months will develop a roadmap for a more friendly and transparent claims experience.
In the US, Liberty Mutual has partnered with CoreLogic to deploy a new property estimation platform. There’s not too much on this other than the intent to create a better end-to-end workflow management and an improved experience for adjusters and customers.
But it’s not just incumbents partnering with tech startups that we’re tracking.
Last week Swiss Re and Daimler Insurance Services announced their partnership to launch an auto insurtech Movinx, which will offer flexible and fully digital products. Movinx will act as an MGA, and the joint venture will be open for co-operations with other stakeholders such as car manufacturers or, more generally, mobility service providers.
And finally, sometimes it’s the tech companies who are coming together.
On Tuesday, Life.io and Unqork announced a partnership to offer insurers a new digital purchasing platform that reduces friction for clients and advisors. If you don’t know these guys, it’s probably worth checking them out.
Life.io are the team that started out in 2012 trying to answer the one question: “Why do consumers have deeper relationships with their local coffee chain or search engine than with their life insurer?”
And Unqork, best known for their work with some of the big global banks, are the no-code enterprise application platform which uses a drag-and-drop interface to build applications faster, better and cheaper than conventional approaches. Something that’s getting a lot of attention at the mo.
A world of money still pouring into Insurtech
Keeping with no-code and California Unit21 is a no-code AI fraud detection solution which closed a $13m round this week. They plan to use the money to drive marketing and sales activity as well as further product development.
Head down the road a little and Extend raised a $40m Series B. These guys make use of APIs to help retailers offer extended warranties on their products. CEO Woody Levin said that Extend currently works with more than $27bn in warrantable gross merchandise value. Not bad for a company which set up last year.
My final US-based raise comes from Zest AI. They brought in $15m. I thought it worth including as we’ve a load of clients currently looking at credit scoring.
Zest’s Automated Machine Learning (ZAML) enables lenders to analyse non-traditional data, including data they already have in-house, such as customer support data, payment histories, and purchase transactions.
Zest claims that clients have experienced a 20% increase in approval rates whilst risk stays the same. And they’re not alone in going beyond the defacto data choices. Experian’s Boost and Freedom Finance’s Fusion Score are two great examples of Open Banking enabled services, improving credit score by analysing transactions in current accounts.
A world of money still pouring into Insurtech
And now for a whistle-stop tour of investments from around the world.
South African insurtech Click2Sure has raised a 'multi-million’ Rand investment. Multi-million? It reminds me of the time I was persuaded to do the Bloukrans Bridge bungy jump in the Western Cape.
Whilst heading along a pretty terrifying metal walkway, suspended 216m in the air, the proud guide talked about the ‘thousands’ of Rand it had costed to build it. With an exchange rate of £1:R20 it wasn’t the most comforting thing he could have said.
I do like Click2Sure. They’re another business driving Open Insurance – having developed a range of API’s which enable cross-selling of product insurances directly at the point of sale.
In that same vein, Australia’s Cover Genius has raised AUS$15m, and announced the launch of its product and parcel insurance on Shopee Thailand. The latest funds will be used to support integrations with companies in SE Asia, India, the US and Europe.
Closer to home and digital brokerage service provider Hedvig has announced a SEK80m ($9m) extension of its Series A round. The company, currently operational in Sweden and Norway, plans to use the funding to expand to new European countries, beginning with Denmark in the new year.
Finally, Brazilian healthtech, Sami has announced a $15m raise, which will see the insurtech tackle the incumbent-dominated private health insurance market. Can they 'do an Oscar'? Only time will tell.
Actually before I wrap up investments, it seems there’s a resurgence in crowdfunding, with a number of insurtechs (including Rnwl and DeadHappy) recently fundraising. And as of last night I caught that Laka would be joining the crowd ahead of a Series A next year.
New products in the market
As well as at tonne of investment activity, there has been plenty of new product/company launches.
An interesting and timely one from Convr, the underwriting decisioning platform, which launched a new complimentary underwriting tool for commercial P&C carriers in the US - Convr Insider.
Amongst other things, it includes a Covid-19 management dashboard, providing clients with a centralised view of all local Covid-19 insights, as well as a score which predicts the likelihood of a business having an outbreak in the future.
Another risk-based innovation, is Mitti, a joint venture between QBE Australia and SafetyCulture. Leveraging big data, AI and machine learning, Mitti is aiming to challenge the traditional insurance model for SMEs, with a key focus on risk mitigation to reduce the likelihood of needing to make a claim.
Humn.ai has launched a new fleet insurance product – Rideshur – which uses real-time data to generate premiums. Rideshur will process hundreds of data points every second to create a risk scores for individual drivers, and this will generate premiums tailored to each driver.
With a B2C focus, Metromile has launched Ride Along, a free trial of their pay-per-mile insurance where users can measure how much they drive over a two week period, and see how much they could save if they switched to Metromile. Very clever. I like to think of it as the 14-day Sønr trial of on-demand insurance.
Smart home insurance startup Luko which has launched a remote home maintenance video service. Doctor House aims to help support policyholders with all their home maintenance needs by providing a complete home check up, a diagnosis of needed home repairs, and an estimate for development projects.
In Japan, Nippon Life Insurance has launched a virtual tool, powered by Sensely, to help train its 45,000 sales reps. Forty-five thousand. These numbers! Sensely offers several 3D virtual assistants which will provide the reps with content on policies and services 24/7.
Out in China, Tencent has announced the launch of two new products. AIMIS Medical Image Cloud (it kind of does what it says on the tin) and the AIMIS Open Lab designed to leverage cloud-stored medical data to help tech-bods develop innovative new products.
Finally, in the UK it was good to see BGL Group (parent to Compare The Market) launching their new counter-fraud 'pre-sale' technology, using AI and machine learning to identify criminal activity. The Group stated it had saved more than £1.5m on marketing costs alone through the identification of fake policies.
We love these super-tangible links between business problem and solution – so come and chat to us if you’ve got your own and you’re stuck.
IPO season is upon us
A couple of IPO announcements that caught my eye this week. Auto insurtech Root has revealed more - it's targeting a $6.34bn valuation, looking at $22 - $25 per share for its debut. Why not, right?
And China based insurtech Waterdrop announced plans for an IPO in the US in Q1 2021, and expects to raise around $500m. It has previously stated it was looking at a valuation of around $4bn.
All change in pet land
New York-based Petplan is to be renamed 'Fetch by The Dodo', as Group Nine has taken a minority stake. Group Nine's animal-centric video content brand - The Dodo, will promote Petplan's offerings. Petplan currently has over 250k paying subscribers, and is reportedly approaching $150m in gross revenue this year.
As a Petplan UK customer I’m not sure I particularly want to insure my very much alive dog with a company whose brand name is a very much extinct animal. It might just be me.
UK’s pet insurer Bought by Many is also changing its branding to Many Pets but only in markets outside of the UK.
As if there wasn’t enough money out there
It was great to see that SoftBank has named their first investment from their $100M diversity and inclusion fund - Vitable. The startup, specialises in low-cost health insurance for low-income and underserved communities.
And in the same week, more of the SoftBank we know and love, with their Vision Fund reportedly preparing a 'blank cheque acquisition company'. I can only imagine what this is going to look like.
One thing I did read about, and which definitely gets my support, is the VC firm Balderton, raising money for a new fund to ‘blitzscale’ Europe, taking early stage startups to IPO.
Currently the VC, which has invested in over 200 companies, only supports startups in their early stages, however it is now aiming to tackle the stark disparity in investing styles for European startups vs elsewhere globally.
Finally, worth a read - Michael Niddam of Kamet Ventures has offered his advice to startups and founders, including what he and the team at Kamet look for when building insurtechs.
The future of insurance
An event we’re helping push for the nice people over at Reuters, and one to definitely check out, is The Future of Insurance Europe on November 24-25.
Tying in with pretty much everything you’re reading and hearing, their vision for the event is to provide content to help tackle the core challenges facing insurance executives across all major European markets, capitalise on market volatility and emerge stronger than ever before.
The event space is a pretty tricky place to differentiate at the moment, especially now they’re all online. What is standout from these guys, and I guess having the Reuters name behind them helps, is the line-up of speakers - CEOs of Zurich, Lloyd’s, Ageas, Legal & General, SCOR, Willis Towers Watson, GDV, Emerald Life, Bank of England, Beazley and BaFin, as well as the chiefs of claims, product, risk, innovation, and technology.
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