Q1 Analysis and the Rise of Open Innovation

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open innovation


We’ve been crunching the Q1 investment activity.

  • $5.8 billion invested into Insurtech
  • 51% of deals were early stage

Both crazy numbers but nothing compared to what we’ll see over the next 24-36 months.

My prediction:

  • 2021 – a new wave of emergent innovation flooding the market
  • 2022 – open innovation will be THE central tenet to corporate innovation
  • 2023 – a few more full-stack disruptors will be joining the mainstream
  • 2024 – we see a divergence in performance lines between incumbents

And across that timeline, BigTech will continue its shift from enablement to distribution to changing the landscape entirely and ultimately owning it. Maybe.

Right, let’s talk open innovation.

In fact, I’ve a feeling this week’s SøNws is going to be an open innovation special.

Wakam – driving the future of insurance
If you want to see what the insurer of the future looks like, it’s worth keeping an eye on one of our favourite clients* Wakam.

Here are just a few of the partnerships they’ve struck in the past few weeks:

Wetterheld – working with Wakam, they’ve created a parametric weather insurance solution for farmers, restaurant owners and event organizers. Wetterheld, a German insurtech, collects the data from the national weather station and the coverage is automatically triggered when the pre-defined parameters (rainfall, drought, too hot/cold season), are exceeded.

Cuvva – Wakam have plugged into Cuvva’s mobile app to offer fully digital, comprehensive monthly subscription cover. No interest. No cancellation fees.

Hiro – another UK Insurtech, led by former Neos co-founder Krystian Zajac, has come together with Wakam to provide discounted insurance for owning smart home products that can help protect their homes – like smart cameras, smoke detectors or leak detectors. Quotes with just 6 questions, within 60 seconds, monthly subscriptions, no cancellations fees, plain English policies, app-first…so good.

open innovation

Zego – two new flexible insurance products for moped and e-bike fleets in the UK. The new products, developed in partnership with Wakam, enable businesses in the fast-growing food and grocery delivery market to save time and money.

Oh, the last Wakam news – it has extended its involvement in the Tezos ecosystem by becoming a corporate baker. Tezos? Corporate baker? One for another time but all part of Wakam’s strategy to get more involved and better understand the vast number of opportunities the world of blockchain provides.

If you were wondering if blockchain might be something you should be exploring, Wakam now automates the management of more than 550,000 contracts on the blockchain. It’s their belief, and something I wholeheartedly agree with, that guaranteeing consumers complete transparency and immutability of their contracts is the future of insurance.

When I talk about a 2024 prediction of diverging performance lines between incumbents, it’s not because of the innovation we’re going to see in 3 years time; it’s a direct consequence of the action, or in-action, that’s taking place today.

If you want to know more about how best to capitalise on open innovation, have a read of our accelerating digital report we published last year. It’s one of our most heavily downloaded:

open innovation

Accelerating commercial innovation 
Corvus has partnered with specialty P&C insurer Skyward Specialty to expand the Corvus SmartCargo + Cyber offering – a data-driven cargo policy with comprehensive cyber liability endorsement.

The partnership will bring coverage to new industries and enable the analysis of larger risks. The move comes just a few weeks after Corvus raised a $100m Series C, valuing the company at $750m.

INSTANDA, a company I’m hearing more and more good stuff about, has partnered with London Underwriters to launch a new insurtech, Bunch Insurance.

Bunch, which offers Commercial Property, was created after INSTANDA “challenged London Underwriters’ way of thinking” and enabled the wholesale broker to test and iterate its MVP on the fly via its agile, low-code platform.

open innovation

London Underwriters say this is just the first of a ‘bunch’ of products. I know.

And open innovation isn’t just the domain of incumbents – this week we saw insurtech Bold Penguin partnering with digital business insurtech Thimble.

As we see a continued shift toward hyper-personalised and flexible policies, Thimble’s coverage options are designed to give more control to businesses of all sizes, including the ability for small businesses to buy cover by-the-job.

Non-insurance is the new insurance
There’s no disputing that to succeed in the next 5-10 years life insurers must fundamentally rethink and transform their value proposition. And that journey is a shift from a provider of mortality risk protection to an orchestrator of healthier living, and from a savings product manufacturer to a partner in financial wellness.

And so this week we saw some great open innovation examples of life insurers starting that transition.

Zurich Malaysia has partnered with Singapore’s BetterTradeOff (BTO) for a financial planning solution, ‘Up | MyZurichLife’, to help MyZurichLife’s users better plan for the future.

The cloud-based solution will leverage analytics and a drag-and-drop customer journey to develop a comprehensive plan that helps people understand how different scenarios, such as buying a home or paying for a child’s education, could impact their financial future.

open innovation

Automated life insurance advice startup Anorak has partnered with free online mortgage broker Trussle, to provide even more support to home buyers.

Anorak has been integrated into Trussle’s mortgage sourcing system, streamlining the life insurance purchasing process and helping educate users on making the right insurance decisions during a period of fast-paced yet uncertain home-buying in the UK.

And dacadoo has partnered with Digital Insurance Group (DIG) to offer lifestyle-based products to life insurance clients.

The new Health Risk Quantification product, which can be integrated easily via DIG’s low-code and open API platform, enables accelerated underwriting, personalised pricing and lessens the need for in-person assessments.

open innovation

Finally, Guardian Life has partnered up with insurtech Atidot, entering into a joint venture to create new insurance models and customer experiences, using AI and machine learning to power data driven decision-making.

The road to success for auto insurance
Alright, not the best title but it is a Friday.

Last week we saw telematics broker Marmalade get acquired by personal insurance broker Atlanta Group. Marmalade, which writes around 12.5k PAYG and annual policies a month, specialises in covering drivers under 34, and will bring a telematics specialism to Atlanta, helping the company reward careful drivers.

And couple of weeks back, and one I failed to include last time, insurtech Honcho has announced it a partnership with Admiral Group to offer Admiral MultiCar insurance on its platform.

Honcho’s reverse auction marketplace enables users to find the best price for insuring their vehicle from more than 40 providers, although due to technical and historical issues a multicar insurance product isn’t available on an aggregator platform.

However with the new partnership Honcho’s customers can now insure two or more cars together. Good work guys.

From flooding to online toxicity. Insurance is a broad old world.
A couple of other interesting partnerships I thought worth sharing…

Zurich announced a pilot project with flood forecasting startup Previsico which will aim to tackle surface water flooding.

The pilot will work across 5,000 locations in the UK, with the ambition to reduce the cost of false alarms. Previsico’s visual tools helps claims teams reach affected properties and people in the event of a flood, as well as better predict total losses and reduce fraud.

And a platform business I really like is Spectrum Labs, which has partnered with Munich Re.

Spectrum provides technology to consumer internet brands (Riot Games, Peleton etc) to help identify toxic behaviour online. The partnership will help protect Spectrum’s customers and manage their risk as it continues its mission in making the internet a safer and more valuable place.

On that note, here’s my fortnightly apology for anyone who has been in touch about the new community idea I’m setting up. More groups are up and running, more to come. New website designs are getting mocked up as we speak and we’re looking at an official launch end of May/June.

New solutions. New markets
A year after raising $3.3m in Seed financing and achieving a whopping 700% YoY revenue growth, PolicyMe has launched a new digital life insurance product.

The new product leverages an algorithmic underwriting engine to determine risk and is able to provide users with an approval within 20 minutes.

Interestingly, PolicyMe also provides users with a tool that helps them determine whether they actually need life insurance based on their current health and financial situation – advising 26% of users against buying in an effort to stop an industry trend of overselling.

open innovation

If that doesn’t build trust (and SEO!), I don’t know what does.

UK pet insurer Bought By Many – or ManyPets, as it’s known elsewhere – has announced its US launch.

The move across the Atlantic follows a bumper year for the startup, having doubled its headcount and its GWP to more than $200m over the past 12-months. The company, under its moniker ManyPets, launched in Sweden in 2019 – where it’s now the highest ranked insurer for dog policies.

And finally, Swiss Re has been announced as the reinsurer for insurtech Surround, following a $2.6m Seed round.

Surround, which is led by former Liberty Mutual employees, focuses on addressing the insurance gap for young adults, offering bundled ‘starter packs’ which include cover for driving, rentals, and professional liability for side gigs. Super interesting.

Remember those fledging startups just a few years back?
Let’s start with our friends over at ZhongAn, which has announced their FY 2020 results. As always, an interesting read.

Their health ecosystem has climbed to 23.9m users (in just 7 years) and, more broadly, it’s now the 9th largest insurer in China with GWP of $2.5bn. It even made a slight profit of $85m. Not bad bearing in mind just how much they continue to invest into growth.

In addition ZA Bank became Hong Kong’s number one virtual bank with 300,000 users (in less than 12 months) and ZA Insure is seeing month-to-month growth of 35%.

That leads me on nicely to Next Insurance.

How do you double your valuation from $2bn to $4bn in under 12 months?

Seemingly partnering with Amazon certainly helps. Add to that a huge surge in SMBs seeking better protection during Covid, the acquisition of a number of companies and doubling GWP, and you’ve a pretty good recipe.

And so Next insurance has raised yet another $250m. Build, build, build.

Another big raise, again in the commercial space, was SMB insurer, Pie Insurance which bought in a $118m Series C.

Finally cloud-native claims management platform Snapsheet raised $30M through a Series E2 funding round led by Ping An Global Voyager Fund and Pivot Investment Partners.

The company, which offers end-to-end, no-code automation solutions, also revealed it has added 17 new software clients since 2020, bringing its total to over 100. Not a bad 2020.

If you want to know anything more about the companies mentioned above, you can find them all featured in last year’s Insurtech 100.

  • ZhongAn – #3
  • Next Insurance – #12
  • Snapsheet – #36
  • Pie #79

open innovation

Whilst I genuinely love the scale of these businesses, it’s the next generation of innovation that really gets me. And I’m convinced we’re going to see a new wave hitting insurance over the next 12 months.

Sønr is now tracking 90,000+ companies which are impacting the world of insurance. This is from a data set of over 2+ million.

You simply can’t get your hands on more comprehensive and accurate intelligence on what’s going on in insurtech and insurance innovation.

Plus over 2020 we built a number of tools that’ll now allow you and your teams to better manage and track your market scanning activity. Perfect for the shift towards open innovation.

We want to get our intel in the hands of everyone. Whether you’re the CEO of a big carrier or a specialist within a division of a division of a small company, get in touch and let’s find a way to work together.

Have great weekends all. Keep well.


*we love all our clients equally. True story.

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