Sleigh it ain't so - it's the final 2020 SøNws

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This week’s two standout moments:

  1. My (2.5 year old) son claiming he was Baby Jesus
  2. His assurance was two leopards that visited the stable

It’s time for the SøNws Christmas special – but before anything, I want to say a big thanks to all our SøNws clients.

2020 has been a pretty crazy year all around but it has been made a whole load easier with your support, energy and regular catch-ups. Thank you all for supporting SøNws.

[I feel at this point I should be linking to a blog post detailing all of our year’s successes. Sadly, I haven’t written one.]

For those who read SøNws regularly and are not yet a client (I’m dumbfounded), thanks for the support too. I honestly don’t mean it as passive-aggressively as it might come across! It’s crazy to think that 10k+ people are reading this SøNws fortnightly and for that, I’m humbled.

If you haven’t subscribed SøNws yet.
If you haven’t trialled Sønr.

Sønr Øne. Yule be beside yours-elf
Our #1 ambition is to get this industry innovating quicker.

One way we can do that is to get Sønr in the hands of everyone and we’ve been exploring just how we might achieve that. Inspired by the Swedish word Lagom, we think might be on to something.


If you’re not a client of SøNws but are open to helping us develop a new concept for 2021 (working title – Sønr Øne), please drop me a line. I’ve messaged a few folks already but, as is often the way with these things, the more input we can get, the better the output.

Let’s kick things off with some market consolidation.

Why did Bain Capital decide to buy LV= instead of Rudolph or Blitzen?
They were two deer.  
As I’m sure you’ll have picked up, Bain Capital announced plans to buy LV= savings, retirement and protection business. And in a similar vein, Aviva has agreed to sell its Vietnamese life insurance business to Manulife.

In the world of Insurtech, Verisk is set to acquire behavioural data and intelligence company Jornaya. And Next Insurance has made its first acquisition – Juniper Labs.

The acquisition is part of the plan to launch Next Labs at SøNws, which will incorporate Juniper’s open data and machine learning-powered underwriting technology, to help them offer more scalable products.


Finally, HealthHero now claims to be the largest telemedicine startup in Europe having reached a total of 20m customers after acquiring Doctorlink.

What cars do elves drive? Toyotas!
Last week Zego acquired telematics company Drivit to help them collect real-time driver behaviour data. The acquisition allows Zego to collect up to 5x more data per vehicle than competitors.

A week later and they’re back with more headlines.

It has become the first UK insurtech to secure a European broking licence, opting for a Dutch licence. The new licence will help ensure BAU post-Brexit, and help them scale to new territories next year.

But it’s not all about Zego. There’s a tree-mendous amount of mobility activity this week.

Trōv have launched their Risk Operations Technology – helping commercial mobility customers better assess and manage risk.

Flock, the commercial drone insurer, has launched a new commercial motor division, Flock Motor. Partnering with insurer NIG, as well as telematics providers Samsara and Geotab, they’re bringing a range of digital insurance products for connected motor fleets.


Plus it looks like EV company Elmo has already signed up as a customer. Fast work Flock.

Marmalade, which specialises in young driver insurance, launched a new pay-as-you-go insurance product.

Using its App & Tag system, drivers will only have to pay for the miles they drive in cars where they’re not the main named driver. The policy is underwritten by Ageas.

That reminds me, I’m sure I went to school with the founder of Marmalade. I need to look him up. Who’d have thought our childhood dreams of working in insurance would have come true?

Cazoo, the online car retailer has snapped up car rental service Drover, in its bid to expand reach across Europe. Cazoo had planned to launch its own subscription service in late 2021, but now can accelerate its plans to become ‘the Netflix of cars’.

Another SøNws that I really enjoyed this week was hearing Credit Karma was launching Karma Drive, a usage-based insurance product powered by Zendrive and in partnership with Progressive.

The model is to allow users to see how much money they could save, before purchasing a new policy. Nice.

Making sure we, at SøNws, look after ours-elf in 2021
Investment into mental health continues to remain strong.

With its second raise of the year, Modern Health announced a $51million Series C for its new digital mental health product for employers.


Joining a growing list of startups providing a more holistic digital mental and physical health offering, Modern Health have raised nearly $85million this year. Given the acute pressure on healthcare systems as well as longer-term trends of spiralling costs and limited capacity, we’re likely to see similar offerings become the norm.

And digital meditation app, Calm has raised a cool $75m. Whilst we’ve seen new entrants into the mental health provision space recently, Calm have been around a while now – having raised a $115m Series B roughly 12 months ago they now boast a $2billion valuation.

Finally, one that caught my eye was chronic condition management startup, Welldoc launching a new behavioural health tool.

With both the growing scale of mental health issues as well as the link between mental and physical health, the startup now offers patients a more holistic proposition.

What does Santa do with out of shape elves?
Sends them to an elf farm

Where to start with this.

Oscar, one of the first health insurers to offer virtual care services, has just landed another $140m. in financing. That means it has raised the equivalent of $1m a day for the entirety of 2020. Just wow.

A couple of interesting stats:

  • since 2017, Oscar has seen annualised membership growth of more than 70%
  • it has 420,000 members across 15 states

To be honest I expected more. What is for sure is they’re well placed to capitalise on a US market crying out for accessible and affordable care. Plus, they’re now loaded with money to scale. 2021 should be an interesting journey for them.

Another big raise this week was from Babylon which brought home $100m.


Babylon, which has seen strong growth since its latest series C fundraising in mid 2019, will use the new funding to continue to invest in its international expansion, increased focus on value-based care and ongoing product development.

Stepping down to a mere $60m raise as we find US-based nference. If you’re not familiar with these guys, they have a biomedical information search tool which is particularly interesting at the mo, with the widening gap between data and insight. Something they’re able to successfully bridge.

Last of the big health-related raises and Well Dot has announced a $40million round for its AI solution, which provides pro-active health and wellness advice through their app and via phone.

The personalised insights are now combined with incentives and rewards programmes to reinforce behaviours. Whilst not new, it’s a good example of integrated channel usage.

Finally, and actually one from last week, Swiss insurtech company dacadoo have launched their ‘Wheel of Life’! The long and short is, its their digital health engagement platform or as they put it, the ‘ultimate lifestyle navigator’.


To be fair, it’s worth checking out, especially as the world of life and health is now focussed on the prevention of conditions. Plus, they’re already working with both SOMPO and Generali Hellas.

No Claus for concern as life innovation continues at pace
A couple that jumped out at me this week.

Bestow, the US life insurer has raised a $70m Series C, less than a year after raising a $50m Series B. The money is set to fund new products and scale the business.

Interestingly Bestow’s median customer age is 39, and a healthy 35-year old female can purchase $500,000 in coverage over a 20-year policy for as little as $22.50 per month.


I appreciate I’m not 35 or female or living in the US, but that is definitely a whole lot less than I’m paying for my life insurance.

The other, and it’s a little more broad than just ‘life’, was last week’s announcement of AIA’s partnership with ZhongAn.

The agreement, across multiple markets, is for ZA Tech to help accelerate efforts to digitise AIA offerings across Life, Health and P&C, with the first products due to be released in Malaysia.

Now, I appreciate for many of us Malaysia feels like a long way away but don’t be fooled. ZhongAn are continuing to scale rapidly and have huge global ambitions. My recommendation: go speak to them as early as you can.

There’s snow place like home
Digital-first contents insurer, Getsafe raised $30m last week, in a Series B round led by Swiss Re.

Interestingly Getsafe now has currently has 150k active customers, but similar to how Lemonade talk about their customer base, 90% are first-time insurance buyers.

The more I hear this kind of stuff, the more I feel incumbents are leaving money on the table.

The other to report on was Luko, the smart home insurer which raised a $60m Series B.


I met their founder Raphaël Vullierme when we organised a partnership day for BGL Group a couple of years back. At the time Luko were still finding their feet but boy, it didn’t take long for that to change.

Who hides in the secure data at Christmas?
A mince spy!

Alright, not one of the best Christmas cyber jokes but let’s crack-er on with it.

Last week Cyber insurtech At-Bay raised a $34m Series C, adding Microsoft’s M12 venture fund as a new investor.

At-Bay proactively looks for vulnerabilities and security risks to help businesses avoid data breaches before they happen. They quote that their claims frequency is less than half the industry average. These are significant numbers.


And this week AI-enabled full-stack insurance platform Now Insurance has raised an additional $1.25m in Seed funding, bringing total funding to $2.5m.

Now Insurance provides small business owners and professionals with customised liability and cybersecurity coverage, and plans to expand into more areas.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh-chine learning (?!!)
Keeping with the AI vibe and white-label insurance solution provider Wakam (formerly La Parisienne Assurances) has announced a partnership with Akur8, the AI pricing solution startup.

The partnership will see Wakam leverage Akur8’s AI technology to provide more accurate and targeted pricing, and accelerate time to market. This is particularly important at this time as their insurance partners look to react quickly to consumer demands amidst the pandemic.

AI-powered fraud detection startup Shift Technology is helping combat ‘dubious’ claims this week, announcing it’s working with Elephant Insurance to improve fraud detection in the P&C insurer’s claim process.

Finally, Aegis has announced a new partnership with startup expert.AI as part of its AI strategy.

Whilst details of the deal were thin on the ground, Aegis have cited the partnership will support their property underwriting as part of their digital transformation process.

Why does Santa go down the chimney?
Because it soots him!

For those who don’t know Cole Winans or his business, Flyreel, have a read of this week’s Spøtlight interview.

Enabling users to users scan their property with their smartphone camera, Flyreel provides interior and exterior data to insurance carriers to improve underwriting, risk management, and claims outcomes.

Cole is a super bright guy running a business that’s rapidly gaining momentum.
One of those you definitely want to keep a track of.

Sønr’s gift of 5* data
So, something that has come up in no less than three conversations this week:

Early this year we launched a number of ‘enterprise’ tools that help teams better share knowledge and activity. From simple things such as seeing which colleagues have met with which startups, to being able to record meeting notes, link to startup pitch decks, get automated updates on companies you’re tracking etc.

One of the key features is the ability to build multiple customised CRM boards to track activity. Better still, to share these with colleagues and have a single-view of activity across a team or company.

This week we’ve been contacted by three insurers each looking at different CRM platforms, yet each platform was ingesting data from the same data source.

Whilst there’s much more to Sønr than its CRM capability, it was interestingly to learn who this data provider was.

Without naming names, we also pull all their data and can confidently say it’s a source we most commonly have to check, edit and enrich. As we ingest data from thousands of different sources, that’s pretty good going!

My ask is that when you’re thinking about scouting, tracking and managing innovation activity, start with good data. If the data is no good, it doesn’t matter what process you wrap around the management of it, you’ll be exposed.

And secondly, part of my Q1 2021 strategy is to explore a strategy to open our data to 3rd party CRM providers. Who knew there was such a need for it?!

Right enough.

It’s my last day in the office and time to indulge in some Christmas goodness with my wife and our self-named Baby Jesus. Let’s just hope the leopards don’t visit.

Have a great break and look forward to catching up on the other side.


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