The collapse of accelerators (and tech billionaires?)

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Hello all. 

This week Elon Musk wipes $14bn off Tesla’s value and names his baby X Æ A-12.
 
In a world where I’m currently deciding between letting my wife cut my hair or wearing a cap for Zoom meetings, I’m not sure I’ve the mental bandwidth for Elon’s madness.
 
Welcome to a SøNws Thursday special.
 
As I've remembered it’s a bank holiday in the UK tomorrow (as opposed to not knowing what day it is), I thought I’d get some market news down.
 
A couple of things that caught my eye this week:
 

Death of the accelerator?
For a few years now, I’ve been hearing grumbles about the lack of ROI from accelerators – both from corporate partners (/investors) and the startups taking part. That said, the accelerator model has played an important part in building our Insurtech ecosystem, none more so than the Hartford Accelerator.

I’ll write some more on this separately but, doesn’t it seem the perfect opportunity for the industry to step back, review needs and build something anew?
 
For now, if your objective is to source, from a global market, the best innovation aligning to your greatest needs/opportunities, there are smarter ways to do that.
 
 
Nationwide has left the building
I appreciate that for many life in lockdown is tough. There’s a hunger to reconnect with friends and family, explore the world and get back some of our old ways. But you know what, whilst I share all that, some of those old ways weren’t too great either.

I was pleased to see Nationwide’s plans to permanently shift to a hybrid working model – a mix of retaining four main campuses with encouraging staff to retain their remote-work status even after the Covid-19 lock-down is over. I’ve no doubt it's something we’ll be hearing and seeing more of in the weeks to come.
 
[If you are missing the office, this one is for you.]
 
In a kind-of related note, Adam Neumann is suing Softbank for pulling out of a deal to buy $3bn of WeWork’s shares from investors (nearly $1bn belonging to him).
 
Adam Neumann, the guy who tanked his own business, who walked with billions, is suing Softbank during a global pandemic which is crippling the serviced-office space. Amazing.
 
Right, enough despairing of ‘illustrious’ tech founders. What’s been going on in and around the world of insurance?
 
 
From partnerships to product launches
ZhongAn Technologies International Group announced that its joint venture with Fubon Life Insurance, called ZA Insure, has obtained a digital-only insurer license in Hong Kong.
 
I’m lucky enough to have spent a load of time with the ZA guys and am constantly impressed by their ambition and seemingly, their ability, to redefine insurance across markets. I wish them luck with ZA Insure.

Following on from our recent telehealth report, the Swedish healthtech Kry has launched its video consultation platform Livi Connect in the US.
 
The Stockholm-based company is one of Europe’s largest digital health care providers, facilitating 1.8 million consultations to date. By comparison, its somewhat better-known competitor Babylon, has racked up over 2 million consultations.
 
Unsurprisingly, there’s also been a fair bit of automotive news recently, in particular around telematics.
 
The IMS team has launched a usage-based insurance program model for North American insurers, enabling the implementation of a mileage-based UBI product in just a matter of weeks. Well done guys.

And in the UK, AXA Insurance has teamed up with Brightmile to offer fleet customers the Brightmile app for free for 3 months. A good taster I guess, and it’ll be interesting to see how the commercials play out post-trial.

Finally, some good news for dogs
There’s still plenty to report on the investment front although there's a very definite shift from investments to partnerships.
 
To kick things off, it’s got to be the Bought By Many fundraise of £78.4 million (~$98 million). For a UK Insurtech that is huge. I’m happy for them, and so is my dog.
 
Also, a couple of big rounds for Israeli tech this week.

Safe driving company Nexar, founded by a couple of former Yahoo-ers, has raised a $52m Series C. And Otonomo, an auto-data SaaS solution, has raised a $46m Series C.
 
I’ve always been fascinated by Otonomo. It analyses a reported 2.6bn data points daily from its global network of 18m connected vehicles, offering insights that can help bring new auto services to market. The bit that interests me is they provide an alternative to handing data over to the tech giants, who as you’d expect, are doing their best to monopolise the market.

Finally, to bring a little more global context, Singapore-based Axinan, a full-stack AI-powered Insurtech that works with leading e-commerce and travel players in Southeast Asia and Australia, has raised a $16m Series A+. They’ve also just rebranded to Igloo.
 
And a little market news to wrap thing up…


The good and bad from the past fortnight
Great to see Swiss insurance and re-insurance group Helvetia announce that it will pay 50% of BI claims for restaurants and hotels not covered by state support. This is in spite of a pandemic exclusion in customer policies. Hats off Helvetia.
 
In the UK, LV= has followed in Admiral's footsteps, offering refunds to its auto customers. Well done team LV=. £30m has been set aside to offer refunds of £20-£50 to eligible direct car and motorbike insurance customers.
 
And in the not such great news, RBS has shut down its challenger bank and AIG has culled its ‘insurtech’ Blackboard.
 
I’m not that surprised by Bó - the writing has been on the wall since it launched 6-months back. The Blackboard decision, that’s an interesting one. If anyone knows the reasons behind it, I’d be keen to hear more. I assume they were struggling to monetise it, coupled with getting hit by a whole world of Covid-19 related costs?
 
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Three things to call out before I disappear:

1. Innovation Reports
We’ve spun up a couple of super interesting reports over the past couple of weeks:

More of these to follow in the following weeks.

2. Insurtech 100
We’ve just submitted this year’s Insurtech 100 to Swifty and the team over at the Insurance Post. An incredibly interesting list, with over a third new entrants. More on this next time, but drop me a line if you’d like to receive a copy when it’s published.

3. Sønr 14-day free trial
The past few weeks has shown us Sønr is beautifully placed to help our clients accelerate digital transformation and innovation. Especially when teams can’t get to events, are working remotely from one another and the market is changing so quickly.
 
If you haven’t trialled Sønr, get in touch. We’re happy to open the full platform to you and as many colleagues as you wish for 14 days. It’s a serious bit of kit supported by an exceptional team of researchers and analysts who are there to help.
 
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Right time to enjoy an escape from lockdown and take my dog for his one walk of the day.
 
For those with long weekends, enjoy. Until next time.

Matt
 
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It provides intelligence on market trends, competitor playbooks and disruptive tech companies globally. It also has a number of features that help you track and manage scouting activity across your organisation.
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