Bless me Sø.Nws reader, for I have sinned. It has been 1 month since my last update.
From Silicon Valley to Shanghai
After a few weeks of accompanying my trainers around the world, and only once giving them a run out, I thought I’d share a few notes.
China, the land of scale
On May 15th we’ll be publishing a deep-dive into the Chinese tech market and its relationship on global insurance. There’s never been a more interesting time to understand what’s going on – whether you’re considering doing business out there, want to bring some of their tech back home, or simply want to better understand the threat as and when they scale internationally.
For now, a few notes/observations…
There are over 100 cities with a population of over 1m people
Facial recognition is used to pay for school lunches, publicly shame j-walkers and access hotel rooms (replacing keycards)
Biadu, Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent (BATX) dominate the market. All of them put customers at the heart of their ecosystems in a way very few businesses ever have. And all are led by founders who, due to the aggressive and turbulent history of China, have a continuous ‘expand or die’ mentality.
Alibaba traded $23.5 billion in the first few hours during last year’s 11.11, have made 1.6 trillion loans through their micro loan business, and acquired 10 million customers in under a month of launching their mutual health insurance for Alipay members.
AI is shifting from 1.0, AI for research, to 2.0, AI for industry. Add in a data set created from a population of 1.3 billion people and an investment FOMO one hundred times greater than Silicon Valley and you’ve a fascinating few years ahead.
QR codes, blockchain and mutual insurance – all things we’ve been rubbishing for years - are unanimously mainstay. When you consider their ubiquitous adoption alongside globalisation, it won’t be long before they circle back round to our local markets.
If you’d like to know more about the Chinese market, more will be shared on the 15th May:
Register for our report here
Sign up for our webinar here
Chicago, home of global domination
Now 11-months into being a ‘dad’, I’ve still got that crazy conflict of wanting more time at work with wanting more time at home. The trade – a 2-hour meeting in Chicago followed by a week with the family in my favourite city.
The meeting was to explore a partnership that will accelerate the roll out of Sønr into every insurance and reinsurance company across the world. Seriously exciting.
San Francisco, where profit doesn’t mean too much
A few months ago we were approached by the CEO and CFO of a large European insurance business, the brief to evaluate opportunities for growth in the US. As part of that we lined up a week of meetings with the founders of the most successful scale-ups.
As part of the post-trip feedback session, the CFO talked about how, in each meeting, he presented their annual EBITDA as part of the introducing the business. The response? Unanimously it was ‘So what?!’. For the founders of these scale-ups it’s all about long-term business value over short-term profit.
I love that. More though, I love the impact it’s had on the mindset of our client, who now recognise the need to consider the business of tomorrow, today. And all this without a single change management or transformation consultant involved. Who’d have thought?!
Now, time for some market news.
I thought I’d write this up a little differently to the normal buy/partner/build and dive into the goings on within a couple of different sectors. Appreciate there’s a tonne more stuff to share with you but hey, that’s part the joy of signing up to Sønr.
Health - consolidation, tech lay-offs and Chinese divestment
Last week were a couple of interesting US headlines. The first was the market consolidation with Centene Corporation acquiring WellCare for a mere $17.3 billion. What it’s created is an even stronger business with a combined 22 million members and expected revenues of circa $100 billion with an EBITDA of $5 billion.
We also saw the much-invested Clover Health lay off a quarter of its workforce. Having raised close to $1bn since 2012, with half of that landing earlier this year, they’re cutting back their tech team to make room for people with health-care expertise. It’s a super interesting move which can be read a number of ways. What is blindingly obvious is the need to blend tech with industry expertise, especially when playing in such a complex space. Let’s see if other players like Bright Health and Devoted will do the same.
Above all this though, one US-related news article jumped out. And that is the Trump administration forcing iCarbonX to divest its stake in US startup PatientsLikeMe. There’s so much to go into here - the obvious is the hurt restricting Chinese investment into the US will have on the local startup market. On the flipside, it might just open new opportunities for European startups to tap into the unprecedented levels investment normally savoured by their counterparts East and West of them.
On the investment front one that jumped out is the Isreali firm, Ibex, raising a Series A of $11m. These guys are developing an AI-driven pathology cancer diagnosis system. Having just read and listened to the Theranos implosion, it’s reassuring to see a healthtech delivering genuine, positive impact on the world.
Auto – autonomous vehicles and mobility-as-a-service
Let’s start this bit with the term lidar (apologies for all those who are in this space). Lidar is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor.
It’s considered a key piece of tech in the self-driving industry which is why there’s so much buzz around the recent $132m Series C round for Innoviz, an Israeli startup that develops lidar sensors and perception software.
Closer to home, it’s great to see our friends at FiveAI starting their driverless car trials in London this week.
Final thing that caught my eye this week was the ‘mobility-as-a-service’ app Zipster (created by mobilityX).
Having spent a fair chunk of time chatting ‘super apps’ in China, it’s really interesting to see the shift towards consolidated services. Zipster in Singapore, launched earlier this week, provides a single point of access to multiple transport options including MRT, buses, private-hire vehicles, e-scooters, bikes and car-sharing services.
On that note, for those who do subscribe to Sønr, we’re pushing the new corporate innovation profiles live next week. You’ll have sight of your competitors’ playbooks including their acquisition, investment, partnership and build activities.
As mentioned earlier we caught up with Joseph Mossel, the CEO of Ibex, a medical analytics startup using AI-based tools to deliver faster, more accurate cancer diagnostics. They recently secured $11m in Series A financing, so we went to find out a bit more about them and how they plan to spend the cash.
Finally, Lapetus Solutions. We chatted with their CMO, Janet Anderson, to learn how their tools and platforms are supporting industries with life event prediction. Established in 2014 Lapetus has picked up a total $4.7M in funding from various investors including Plug and Play, who injected $150k after the company graduated their global startup accelerator programme in 2017.
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