What's that about Chinese robots?

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tech and innovation

I’ve spent a fair bit of time out in China but have never been as excited about a trip like I am for the one coming up.

In a few weeks we’re taking out one of our clients to immerse them into the world of tech and innovation. As with all these immersions it’ll be full-on; 5 days split across Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing, meeting a mix of startups, scale-ups, corporate innovators and thought-leaders.

This time though we’ve an itinerary second to none – 20+ meetings with the most incredible new ventures; from crazy advanced AI tech to companion robots for the elderly, a day with Alibaba and an afternoon with ZhongAn. Just bloody brilliant.

And if the days weren’t enough, we’ve also one night at Alibaba’s recently opened Flyzoo Hotel, staffed by robots…of course, and will be eating at Beijing’s first AI-powered restaurant. It can’t all be work, work, work right?


tech and innovation

If you’ve not been out to China with your company and would like to, drop me a line. Happy to chat about our next trip.

One of my favourite raises this week is Alan in France – €40m led by Index Ventures. I met up with Jean-Charles last year and was super impressed by the guy, the business and his ambition for the company. This funding will help Alan roll out across Europe, this funding will help grow the team to c.175 by the end of the year.

Next up, INSHUR. I recently(ish) wrote about them launching in the UK. Now, with the help of the omnipresent Munich Re, they have a further $7m to expand into new territories and accelerate their reach into new verticals across the US and Europe.

Staying on the UK automotive theme, GM have just taken a good chunk of wejo with an £80m investment. Currently set up as an online exchange that lets car manufacturers sell data from vehicles, wejo will work with GM to create new products such as real time parking availability, accurate fuel price comparisons and improved driving and ownership experience. All sounds eminently sensible when considering the connected car space is predicted to be worth more than £600bn by 2020.

A couple of really interesting investments into businesses we’ve been tracking for a while; Berlin-based Vantik, whose model is a brilliant twist on the traditional life insurance and pension planning (and definitely worth checking out), have taken on a $1.6m seed round. Further ahead, the Californian Human API team have raised $10m to fund growth and expansion plans for its health data aggregation platform.


tech and innovation

Last but not least, TrackActive are looking for funding. Part of the 2017 Startupbootcamp cohort, TrackActive are a chatbot-driven physical health app which, at the time of writing, is £223k in to a £250k Seedrs raise.

At a global level, we’ve been witnessing a shift in insurance companies to be more than ‘just’ insurance. Much of this derives out of the problem of customers not liking insurance (pretty much every aspect of it), coupled with the ever-changing consumer demands for immediacy, simplicity and mobility. Something, until recently, we’ve not often associated with the industry.

What we get is Generali providing babysitters for customers who have to stay in hospital, Discovery launching a behavioural bank, and Porto Seguro diversifying wholesale into car repairs and plumbing.


tech and innovation

But it’s not just the big companies making the shift beyond insurance; insurtech, Singapore Life, announced the acquisition of the prepaid Visa card brand Canvas this week, continuing its expansion into the financial services space.

Future planning isn’t ever straight-forward. Especially when considering how rapidly tech innovation is changing the landscape. Our favourite recent client briefs was the simple one line:
‘What does our business look like in 10 years time?’

If you don’t know the answer to that question, or have a plan but could do with some research/insight to back it up, drop us a line. We can definitely help.

Not much to report on partnerships this week. The main one is InsureMyTrip partnering with Assurex Global Partners; the former being the largest travel insurance comparison site in the US, the latter the largest privately-owned commercial insurance group. If travel and commercial is your thing, then this one is for you.

It always at this part of Sø.Nws where I realise I’ve been spending way too long on writing this. Time for a slightly abbreviated run through the rest.

New product launches:
Nationwide launches SmartMiles, a pay-per-mile product aimed at low-mileage drivers. Currently Illinois only with a 2019 plan to roll out across the US – no contracts, no long-term commitments. Good to see but very much table stakes. More interesting is how they’re dovetailing this as an acquisition driver for their SmartRide product.

MS Amlin launches Technology Combines – an all-risk policy for UK tech and innovation sector allowing clients to pick and choose products. Not sure it’s particularly innovative. Gives a level of flexibility, I guess.

Something I do like is Gen Re’s launch of their ‘NOW’ app. Using facial analytics tech and innovation from Lapetus Solutions, they’ve built a prototype to provide quotes against an uploaded ‘selfie’.  Based on what we’ve been seeing in China, we’re certain to be seeing more and more of this over the coming years.

Some random other news:
Japanese life insurer Daido is set to enter Australian market through Integrity Life in which it holds a major stake.Credendo, the Belgian credit agency, launches Area42 – an innovation lab designed to ‘recode’ credit insurance.

And something that just blows my mind, is Allianz X has boosted their VC fund to €1bn. A crazy number and things must be going okay considering they started out in 2016 start with €430 million.

Lastly, this week’s Spøtlight instalment. We sat down with Andrew Leal, co-founder and CEO of pet insurance startup, Waggel. The company, co-founded by Apprentice 2017 contestant Ross Fretton, is positioning themselves as a complete pet wellbeing platform, insurance just one component of this. We’ve spent time with Andrew in a Partnership Day we ran for a client – he’s a seriously creative, entrepreneurial chap and I hope 2019 is a strong year for Waggel.

It’s got to be time to wrap this up. For the keener link-clicking readers amongst you, you’ll have noticed we’re now linking into the Sønr platform. If you’re not actively subscribed to Sønr, you won’t be able to see all the profile data, nor click further. Sorry about that. That said, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to demo you through the wider offering.

Before I go, please say you saw this earlier in the week.

Just too good.


Founder & CEO
+44 7788 711 104

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