Tell Us About Your Bills From a Hurricane or Flood

As we explore how extreme weather and the climate crisis are affecting Americans, you can help us by detailing what you’ve faced in home repairs and other costs.

#disasters-and-emergencies, #floods, #global-warming, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #insurance, #internal-open-access, #mold, #weather

Review: ‘Dead in the Water,’ by Matthew Campbell & Kit Chellel

In Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel’s real-life whodunit “Dead in the Water,” Big Oil, Big Insurance and global corruption clash on a giant scale.

#books-and-literature, #campbell-matthew-journalist, #chellel-kit, #dead-in-the-water-a-true-story-of-hijacking-murder-and-a-global-maritime-conspiracy-book, #frauds-and-swindling, #iliopoulos-marios, #insurance, #lloyds-of-london, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #sabotage-crime

Lead Paint and the Poisoning of Children

Holding the insurance and real estate industries liable. Also: Russian atrocities in Ukraine; skepticism about Russian polls; free college.

#children-and-childhood, #civilian-casualties, #colleges-and-universities, #insurance, #lead, #polls-and-public-opinion, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #tuition, #ukraine, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

How 2 Industries Stymied Justice for Young Lead Paint Victims

The U.S. insurance and real estate industries have waged a decades-long campaign to avoid liability in lead cases, helping to prolong an epidemic. The cost for millions of children has been incalculable.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #insurance, #landlords, #law-and-legislation, #lead, #poisoning-and-poisons, #politics-and-government, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #renting-and-leasing-real-estate, #ryan-sean-m, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #united-states

Hundreds of Planes Are Stranded in Russia. They May Never Be Recovered.

Western companies that own the planes face little prospect of getting them back, meaning billions of dollars in losses.

#aeroflot-russian-airlines, #airlines-and-airplanes, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #insurance, #nationalization-of-industry, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #s7-airlines

San Jose Moves to Require Gun Owners to Have Insurance and Pay Annual Fees

A proposed ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., calls for an annual “harm reduction fee” of about $25 to pay for programs to stem gun violence.

#constitution-us, #firearms, #gun-control, #insurance, #liccardo-sam, #mental-health-and-disorders, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #san-jose-calif, #suicides-and-suicide-attempts, #suits-and-litigation-civil

COVID testing firm piled unprocessed swabs in trash bags, billed feds $113M

A person takes a rapid COVID-19 test.

Enlarge / A person takes a rapid COVID-19 test. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Federal and state investigations into a large national chain of COVID-19 testing sites have turned up tests that were never labeled with patients’ names, tests piled into trash bags stored for long periods at room temperature, tests that were never processed, and test results that were clearly fake.

Behind the testing sites are two Illinois-based companies: Center for COVID Control (CCC) and Doctors Clinical Laboratory, Inc., which is said to carry out COVID PCR testing for CCC. The two companies share the same address, though CCC is owned by Chicago-area couple Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj, while the clinical company is owned by Mohammed Shujauddin.

Together, the companies claim to provide rapid and PCR testing for COVID-19, with fast turnaround times and no appointments necessary. So far, they have collected more than 400,000 samples from over 300 locations across the US. And they have billed the federal government over $113 million for running many of those tests.

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#cms, #covid-19, #fraud, #insurance, #pcr, #science, #testing

Obamacare Sign-Ups Reach Record as Virus Rocks Job-Based Coverage

Thanks to increased subsidies, new advertising, and a reshaped insurance landscape, 13.6 million Americans have enrolled in plans for 2022. Enrollment continues until Jan. 15.

#american-rescue-plan-2021, #health-insurance-and-managed-care, #insurance, #medicaid, #patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act-2010

Willfully unvaccinated should pay 100% of COVID hospital bills, lawmaker says

People associated with the far-right group America First attend an anti-vaccine protest in front of Pfizer world headquarters on November 13, 2021, in New York City.

Enlarge / People associated with the far-right group America First attend an anti-vaccine protest in front of Pfizer world headquarters on November 13, 2021, in New York City. (credit: Getty | Stephanie Keith)

People who choose to remain unvaccinated and subsequently become severely ill with COVID-19 should be responsible for paying the entirety of their hospital bills out of pocket, according to Illinois Representative Jonathan Carroll.

The Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook introduced legislation Monday that would amend the state’s insurance code so that accident and health insurance policies in 2023 would no longer cover COVID-19 hospital bills for people who choose to remain unvaccinated. Carroll said the rule would not apply to those with medical conditions that prevent vaccination.

The bill will likely face considerable political and legal opposition. Most notably, federal law prevents insurers from denying coverage or increasing rates based on a change in a person’s health status, such as a new diagnosis of COVID-19.

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#covid-19, #hospitalization, #infectious-disease, #insurance, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #unvaccinated, #vaccine

Producers of Alec Baldwin Film Scrutinized After Shooting

The team behind “Rust” chose not to get an insurance package often carried by productions, which some in Hollywood said was a sign of cutting corners.

#baldwin-alec, #creative-artists-agency, #hutchins-halyna-1979-2021, #insurance, #movies, #production, #rust-movie, #souza-joel-1973

U.S. Warns Climate Poses ‘Emerging Threat’ to Financial System

A Financial Stability Oversight Council report could lead to more regulatory action and disclosure requirements for banks.

#banking-and-financial-institutions, #financial-stability-oversight-council, #global-warming, #insurance, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #united-states-politics-and-government, #yellen-janet-l

The ‘Murdaugh Murders’ in South Carolina: What to Know

The unsolved killings of a lawyer’s wife and son have brought new scrutiny to three other deaths in recent years.

#charleston-sc, #colleton-county-sc, #drunken-and-reckless-driving, #embezzlement, #falls, #frauds-and-swindling, #health-insurance-and-managed-care, #hit-and-run-drivers, #insurance, #islandton-sc, #legal-profession, #maritime-accidents-and-safety, #murdaugh-alex-1968, #murdaugh-paul-d-2021, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #smith-curtis-edward-1960, #suicides-and-suicide-attempts

Tesla will open controversial FSD beta software to owners with a good driving record

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will use personal driving data to determine whether owners who have paid for its controversial “Full Self-Driving” software can access the latest beta version that promises more automated driving functions.

Musk tweeted late Thursday night that the FSD Beta v10.0.1 software update, which has already been pushed out to a group of select owners, will become more widely available starting September 24.

Owners who have paid for FSD, which currently costs $10,000, will be offered access to the beta software through a “beta request button.” Drivers who select the beta software will be asked for permission to access their driving behavior using Tesla’s insurance calculator, Musk wrote in a tweet.

“If driving behavior is good for seven days, beta access will be granted,” Musk wrote.

Tesla vehicles come standard with a driver assistance system branded as Autopilot. For an additional $10,000, owners can buy “full self-driving,” or FSD — software that Musk has repeatedly promised will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities.

FSD, which has steadily increased in price and has added new functions, has been available as an option for years. However, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. FSD includes the parking feature Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes.

The latest FSD Beta is supposed to automate driving on highways and city streets. However, this is still a Level 2 driver assistance system that requires the driver to pay attention, have their hands on the wheel and take control at all times. Recent videos posted showing owners’ experiences with this beta software provide a mixed picture of its capability. In some videos, the vehicles handle city driving; in many others, drivers are seen taking control due to missed turns, being too close to the curb, failure to creep forward and, in one case, veering off suddenly toward pedestrians.

#automotive, #autopilot, #elon-musk, #fsd, #insurance, #tesla

Ascend raises $5.5M to provide a BNPL option for commercial insurance

Ascend on Wednesday announced a $5.5 million seed round to further its insurance payments platform that combines financing, collections and payables.

First Round Capital led the round and was joined by Susa Ventures, FirstMark Capital, Box Group and a group of angel investors, including Coalition CEO Joshua Motta, Newfront Insurance executives Spike Lipkin and Gordon Wintrob, Vouch Insurance CEO Sam Hodges, Layr Insurance CEO Phillip Hodges, Anzen Insurance CEO Max Bruner, Counterpart Insurance CEO Tanner Hackett, former Bunker Insurance CEO Chad Nitschke, SageSure executive Paul VanderMarck, Instacart co-founders Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo and Houseparty co-founder Ben Rubin.

This is the first funding for the company that is live in 20 states. It developed payments APIs to automate end-to-end insurance payments and to offer a buy now, pay later financing option for distribution of commissions and carrier payables, something co-founder and co-CEO Andrew Wynn, said was rather unique to commercial insurance.

Wynn started the company in January 2021 with his co-founder Praveen Chekuri after working together at Instacart. They originally started Sheltr, which connected customers with trained maintenance professionals and was acquired by Hippo in 2019. While working with insurance companies they recognized how fast the insurance industry was modernizing, yet insurance sellers still struggled with customer experiences due to outdated payments processes. They started Ascend to solve that payments pain point.

The insurance industry is largely still operating on pen-and-paper — some 600 million paper checks are processed each year, Wynn said. He referred to insurance as a “spaghetti web of money movement” where payments can take up to 100 days to get to the insurance carrier from the customer as it makes its way through intermediaries. In addition, one of the only ways insurance companies can make a profit is by taking those hundreds of millions of dollars in payments and investing it.

Home and auto insurance can be broken up into payments, but the commercial side is not as customer friendly, Wynn said. Insurance is often paid in one lump sum annually, though, paying tens of thousands of dollars in one payment is not something every business customer can manage. Ascend is offering point-of-sale financing to enable insurance brokers to break up those commercial payments into monthly installments.

“Insurance carries continue to focus on annual payments because they don’t have a choice,” he added. “They want all of their money up front so they can invest it. Our platform not only reduces the friction with payments by enabling customers to pay how they want to pay, but also helps carriers sell more insurance.”

Ascend app

Startups like Ascend aiming to disrupt the insurance industry are also attracting venture capital, with recent examples including Vouch and Marshmallow, which raised close to $100 million, while Insurify raised $100 million.

Wynn sees other companies doing verticalized payment software for other industries, like healthcare insurance, which he says is a “good sign for where the market is going.” This is where Wynn believes Ascend is competing, though some incumbents are offering premium financing, but not in the digital way Ascend is.

He intends to deploy the new funds into product development, go-to-market initiatives and new hires for its locations in New York and Palo Alto. He said the raise attracted a group of angel investors in the industry, who were looking for a product like this to help them sell more insurance versus building it from scratch.

Having only been around eight months, it is a bit early for Ascend to have some growth to discuss, but Wynn said the company signed its first customer in July and six more in the past month. The customers are big digital insurance brokerages and represent, together, $2.5 billion in premiums. He also expects to get licensed to operate as a full payment in processors in all states so the company can be in all 50 states by the end of the year.

The ultimate goal of the company is not to replace brokers, but to offer them the technology to be more efficient with their operations, Wynn said.

“Brokers are here to stay,” he added. “What will happen is that brokers who are tech-enabled will be able to serve customers nationally and run their business, collect payments, finance premiums and reduce backend operation friction.”

Bill Trenchard, partner at First Round Capital, met Wynn while he was still with Sheltr. He believes insurtech and fintech are following a similar story arc where disruptive companies are going to market with lower friction and better products and, being digital-first, are able to meet customers where they are.

By moving digital payments over to insurance, Ascend and others will lead the market, which is so big that there will be many opportunities for companies to be successful. The global commercial insurance market was valued at $692.33 billion in 2020, and expected to top $1 trillion by 2028.

Like other firms, First Round looks for team, product and market when it evaluates a potential investment and Trenchard said Ascend checked off those boxes. Not only did he like how quickly the team was moving to create momentum around themselves in terms of securing early pilots with customers, but also getting well known digital-first companies on board.

“The magic is in how to automate the underwriting, how to create a data moat and be a first mover — if you can do all three, that is great,” Trenchard said. “Instant approvals and using data to do a better job than others is a key advantage and is going to change how insurance is bought and sold.”

#andrew-wynn, #artificial-intelligence, #auto-insurance, #bill-trenchard, #box-group, #cloud, #commercial-insurance, #enterprise, #first-round-capital, #firstmark-capital, #funding, #health-insurance, #hippo, #insurance, #payments, #praveen-chekuri, #recent-funding, #saas, #startups, #susa-ventures, #tc, #vouch-insurance

Indonesia-based Rey Assurance launches its holistic approach to insurance with $1M in funding

Rey Assurance co-founders Bobby Siagian and Evan Tanotogono

Rey Assurance co-founders Bobby Siagian and Evan Tanotogono

Health insurance is the kind of thing people usually only think about only when they need it. Otherwise, their policies are just paperwork in their files or cards in their wallet. Indonesian insurtech Rey Assurance is taking a new approach. Once someone becomes a member, they also get access to a platform of health services, including AI-based self-assessment tools, 24/7 telemedicine consultations for no added fee and pharmacy deliveries. The startup is launching out of stealth today, having already raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from the Trans-Pacific Technology Fund (TPTF). 

Rey was founded this year by Evan Tanotogono, former head of digital channel at Sequis, one of Indonesia largest insurers, and Bobby Siagian, who held lead engineering roles at companies including Tokopedia and Sea Group. They are joined by insurance industry veteran David Nugrho as their chief business officer. 

They created Rey to address the low penetration of life and health insurance in Indonesia. “When you look at the root causes and pain points, you are looking at problems that are systemic here,” Tanotogono said. These include low awareness, expensive distribution channels like agents and telemarketing, high premiums and complicated policies.

“People feel like the product is really complex, the process is difficult and they don’t get the best value for the money. It’s been that way for many, many years,” he told TechCrunch. “We believe that we cannot just go into the market and digitize part of the value chain.”

Plans start from about $4 USD per month and are available for individual or groups, like families, and small businesses. Rey’s wellness ecosystem was created to give customers more value for their money, and help differentiate it from other companies in Indonesia’s growing insurtech industry. Some other startups that have recently raised funding include Lifepal, PasarPolis and Qoala.

“Right now, if you look at insurance in Indonesia, if the premium is high, maybe 80% or 90% of that is used for the distribution channel. Now if we optimize something for digital distribution, then we can reduce the price and use the rest for the wellness features,” Tanotogono added. 

TPTF managing partner Glenn Kline told TechCrunch that Rey’s founding team was “really the driver” for its investment. “We felt these people really know where the pain points are and they understand clearly how not to try to change the legacy system, but create a whole new platform from the very beginning, where the core value proposition is an integrated solution that is simple and hassle-free.” 

Instead of doing the underwriting themselves, Rey works with insurance partners to design proprietary policies. The goal is to have an onboarding process that is completely online and only takes about five minutes, and a mostly cashless claim and reimbursement system through Rey’s payment cards. If its payment card can’t be used at healthcare provider, claims can be submitted by uploading receipt photos to the app. 

Tanotogono said this is much faster than traditional insurance providers, which can take up to 14 working days to reimburse a claim, and made possible with Rey’s proprietary claim adjudication technology. 

Rey’s wellness ecosystem currently covers primary care services, including chats and video calls with medical providers. In the future, it plans to add specialists to the platforms.

Customers can also link their health wearables for incentives. For example, if they hit certain step or activity goals, they get rewards like discounts or shopping vouchers. Rey’s long-term plan is to link wearables more deeply to its insurance policies, using data to personalize policies and premiums.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #health-insurance, #indonesia, #insurance, #insurtech, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

Allianz backs AV8 Ventures’ second fund focused on AI technologies

AV8 Ventures unveiled its AV8 Ventures II fund with $180 million from Allianz Group, an insurance and asset management giant, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs developing artificial intelligence-driven technologies in the areas of health, mobility, enterprise and deep tech.

Since the Palo Alto venture firm’s launch in 2018, it has invested in 20 seed-stage companies, with another four in the pipeline. Its first fund was also $180 million and backed by Allianz, George Ugras, managing director at AV8, told TechCrunch. The new fund will also invest in seed stage and some Series A and will aim to go into 25 companies.

“The idea is to operate as a financial VC with the support of the world’ largest insurance company and asset manager behind us,” Ugras said.

Some of the technologies the firm is excited about include how chronic diseases are managed. Ugras believes the lack of access to swaths of data and alignment of interest around the table are prohibiting many of the right solutions from bubbling up. In enterprise, AV8 is looking at management around cyberattacks, predicting vulnerabilities and the impact they have on enterprises, so that companies can be proactive in securing their vulnerabilities versus reactive.

Meanwhile, the driver for the second fund was to ensure continuity in deal activity. AV8 “is seeing so many deals right now,” and the competition to get into a VC deal makes it difficult to project how fast a fund will be able to deploy the capital. Even if a firm gets excited and issues terms sheets, there is always uncertainty, he added.

With venture capital being abundant these days, Ugras noted that the velocity is the fastest he has seen in 22 years. The competitiveness in the market is such that if a startup has a decent team, there is no issue raising capital. However, on the investor side, they have to do things better than ever.

“In terms of the key diligence, you need domain expertise to be very clear on how you can add value and key execution milestones going forward,” he added. “Healthcare and insurance more so than others because the business models are complicated. If you have the startups educating you on the front end, it is going to be difficult for the fund.”

 

#allianz, #allianz-group, #artificial-intelligence, #av8-ventures, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #george-ugras, #insurance, #private-equity, #tc, #venture-capital

Gaia Capital Partners in Paris rebrands as Revaia, closes first €250M growth fund

Paris-based VC fund Gaia Capital Partners has change its name to Revaia and announced the final closing of its first growth fund, at €250 million. The firm said it exceeded its initial target of €200 million, and the fund will be ‘ESG focused’.

Revaia is also claiming to be Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund, although TechCrunch has not been able to verify that at the time of publication.

As Gaia Capital Partners, Revaia launched its first fund in late 2019, the portfolio for which currently consists of ten investments, including Aircall, recently achieved a unicorn valuation. Other investments include Epsor (Paris: Epsor designs and distributes employee savings and retirement plans), GetAccept (SF: an all-in-one sales enablement solution that assists B2B sales reps in closing remote deals), gohenry (London: a kids money management application), Planity (Paris: an online booking platform for hair and beauty salons), Welcome to the Jungle (Paris: a multichannel media company), and Yubo (Paris: a social platform for Generation Z).

Alice Albizzati, co-founder of Revaia said in a statement: “When we set up the firm, we were determined to create an investment strategy in line with our convictions – a focus on European companies with high ambitions but with no compromise on sustainability – and with the objective of bridging the gap between private and public markets. Our venture has performed beyond our initial expectations.”

The firm now has an office in Paris and Berlin, as well as a presence in New York and Toronto

The fund’s institutional investors include insurance companies such as Generali, Allianz, and Maif, pension funds, other institutional investors such as Bpifrance, as well as over 50 family offices and Angels.

Elina Berrebi, co-founder of Revaia, said: “We are very grateful to our investors and entrepreneurs who trusted us as we accelerated the build-up of our portfolio. This final closing of our first fund is a huge milestone. It is a solid foundation from which we can support future European technology leaders with their ambitions and sustainability plans, as well as expand and internationalize our team while building a strong value creation platform.”

Revaia said the new fund had already begun investing, and “two new investments should be announced soon”.

The firm says it aims to invest in around 15 companies and expand across Europe.

It’s also partnered with listed market sustainable investor Sycomore Asset Management.

#accel, #allianz, #berlin, #bpifrance, #co-founder, #europe, #finance, #gaia-capital-partners, #insurance, #investment, #london, #maif, #money, #new-york, #paris, #tc, #vc

UK’s Marshmallow raises $85M on a $1.25B valuation for its more inclusive, big-data take on car insurance

Marshmallow — a U.K.-based car insurance provider that has made a name for itself in the market by providing a new approach to car insurance aimed at using a wider set of data points and clever algorithms to net a more diverse set of customers and provide more competitive rates — is announcing a milestone today in its life as a startup, as well as in the bigger U.K. tech world.

The London company — co-founded by identical twins Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham and David Goaté — has raised $85 million in a new round of funding. The Series B valuation is significant on two counts: it catapults Marshmallow to a “unicorn” valuation above $1 billion — specifically, $1.25 billion; and Marshmallow itself becomes one of a very small group of U.K. startups founded by Black people — Oliver and Alexander — to reach that figure.

(To be clear, Marshmallow describes itself as “the first UK unicorn to be founded by individuals that are Black or have Black heritage”, although I can think of at least one that preceded it: WorldRemit, which last month rebranded to Zepz, is currently valued at $5 billion; co-founder and chairman Ismail Ahmed has been described as the most influential Black Briton.)

Regardless of whether Marshmallow is the first or one of the first, given the dearth of diversity in the UK technology industry, in particular in the upper ranks of it, it’s a notable detail worth pointing out, even as I hope that one day it will be less of a rarity.

Meanwhile, Marshmallow’s novel, big-data approach and successful traction in the market speak for themselves. When we covered the company’s most recent funding round before this — a $30 million raise in November 2020 — the startup was valued at $310 million. Now less than a year later, Marshmallow’s valuation has nearly quadrupled, and it has passed 100,000 policies sold in its home country, growing 100% over the last six months.

The plan now, Oliver told me in an interview, will be to deepen its relationships with customers, in part by providing more engagement to make them better drivers, but also potentially selling more services to them, too.

In this, the startup will be tapping into a new approach that other insurtech startups are taking as they rethink traditional insurance models, much like YuLife is positioning its life insurance products within a bigger wellness and personal improvement business. Currently, the average age of Marshmallow’s customers is 20 to 40, Oliver said — and there are thoughts of potentially new products aimed at even younger users. That means there is long-term value in improving loyalty and keeping those customers for many years to come.

Alongside that, Marshmallow will also use the funding to inch closer to its plan to expand to markets outside of the UK — a strategy that has been in the works for a while. Marshmallow talked up international expansion in its last round but has yet to announce which markets it will seek to tackle first.

Insurance — and in particular insurance startups — are often thought of together with fintech startups, not least because the two industries have a lot in common: they both operate in areas of assessing and mitigating risk and fraud; they are in many cases discretionary investments on the part of the customers; they are both highly regulated and require watertight data protection for their users.

Perhaps because so much of the hard work is the same for both, it’s not uncommon to see services built to serve both sectors (FintechOS and Shift Technology being two examples), for fintech companies to dabble in insurance services, and so on.

But in reality, insurance — and specifically car insurance — has seen a massive impact from Covid-19 unique to that industry. Separate reports from EY and the Association of British Insurers noted that 2020 actually saw a lift for many car insurance companies: lockdowns meant that fewer people were driving, and therefore fewer were getting into accidents and making less claims.

2021, however, has been a different story: new pricing rules being put into place will likely see a number of providers tip into the red for the year. And the Chartered Insurance Institute points out that will also be worth watching to see how the low use of cars in one year will impact use going forward: some car owners, especially in urban areas where keeping a car is expensive, will inevitably start to question whether they need to own and insure a car at all.

All of this, ironically, actually plays into the hand of a company like Marshmallow, which is providing a more flexible approach to customers who might otherwise be rejected by more traditional companies, or might be priced out of offerings from them. Interestingly, while neobanks have definitely spurred more traditional institutions to try to update their products to compete, the same hasn’t really happened in insurance — not yet, at least.

“We started with the idea of the power of data and using a wider range of resources [than incumbents], and using that in our pricing led us to be able to offer better rates to more people,” Oliver said, but that hasn’t led to Marshmallow seeing sharper competition from older incumbents. “They are big companies and stuck in their ways. These companies have been around for decades, some for centuries. Change is not happening quickly.”

That leaves a big opportunity for companies like Marshmallow and other newer players like Lemonade, Hippo and Jerry (not an insurance startup per se but also dabbling in the space), and a big opening for investors to back new ideas in an industry estimated to be worth $5 trillion.

“The traction the team has achieved demonstrates the demand for a new kind of insurance provider, one that focuses more on consumer experience and uses the latest technology and data to give fair prices,” said Eileen Burbidge, a partner at Passion Capital, in a statement. “We’ve been proud to support the team’s ambitions since the start, and now look forward to its next chapter in Europe as it continues its mission to change the industry for the better.”

#articles, #automotive, #car-insurance, #eileen-burbidge, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #financial-technology, #funding, #hippo, #insurance, #ismail-ahmed, #jerry, #life-insurance, #london, #marshmallow, #money, #oliver, #private-equity, #shift-technology, #startup-company, #tc, #unicorn, #united-kingdom, #worldremit

Bangkok-based insurtech Sunday banks $45M Series B from investors like Tencent

Sunday, an insurtech startup based in Bangkok, announced it has raised a $45 million Series B. Investors include Tencent, SCB 10X, Vertex Growth, Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, Quona Capital, Aflac Ventures and Z Venture Capital. The company says the round was oversubscribed, and that it doubled its revenue growth in 2020.

Founded in 2017, Sunday describes itself as a “full-stack” insurtech, which means it handles everything from underwriting to distribution of its policies. Its products currently include motor and travel insurance policies that can be purchased online, and Sunday Health for Business, a healthcare coverage program for employers. Sunday also offers subscription-based smartphone plans through partners.

The company uses AI and machine learning-based technology underwrite its motor insurance and employee health benefits products, and says its data models also allow it to automate pricing and scale its underwriting process for complex risks. Sunday says it currently serves 1.6 million customers.

The new funding will be used to expand in Indonesia and develop new distribution channels, including insurance agents and SMEs.

Insurance penetration is still relatively low in many Southeast Asian markets, including Indonesia, but the industry is gaining traction thanks to increasing consumer awareness. The COVID-19 pandemic also drove interest in financial planning, including investment and insurance, especially health coverage.

Other insurtech startups in Indonesia that have recently raised funding include Lifepal, PasarPolis, Qoala and Fuse.

In a statement, Sunday co-founder and chief executive officer Cindy Kuo said, “Awareness for health insurance will continue to increase and we believe more consumers would be open to shop for insurance online. We plan to expand our platform architecture to offer retail insurance to our health members and partners while we continue to grow our portfolio in Thailand and Indonesia.”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #insurance, #insurtech, #southeast-asia, #startups, #sunday, #tc, #thailand

Blueprint raises $16M Series B to grow its title-focused insurtech business

Blueprint Title, an insurtech startup working in the title insurance space, announced this morning that it closed a $16 million Series B. The new round was led by Forté Ventures. The startup previously raised an $8.5 million Series A in the final weeks of 2019.

While Blueprint is an insurtech startup and therefore fits into the neoinsurance cohort that we’ve tracked in recent quarters as a number of companies from the group have gone public, it’s somewhat distinct. Blueprint is different from the Roots and MetroMiles and Hippos that debuted via traditional IPOs or SPACs; it largely sells to business customers and has a very different product on offer.

The neoinsurance companies that went public in the last year and a half sell to consumers. Blueprint, in contrast, sells to professional groups looking for a better title insurance experience. That means its customer base is not made up of consumers hoping to cover their main residence, Blueprint CEO Steve Berneman told TechCrunch in an interview.

That means that the company’s go-to-market activities are distinct from its mates in the consumer-focused cohort and that its loss profile is very different.

Title insurance, Berneman said, has around a 1% to 4% claims rate, far lower than auto insurance, to pick an example. That means its risk profile is different, and its pricing less flexible; there’s less loss ratio to wring out of title insurance underwriting, so cost and delivery of service are even more important than in other insurance varietals.

According to the CEO, the title insurance market in the United States today is made up of four companies with around 90% market share. And thanks to rules requiring public pricing in many states, there’s alignment on pricing from some leading players. The result of market concentration and effective price harmonization is that Berneman thinks that the $18 billion title insurance business should really be a $10 billion market.

Our call with Blueprint was the first in which a startup discussed shrinking its market.

But the point is reasonable; if title insurance is mispriced, and Blueprint sells to corporate customers, it can likely offer profitable coverage at a lower-than-market price point — and grow quickly in the process. That appears to be the case, with the startup stating in a release that it anticipates 400% revenue growth in 2021 when compared to 2020.

That growth rate explains the Nashville-based company’s most recent round and what we presume was a stiff upsizing in its valuation.

As part of its funding round announcement, Blueprint also disclosed that it has purchased Southwest Land Title Insurance Company, an underwriting company. Berneman said that to shrink the title insurance market through more reasonable pricing, his company needs to be full-stack, i.e., both writing its own coverage and selling it. Otherwise, margins would leak on either side of its operations.

Blueprint, akin to Next Insurance, is a startup bet that selling insurance to business customers will prove to be a lucrative effort. Given that consumer-focused neoinsurance providers have seen Wall Street change its tune on their value, it will be interesting to watch this more B2B cohort grow and eventually debut.

#blueprint, #fundings-exits, #insurance, #insurtech, #startups, #tc, #title-insurance

Insurify, a ‘virtual insurance agent,’ raises $100M Series B

How many of us have not switched insurance carriers because we don’t want to deal with the hassle of comparison shopping?

A lot, I’d bet.

Today, Insurify, a startup that wants to help people make it easier to get better rates on home, auto and life insurance, announced that it has closed $100 million in an “oversubscribed” Series B funding round led by Motive Partners.

Existing backers Viola FinTech, MassMutual Ventures, Nationwide, Hearst Ventures and Moneta VC also put money in the round, as well as new investors Viola Growth and Fort Ross Ventures. With the new financing, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Insurify has now raised a total of $128 million since its 2013 inception. The company declined to disclose the valuation at which the money was raised.

Since we last covered Insurify, the startup has seen some impressive growth. For example, it has seen its new and recurring revenue increase by “6x” since it closed its Series A funding in the 2019 fourth quarter. Over the last three years, Insurify has achieved a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 151%, according to co-founder and CEO Snejina Zacharia. It has also seen consistent “2.5x” year-over-year revenue growth, she said.

Insurify has built a machine learning-based virtual insurance agent that integrates with more than 100 carriers to digitize — and personalize — the insurance shopping experience. There are others in the insurtech space, but none that we know of currently tackling home, auto and life insurance. For example, Jerry, which has raised capital twice this year, is focused mostly on auto insurance, although it does have a home product. The Zebra, which became a unicorn this year, started out as a site for people looking for auto insurance via its real-time quote comparison tool. Over time, it has also evolved to offer homeowners insurance with the goal of eventually branching out into renters and life insurance. But it too is mostly focused on auto.

Zacharia said that since Insurify’s Series A funding, it has expanded its home insurance marketplace, deepened its carrier integrations to provide users an “instant” purchase experience and launched its first two embedded insurance products through partnerships with Toyota Insurance Management Solutions and Nationwide (the latter of which also participated in the Series B funding round).

Image Credits: Insurify

Last year, when SkyScanner had to lay off staff, Insurify scooped up much of its engineering team and established an office in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Zacharia, a former Gartner executive, was inspired to start the company after she was involved in a minor car accident while getting her MBA at MIT. The accident led to a spike in her insurance premium and Zacharia was frustrated by the “complex and cumbersome” experience of car insurance shopping. She teamed up with Chief Product Officer Tod Kiryazov and her husband KAYAK President Giorgos Zacharia to build Insurify, which they describe as a virtual insurance agent that offers real-time quotes.

“We decided to build the most trusted virtual insurance agent in the industry that allows for customers to easily search, compare and buy fully digitally — directly from their mobile phone, or desktop, and really get a very smart, personalized experience based on their unique preferences,” Zacharia told TechCrunch. “We leverage artificial intelligence to be able to make recommendations on both coverage as well as carrier selection.”

Notably, Insurify is also a fully licensed agent that takes over the fulfillment and servicing of the policies. Since the company is mostly working as an insurance agent, it gets paid new and renewed commission. So while it’s not a SaaS business, its embedded insurance offerings have SaaS-like monetization.

“Our goal is to provide an experience for the end consumer that allows them to service and manage all of their policies in one place, digitally,” Zacharia said. “We think that the data recommendations that the platform provides can really remove most of the friction that currently exists in the shopping experience.”

Insurify plans to use its fresh capital to continue to expand its operations and accelerate its growth plans. It also, naturally, wants to add to its 125-person team.

“We want to build into our API integrations so customers can receive real-time direct quotes with better personalization and a more tailored experience,” Kiryazov said. “We also want to identify more embedded insurance opportunities and expand the product functionality.”

The company also down the line wants to expand into other verticals such as pet insurance, for example.

Insurify intends to use the money in part to build brand awareness, potentially through TV advertising.

“Almost half of our revenue comes from self-directed traffic,” Zacharia said. “So we want to explore more inorganic growth.”

James “Jim” O’Neill, founding partner at Motive Partners and industry partner Andy Rear point out that online purchasing now accounts for almost all of the growth in U.S. auto insurance. 

“The lesson from other markets which have been through this transition is that customers prefer choice, presented as a simple menu of products and prices from different insurers, and a straightforward online purchasing process,” they wrote via email. “The U.S. auto market is huge: even a slow transition to online means a massive opportunity for Insurify.”

In conducting their due diligence, the pair said they were impressed with how the startup is building a business model “that works for customers, insurers and white-label partners.”

Harel Beit-On, founder and general partner at Viola Growth, believes that the quantum leap in e-commerce due to COVID-19 will completely transform the buying experience in almost every sector, including insurance.

“It is time to bring the frictionless purchasing experience that customers expect to the insurance space as well,” she said. “Following our fintech fund’s recent investment in the company, we watched Insurify’s immense growth, excellent execution with customer acquisition and building a brand consumers trust.”

#artificial-intelligence, #auto-insurance, #cambridge, #finance, #fort-ross-ventures, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hearst-ventures, #insurance, #insurify, #insurtech, #life-insurance, #machine-learning, #massachusetts, #massmutual-ventures, #motive-partners, #recent-funding, #startups, #venture-capital, #viola-fintech, #viola-growth

Why have the markets spurned public neoinsurance startups?

We’ve spent quite a lot of time of late wondering just what the heck is up with the valuations of insurtech startups that went public in the last year. Keep in mind that we’re discussing neoinsurance providers like MetroMile and Hippo, not insurtech marketplaces like Insurify or Zebra.

There was a stream of insurtech exits in 2020 and early 2021. After Lemonade’s firecracker IPO, MetroMile and Hippo and Root also went public. Since those debuts, we’ve seen their valuations erode significantly.


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But Oscar Health got somewhat lost in our larger analysis of the space. An investor pointed out to The Exchange this weekend that we were a bit early in wondering just what investors were thinking when Oscar was going public — its IPO price range felt incredibly high, and we said so. Then, Oscar Health priced above that $32 to $34 per share interval, kicking off its life worth $39 per share.

Today’s it’s worth $13.58 per share.

We could call it another data point in our larger analysis, but it’s a bit more than that as Oscar Health expands the list of insurance types that startups tackled, scaled, took public and then saw fall out of investor favor. The companies that we are examining cover a number of industries, from auto insurance (Root, MetroMile), to home and rental insurance (Hippo, Lemonade), and, thanks to Oscar Health, health insurance as well. All are taking a whacking by the market.

Why? Happily, I think I’ve figured it out. More precisely, a CEO of a neoinsurance company in a different niche talked The Exchange through one particular hypothesis that makes rather good sense.

Show me the money metrics

Last week, I chatted with Pie Insurance co-founder CEO John Swigart. Pie sells SMB-focused insurance, with a focus on workers’ comp coverage. In Swigart’s view, small businesses have historically been overcharged and underserved for insurance. With a bit of tech, his company can offer coverage to smaller companies than many traditional insurance providers found attractive, and at better price points to boot.

Pie raised a $118 million Series C in March, with Crunchbase tallying $306 million in external capital for the company thus far. We’ll talk more about Pie at a later date.

What matters for our needs this morning is what Swigart said when I asked him what in the flying fuck was going on with public insurtech share prices. Given that he is building a related company, I was hoping that he would be both up to speed and have a take. He did.

#insurance, #john-swigart, #metromile, #oscar-health, #pie-insurance, #root-insurance, #tc, #the-exchange

Indonesian D2C insurance marketplace Lifepal raises $9M Series A

Choosing an insurance policy is one of the most complicated financial decisions a person can make. Jakarta-based Lifepal wants to simplify the process for Indonesians with a marketplace that lets users compare policies from more than 50 providers, get help from licensed agents and file claims. The startup, which says it is the country’s largest direct-to-consumer insurance marketplace, announced today it has raised a $9 million Series A. The round was led by ProBatus Capital, a venture firm backed by Prudential Financial, with participation from Cathay Innovation and returning investors Insignia Venture Partners, ATM Capital and Hustle Fund.

Lifepal was founded in 2019 by former Lazada executives Giacomo Ficari and Nicolo Robba, along with Benny Fajarai and Reza Muhammed. The new funding brings its total raised to $12 million.

The marketplace’s partners currently offer about 300 policies for life, health, automotive, property and travel coverage. Ficari, who also co-founded neobank Aspire, told TechCrunch that Lifepal was created to make comparing, buying and claiming insurance as simple as shopping online.

“The same kind of experience a customer has today on a marketplace like Lazada—the convenience, all digital, fast delivery—we saw was lacking in insurance, which is still operating with offline, face-to-face agents like 20 to 30 years ago,” he said.

Indonesia’s insurance penetration rate is only about 3%, but the market is growing along with the country’s gross domestic product thanks to a larger middle-class. “We are really at a tipping point for GDP per capita and a lot of insurance carriers are focusing more on Indonesia,” said Ficari.

Other venture-backed insurtech startups tapping into this demand include Fuse, PasarPolis and Qoala. Both Qoala and PasarPolis focus on “micro-policies,” or inexpensive coverage for things like damaged devices. PasarPolis also partners with Gojek to offer health and accident insurance to drivers. Fuse, meanwhile, insurance specialists an online platform to run their businesses.

Lifepal takes a different approach because it doesn’t sell micro-policies, and its marketplace is for customers to purchase directly from providers, not through agents.
Based on Lifepal’s data, about 60% of its health and life insurance customers are buying coverage for the first time. On the other hand, many automotive insurance shoppers had policies before, but their coverage expired and they decided to shop online instead of going to an agent to get a new one.

Ficari said Lifepal’s target customers overlap with the investment apps that are gaining traction among Indonesia’s growing middle class (like Ajaib, Pluang and Pintu). Many of these apps provide educational content, since their customers are usually millennials investing for the first time, and Lifepal takes a similar approach. Its content side, called Lifepal Media, focuses on articles for people who are researching insurance policies and related topics like personal financial planning. The company says its site, including its blog, now has about 4 million monthly visitors, creating a funnel for its marketplace.

While one of Lifepal’s benefits is enabling people to compare policies on their own, many also rely on its customer support line, which is staffed by licensed insurance agents. In fact, Ficari said about 90% of its customers use it.

“What we realize is that insurance is complicated and it’s expensive,” said Ficari. “People want to take their time to think and they have a lot of questions, so we introduced good customer support.” He added Lifepal’s combination of enabling self-research while providing support is similar to the approach taken by PolicyBazaar in India, one of the country’s largest insurance aggregators.

To keep its business model scalable, Lifepal uses a recommendation engine that matches potential customers with policies and customer support representatives. It considers data points like budget (based on Lifepal’s research, its customers usually spend about 3% to 5% of their yearly income on insurance), age, gender, family composition and if they have purchased insurance before.

Lifepal’s investment from ProBatus will allow it to work with Assurance IQ, the insurance sales automation platform acquired by Prudential Financial two years ago.

In a statement, ProBatus Capital founder and managing partner Ramneek Gupta said Lifepal’s “three-pronged approach” (its educational content, online marketplace and live agents for customer support) has the “potential to change the way the Indonesian consumer buys insurance.”

Part of Lifepal’s funding will be used to build products to make it easier to claim policies. Upcoming products include Insurance Wallet, which will include an application process with support on how to claim a policy—for example, what car repair shop or hospital a customer should go to—and escalation if a claim is rejected. Another product, called Easy Claim, will automate the claim process.

“The goal is to stay end-to-end with the customer, from reading content, comparing policies, buying and then renewing and using them, so you really see people sticking around,” said Ficari.

Lifepal is Cathay Innovation’s third insurtech investment in the past 12 months. Investment director Rajive Keshup told TechCrunch in an email that it backed Lifepal because “the company grew phenomenally last year (12X) and is poised to beat its aggressive 2021 plan despite the proliferation of the COVID delta variant, accentuating the fact that Lifepal is very much on track to replicate the success of similar global models such as Assurance IQ (US) and PolicyBazaar (India).”

#asia, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #insurance, #insurtech, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

DigiSure, the mobility insurance platform with high-tech screening, comes out of stealth with $13.1M raise

DigiSure, a digital insurance company that caters to modern mobility form factors like peer-to-peer marketplaces, is officially coming out of stealth to announce a $13.1 million pre-Series A funding round. The startup will use the funds to hire more than 50 engineers, data scientists, business development, insurance and compliance specialists, as well as scale into new industry verticals and across into Europe.

Since its founding in 2018, DigiSure has built a business around using AI and machine learning to manage big data in real time in order to provide a nuanced risk assessment and more fairly priced liability insurance for individuals renting vehicles. DigiSure has a total of 12 clients, including motorcycle rental company EagleRider, EV rental company Envoy and truck rental company Fetch. DigiSure says it goes beyond credit and driving history to give users a more personalized quote, and in the process helps operators lower their own insurance costs.

“With our DigiSure Protection Suite, we screen all the people who are looking to rent and operate vehicles, we prevent bad actors from getting on these vehicles that might harm other people and then we provide insurance to the operator, as well as to the individual renters,” Mike Shim, DigiSure’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

Property and casualty insurance, which is usually one of an operator’s top operational costs, is nearly a $700 billion industry in the U.S., and Shim thinks that’s in large part because of outdated screening methods that result in bad actors slipping through the cracks and causing damage. Traditional auto insurance carriers typically provide a quote by comparing statistical averages to information like a user’s age, gender, education level, location, driving record, credit history, vehicle details and location, but in the vehicle rental space, Shim says underwriting is limited or non-existent.

“There is therefore a huge opportunity to improve the quality of the risk management by using more sophisticated pricing models that lead to better conversions and lower losses overall,” he said.

DigiSure’s Protection Suite uses traditional underwriting factors, as well, but also utilizes the renter’s transaction history alongside external data sources that a normal insurance company wouldn’t have access to. According to a statement from the company, the Protection Suite includes “AI-powered identity verification utilizing biometrics technology, advanced fraud detection, credit checks, driving history and telematics data integration.”

It then plugs the data into its proprietary machine learning algorithms to get better at providing real-time insurance quotes over time, says Shim. For example, DigiSure’s data science team might find that the ratio of rider height to seat height of a motorcycle is an important risk factor in predicting low-speed tip overs and then recommend improvements to the model.

“We’re basically constructing a composite risk profile on that user and building a profile on that user over time,” said Shim. “Our technology is creating a next generation underwriting model for next generation mobility.”

DigiSure is able to perform screenings and come up with a quote in seven seconds or less, according to Shim. On the user side of things, by the time they’ve begun the checkout process and are ready to finalize a booking of, say, an RV rental, DigiSure is able to offer up a dynamically priced bundled insurance product at the point of sale, making it feel like a real-time process.

DigiSure is still new, so there’s room to grow, says Shim. The traditional world of vehicle insurance is not built for newer mobility models, like peer-to-peer, which is currently DigiSure’s bread and butter, or shared micromobility, which the company sees a lot of potential in.

“The main problem was that insurance companies were just not serving our mobility customers and not able to keep pace with not only all the new business cases but also the fact that consumers are just looking to move and get around in different ways,” said Shim. “We’re basically creating a mobility insurance platform and a risk platform that is trying to get ahead and support these innovators.”

In the case of shared micromobility, where there’s no bundled insurance product offered at checkout, DigiSure would primarily offer its fast screening services to filter out potential loose cannons from hopping on shared scooters or bikes. The operator could then point to this service in order to lower its overall insurance costs, which typically make up a fairly large portion of the operating costs pie in an industry that’s barely been able to make a profit yet.

Presently, DigiSure doesn’t provide any insurance that covers the rider in the event of personal injury, but Shim says that’s standard for the industry. The platform provides property insurance for the operator or the owner of a vehicle on a peer-to-peer marketplace that protects the vehicle itself. It also provides casualty insurance for both the marketplace or operator and the rider or driver, which includes liability coverage to protect those parties if the driver is responsible for an accident that causes injury to another person or damage to another person’s property.

While insurance is certainly on offer here, it’s the screening tech that makes DigiSure’s product unique.

“Our view is it’s better to focus on the screening tech to weed out bad actors and keep the platform safe,” said Shim. “Those 1% to 2% of the customer base are likely the ones who are going to cause 30% to 40% of the worst-case claims costs. If you can control for those outcomes, you can really impact your bottom-line insurance costs.”

This funding round was led by Morado Ventures, with participation from Xplorer Capital, Valor Equity Partners, Clocktower Technology Ventures, True North Cos and ex-Upwork CEO Fabio Rosati.

#insurance, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #transportation

Jerry raises $75M at a $450M valuation to build a car ownership ‘super app’

Just months after raising $28 million, Jerry announced today that it has raised $75 million in a Series C round that values the company at $450 million.

Existing backer Goodwater Capital doubled down on its investment in Jerry, leading the “oversubscribed” round. Bow Capital, Kamerra, Highland Capital Partners and Park West Asset Management also participated in the financing, which brings Jerry’s total raised to $132 million since its 2017 inception. Goodwater Capital also led the startup’s Series B earlier this year. Jerry’s new valuation is about “4x” that of the company at its Series B round, according to co-founder and CEO Art Agrawal

“What factored into the current valuation is our annual recurring revenue, growing customer base and total addressable market,” he told TechCrunch, declining to be more specific about ARR other than to say it is growing “at a very fast rate.” He also said the company “continues to meet and exceed growth and revenue targets” with its first product, a service for comparing and buying car insurance. At the time of the company’s last raise, Agrawal said Jerry saw its revenue surge by “10x” in 2020 compared to 2019.

Jerry, which says it has evolved its model to a mobile-first car ownership “super app,” aims to save its customers time and money on car expenses. The Palo Alto-based startup launched its car insurance comparison service using artificial intelligence and machine learning in January 2019. It has quietly since amassed nearly 1 million customers across the United States as a licensed insurance broker.

“Today as a consumer, you have to go to multiple different places to deal with different things,” Agrawal said at the time of the company’s last raise. “Jerry is out to change that.”

The new funding round fuels the launch of the company’s “compare-and-buy” marketplaces in new verticals, including financing, repair, warranties, parking, maintenance and “additional money-saving services.” Although Jerry also offers a similar product for home insurance, its focus is on car ownership.

Agrawal told TechCrunch that the company is on track to triple last year’s policy sales, and that its policy sales volume makes Jerry the number one broker for a few of the top 10 insurance carriers.
“The U.S. auto insurance industry is an at least $250 billion market,” he added. “The market opportunity for our first auto financing service is $260 billion. As we enter more car expense categories, our total addressable market continues to grow.”

Image Credits: Jerry

“Access to reliable and affordable transportation is critical to economic empowerment,” said Rafi Syed, Jerry board member and general partner at Bow Capital, which also doubled down on its investment in the company. “Jerry is helping car owners make the most of every dollar they earn. While we see Jerry as an excellent technology investment showcasing the power of data in financial services, it’s also a high-performing investment in terms of the financial inclusion it supports.” 

Goodwater Capital Partner Chi-Hua Chien said the firm’s recurring revenue model makes it stand out from lead generation-based car insurance comparison sites.

CEO Agrawal agrees, noting that Jerry’s high-performing annual recurring revenue model has made the company “attractive to investors” in addition to the fact that the startup “straddles” the auto, e-commerce, fintech and insurtech industries.

“We recognized those investment opportunities could drive our business faster and led to raising the round earlier than expected,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re eager to launch new categories to save customers time and money on auto expenses and the new investment shortens our time to market.”

Agrawal also believes Jerry is different from other auto-related marketplaces out there in that it aims to help consumers with various aspects of car ownership (from repair to maintenance to insurance to warranties), rather than just one. The company also believes it is set apart from competitors in that it doesn’t refer a consumer to an insurance carrier’s site so that they still have to do the work of signing up with them separately, for example. Rather, Jerry uses automation to give consumers customized quotes from more than 45 insurance carriers “in 45 seconds.” The consumers can then sign on to the new carrier via Jerry, which can then cancel former policies on their behalf.

Jerry makes recurring revenue from earning a percentage of the premium when a consumer purchases a policy on its site from carriers such as Progressive.

#apps, #art-agrawal, #artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #bow-capital, #car-ownership, #chi-hua-chien, #e-commerce, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goodwater-capital, #highland-capital-partners, #insurance, #insurtech, #jerry, #machine-learning, #mobile, #palo-alto, #park-west-asset-management, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital

Naspers leads $11M investment in South African insurtech Naked

South African insurtech platform Naked has raised $11 million in a Naspers-led round. Existing investors, Yellowwoods and Hollard, also participated in the funding round.

This comes barely two weeks after Naspers, via its early-stage tech investment vehicle Naspers Foundry, invested in another South African insurtech platform Ctrl in its $2.3 million Series B round.

Naked’s latest investment is also a Series B round. According to a statement released by the company, Naspers Foundry invested $8.3 million as the lead investor — the largest the Naspers investment vehicle has made so far.

Founded in 2018 by Alex Thomson, Sumarie Greybe, and Ernest North, Naked is a digital insurance platform covering cars, content, homes, and standalone items. The company says it employs artificial intelligence to create new processes and experiences for its customers.

Africa’s insurance sector is worth over $68 billion in annual gross written premiums. South Africa makes up 70% of this market, with an annual gross written premiums market of over $47 billion. However, only a fraction of personal insurance is sold without human intervention.

But the pandemic has changed the way South African millennials want to consume insurance products these days. While 28% of South African millennials are in the market for insurance, 60% of them would prefer communicating with their insurer via the internet. For insurers, this online automation can reduce the cost of a claims journey by 30%.

This is where Naked comes in. On the platform, customers are presented with lower costs than they would ordinarily see in traditional insurance platforms, and more importantly, they have more control of their insurance experience.

“They can get a final insurance quote for their home, its contents, their standalone items or their car in less than 90 seconds, and switch or pause their cover, all online, without speaking to a contact center agent,” said the company in a statement.

Naked is built so that it does not plug into other insurance products in the market. Instead, the company built the product from the ground up, which allows it to add features that resonate with its customer base. One such feature allows customers to pause their car premiums whenever they’re not driving during the lockdown. It is methods like this that Naked takes into consideration to improve insurance experiences for consumers.

“Our ambition is to build insurance that people love by offering an experience that is affordable, convenient, and transparent. We have come a long way since our launch in 2018 towards meeting these goals…,” said co-founder Alex Thomson. “But this is just the start of our journey to reinvent insurance. We are excited to have an investor of Naspers Foundry’s caliber on board to work with us as we expand our team, continue to invest in the technology that puts customers in control, meet the insurance needs of a growing portion of the SA market and enter into international markets.” 

This investment is Naspers’ seventh since launching its Foundry arm back in 2019. The $100 million fund targets South African early-stage tech companies looking to “address big societal needs.” 

Asides from the aforementioned insurtech platform Ctrl, Naspers has invested in mobility company WhereIsMyTransport; edtech platform The Student Hub; food tech startup Food Supply Network; agritech company Aerobotics; and home service platform SweepSouth. 

“We’re excited to support Naked in their journey of pioneering a new generation of insurance, giving consumers access to convenience, control, and savings with its end-to-end digital processes. This fits in with our focus of backing purpose-driven technology businesses. Investing in Naked is consistent with the portfolio we’ve built to date, and Naspers Foundry’s healthy pipeline of potential future investments,” head of Naspers Foundry Fabian Whate said in a statement.

#africa, #finance, #foundry, #insurance, #naspers, #naspers-foundry, #south-africa, #tc

Connected car insurance startup Flock raises $17M Series A led by Chamath Palihapitiya

Cast your mind back to that scene in Minority Report where all those autonomous cars are whizzing through the city. The more practically-minded of you may well have gone: “Yeah, but what about the insurance…?”.

Among the startups building the on-demand, connected insurance world for the vehicles of tomorrow right now are UK-based Zego which has raised $201.7 million. Another is Flock.

Emerging from an academic project to look at drones, Flock shifted into providing drones insurance then commercial vehicle insurance. The twist is that it hooks into the telematics of cars so that the vehicle only triggers insurance cover when it’s actually moving, not when it’s sitting on the lot, incapable of causing any accidents.

Flock has now raised $17 million in a Series A funding led by Social Capital, the investment vehicle run by Chamath Palihapitiya, best known as a SPAC investor and Chairman of Virgin Galactic. Flock’s existing investors Anthemis and Dig Ventures also participated. This round brings Flock’s total funding to $22 million. Justin Saslaw (Social Capital’s Fintech Partner) joins Flock’s Board of Directors as does Ross Mason (Founder of Dig Ventures & MuleSoft).

Ed Leon Klinger, CEO of Flock said: “Transportation is changing faster than ever, but the traditional insurance industry can’t keep up! The proliferation of electric cars, new business models such as ridesharing, and the emergence of autonomous vehicles pose huge challenges that traditional insurers just aren’t equipped for.”

He added: “Modern fleets need an equally modern insurance company that moves as fast as they do. Commercial motor insurance is a $160Bn market, crying out for disruption. The opportunity ahead of us is enormous.”

In a statement Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital said: “Flock is bridging the gap between today’s insurance industry and tomorrow’s transportation realities. By using real-time data to truly understand vehicle risk, Flock is meeting the demands of our rapidly evolving, hyper-connected world. Flock has the potential to help unlock and enable a truly autonomous world, and even save lives. We’re excited to be a part of their journey.”

Speaking to me over a call, Klinger outlined how the company had hit a sweet spot by hooking into Telematics APIs for cars, or by doing special integrations with existing providers and OEMs: “We’ve built our own integrated approach whereby we partner with some and we build bespoke integrations with them. Often they are not as advanced as others. So we’ll either use our integration platform or or we’ll use their approach. We’re highly flexible. The core value proposition at Flock is its flexibility, so we don’t force our own integration approach.”

#car, #ceo, #chairman, #chamath-palihapitiya, #computing, #europe, #flock, #insurance, #mulesoft, #social-capital, #software, #tc, #technology, #telematics, #virgin-galactic

Ethos picks up $100M at a $2.7B+ valuation for a big data platform to improve life insurance accessibility

More than half of the U.S. population has stayed away from considering life insurance because they believe it’s probably too expensive, and the most common way to buy it today is in person. A startup that’s built a platform that aims to break down those conventions and democratize the process by making life insurance (and the benefits of it) more accessible is today announcing significant funding to fuel its rapidly growing business.

Ethos, which uses more than 300,000 data points online to determine a person’s eligibility for life insurance policies, which are offered as either term or whole life packages starting at $8/month, has picked up $100 million from a single investor, SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Peter Colis, Ethos’s CEO and co-founder, said that the funding brings the startup’s valuation to over $2.7 billion.

This is a quick jump for the the company: it was only two months ago that Ethos picked up a $200 million equity round at a valuation of just over $2 billion.

It’s now raised $400 million to date and has amassed a very illustrious group of backers. In addition to SoftBank they include General Catalyst, Sequoia Capital; Accel; GV; Jay-Z’s Roc Nation; Glade Brook Capital Partners; Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr.

This latest injection of funding — which will be used to hire more people and continue to expand its product set into adjacent areas of insurance life critical illness coverage — was unsolicited, Colis said, but comes on the heels of very rapid growth.

Ethos — which is sold currently only in the U.S. across 49 states — has seen both revenues and user numbers grow by over 500% compared to a year ago, and it’s on track to issue some $20 billion in life insurance coverage this year. And it is approaching $100 million in annualized growth profit. Ethos itself is not yet profitable, Colis said.

There are a couple of trends going on that speak to a wide opportunity for Ethos at the moment.

The first of these is the current market climate: globally we are still battling the Covid-19 global health pandemic, and one impact of that — in particular given how Covid-19 has not spared any age group or demographic — has been more awareness of our mortality. That inevitably leads at least some part of the population to considering something like life insurance coverage that might not have thought about it previously.

However, Colis is a little skeptical on the lasting impact of that particular trend. “We saw an initial surge of demand in the Covid period, but then it regressed back to normal,” he said in an interview. Those who were more inclined to think about life insurance around Covid-19 might have come around to considering it regardless: it was being driven, he said, by those with pre-existing health conditions going into the pandemic.

That, interestingly, brings up the second trend, which goes beyond our present circumstances and Colis believes will have the more lasting impact.

While there have been a number of startups, and even incumbent providers, looking to rethink other areas of insurance such as car, health and property coverage, life insurance has been relatively untouched, especially in some markets like the U.S. Traditionally, someone taking out life insurance goes through a long vetting process, which is not all carried out online and can involve medical examinations and more, and yes, it can be expensive: the stereotype you might best know is that only wealthier people take out life insurance policies.

Much like companies in fintech who have rethought how loan applications (and payback terms) can be rethought and evaluated afresh using big data — pulling in a new range of information to form a picture of the applicant and the likelihood of default or not — Ethos is among the companies that is applying that same concept to a different problem. The end result is a much faster turnaround for applications, a considerably cheaper and more flexible offer (term life insurance lasts for only as long as a person pays for it to), and generally a lot more accessibility for everyone potentially interested. That pool of data is growing all the time.

“Every month, we get more intelligent,” said Colis.

There is also the matter of what Ethos is actually selling. The company itself is not an insurance provider but an “insuretech” — similar to how neobanks use APIs to integrate banking services that have been built by others, which they then wrap with their own customer service, personalization and more — Ethos integrates with third-party insurance underwriters, providing customer service, more efficient onboarding (no in-person medical exams for example) and personalization (both in packages and pricing) around them. Given how staid and hard it is to get more traditional policies, it’s essentially meant completely open water for Ethos in terms of finding and securing new customers.

Ethos’s rise comes at a time when we are seeing other startups approaching and rethinking life insurance also in the U.S. and further afield. Last week, YuLife in the UK raised a big round to further build out its own take on life insurance, which is to sell policies that are linked to an individual’s own health and wellness practices — the idea being that this will make you happier and give more reason to pay for a policy that otherwise feels like some dormant investment; but also that it could help you live longer (Sproutt is another also looking at how to emphasize the “life” aspect of life insurance). Others like  DeadHappy and BIMA are, like Ethos, rethinking accessibility of life insurance for a wider set of demographics.

There are some signs that Ethos is catching on with its mission to expand that pool, not just grow business among the kind of users who might have already been considering and would have taken out life insurance policies. The startup said that more than 40% of its new policy holders in the first half of 2021 had incomes of $60,000 or less, and nearly 40% of new policy holders were under the age of 40. The professions of those customers also speak to that democratization: the top five occupations, it said were homemaker, insurance agent, business owner, teacher, and registered nurse.

That traction is likely one reason why SoftBank came knocking.

“Ethos is leveraging data and its vertically integrated tech stack to fundamentally transform life insurance in the U.S.,” said Munish Varma, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Through a fast and user-friendly online application process, the company can accurately underwrite and insure a broad segment of customers quickly. We are excited to partner with Peter Colis and the exceptional team at Ethos.”

#enterprise, #ethos, #finance, #funding, #health, #insurance, #insuretech, #insurtech, #life-insurance, #softbank, #tc

How we built an AI unicorn in 6 years

Today, Tractable is worth $1 billion. Our AI is used by millions of people across the world to recover faster from road accidents, and it also helps recycle as many cars as Tesla puts on the road.

And yet six years ago, Tractable was just me and Raz (Razvan Ranca, CTO), two college grads coding in a basement. Here’s how we did it, and what we learned along the way.

Build upon a fresh technological breakthrough

In 2013, I was fortunate to get into artificial intelligence (more specifically, deep learning) six months before it blew up internationally. It started when I took a course on Coursera called “Machine learning with neural networks” by Geoffrey Hinton. It was like being love struck. Back then, to me AI was science fiction, like “The Terminator.”

Narrowly focusing on a branch of applied science that was undergoing a paradigm shift which hadn’t yet reached the business world changed everything.

But an article in the tech press said the academic field was amid a resurgence. As a result of 100x larger training data sets and 100x higher compute power becoming available by reprogramming GPUs (graphics cards), a huge leap in predictive performance had been attained in image classification a year earlier. This meant computers were starting to be able to understand what’s in an image — like humans do.

The next step was getting this technology into the real world. While at university — Imperial College London — teaming up with much more skilled people, we built a plant recognition app with deep learning. We walked our professor through Hyde Park, watching him take photos of flowers with the app and laughing from joy as the AI recognized the right plant species. This had previously been impossible.

I started spending every spare moment on image classification with deep learning. Still, no one was talking about it in the news — even Imperial’s computer vision lab wasn’t yet on it! I felt like I was in on a revolutionary secret.

Looking back, narrowly focusing on a branch of applied science undergoing a breakthrough paradigm shift that hadn’t yet reached the business world changed everything.

Search for complementary co-founders who will become your best friends

I’d previously been rejected from Entrepreneur First (EF), one of the world’s best incubators, for not knowing anything about tech. Having changed that, I applied again.

The last interview was a hackathon, where I met Raz. He was doing machine learning research at Cambridge, had topped EF’s technical test, and published papers on reconstructing shredded documents and on poker bots that could detect bluffs. His bare-bones webpage read: “I seek data-driven solutions to currently intractable problems.” Now that had a ring to it (and where we’d get the name for Tractable).

That hackathon, we coded all night. The morning after, he and I knew something special was happening between us. We moved in together and would spend years side by side, 24/7, from waking up to Pantera in the morning to coding marathons at night.

But we also wouldn’t have got where we are without Adrien (Cohen, president), who joined as our third co-founder right after our seed round. Adrien had previously co-founded Lazada, an online supermarket in South East Asia like Amazon and Alibaba, which sold to Alibaba for $1.5 billion. Adrien would teach us how to build a business, inspire trust and hire world-class talent.

Find potential customers early so you can work out market fit

Tractable started at EF with a head start — a paying customer. Our first use case was … plastic pipe welds.

It was as glamorous as it sounds. Pipes that carry water and natural gas to your home are made of plastic. They’re connected by welds (melt the two plastic ends, connect them, let them cool down and solidify again as one). Image classification AI could visually check people’s weld setups to ensure good quality. Most of all, it was real-world value for breakthrough AI.

And yet in the end, they — our only paying customer — stopped working with us, just as we were raising our first round of funding. That was rough. Luckily, the number of pipe weld inspections was too small a market to interest investors, so we explored other use cases — utilities, geology, dermatology and medical imaging.

#ai, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #cybernetics, #ec-column, #ec-enterprise-applications, #ec-fintech, #ec-how-to, #enterprise, #insurance, #insurtech, #machine-learning, #startups

Scorched, Parched and Now Uninsurable: Climate Change Hits Wine Country

If any nook of American agriculture has the means and incentive to outwit the climate crisis, it is Napa Valley. But so far, vineyards here show the limits of adapting to a warming planet.

#agriculture-and-farming, #california, #global-warming, #grapes, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #insurance, #napa-calif, #sonoma-county-calif, #water, #wildfires, #wines

How Climate Change Hit Wine Country

If any nook of American agriculture has the means and incentive to outwit the climate crisis, it is Napa Valley. But so far, vineyards here show the limits of adapting to a warming planet.

#agriculture-and-farming, #california, #global-warming, #grapes, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #insurance, #napa-calif, #sonoma-county-calif, #water, #wildfires, #wines

An insurtech startup exposed thousands of sensitive insurance applications

A security lapse at insurance technology startup BackNine exposed hundreds of thousands of insurance applications after one of its cloud servers was left unprotected on the internet.

BackNine might be a company you’re not familiar with, but it might have processed your personal information if you applied for insurance in the past few years. The California-based company builds back-office software to help bigger insurance carriers sell and maintain life and disability insurance policies. It also offers a whitelabeled quote web form for smaller or independent financial planners sell insurance plans through their own websites.

But one of the company’s storage servers, hosted on Amazon’s cloud, was misconfigured to allow anyone access to the 711,000 files inside, including completed insurance applications that contain highly sensitive personal and medical information on the applicant and their family. It also contained images of individuals’ signatures as well as other internal BackNine files.

Of the documents reviewed, TechCrunch found contact information, like full names, addresses, and phone numbers, but also Social Security numbers, medical diagnoses, medications taken, and detailed completed questionnaires about an applicant’s health past and present. Other files included lab and test results, such as blood work and electrocardiograms. Some applications also contained driver’s license numbers.

The exposed documents date back to 2015 and as recently as this month.

Because Amazon storage servers, known as buckets, are private by default, someone with control of the buckets must have changed its permissions to public. None of the data was encrypted.

Security researcher Bob Diachenko found the exposed storage bucket and emailed details of the lapse to the company in early June, but after receiving an initial response, he didn’t hear back and the bucket remained open.

We reached out to BackNine vice president Reid Tattersall, whom Diachenko was in contact with and ignored. TechCrunch, too, was ignored. But within minutes of providing Tattersall — and him only — with the name of the exposed bucket, the data was locked down. TechCrunch has yet to receive a response from Tattersall, or his father Mark, the company’s chief executive, who was copied on a later email.

TechCrunch asked Tattersall if the company has alerted local authorities per state data breach notification laws, or if the company has any plans to notify the affected individuals whose data was exposed. We did not receive an answer. Companies can face stiff financial and civil penalties for failing to disclose a cybersecurity incident.

BackNine works with some of America’s largest insurance carriers. Many of the insurance applications found in the exposed bucket were for AIG, TransAmerica, John Hancock, Lincoln Financial Group, Prudential. When reached prior to publication, spokespeople for the insurance giants did not comment.

Read more:

#amazon, #america, #articles, #cloud-computing, #computing, #health, #insurance, #insurance-technology, #prudential, #security, #technology, #transamerica, #vice-president

YuLife nabs $70M at a $346M valuation for its gamified, wellness-oriented approach to life insurance

Life insurance — financial protection you buy against your death — may not read like the liveliest of industries on paper. But a life insurance startup that believes it can turn that stigma around, by infusing the concept with gamification and a push towards wellness and health — and change the life insurance industry in the process — is today announcing significant funding, a sign of the traction it’s getting for its big ideas.

YuLife, a London startup that has built a new kind of life insurance concept — it incentivizes and rewards users to focus on their physical and mental health through a gamified interface — has raised $70 million in what is, to date, one of the largest Series B’s raised by an insurtech startup in Europe.

Led by Target Global, the round also included Eurazeo, Latitude and previous backers Creandum, Notion Capital, Anthemis, MMC Ventures, and OurCrowd. Sammy Rubin, YuLife’s CEO and founder, confirmed that the round values YuLife at $346 million (£250 million).

The company will be using the funding to continue expanding its business, build more products on its platform, and importantly continue to invest in the technology that it uses to run its service and determine how its policies should run.

“Our insurance is about helping people live healthier and longer lives,” Rubin said in an interview. “If we can help to reduce claims while incentivizing people to do that, it’s a win-win.” But it’s about more than that, he added. “We are building a new type of risk model where we are able to create new actuarial tables, which have not been updated in 200 years. Actually, I think smoker rates and how they’ve changed was the last update. So, most will just look at your age and whether you are a smoker and that’s it.”

YuLife is currently active only in the UK and is only sold directly to organizations, who in turn provide it to their employees. That business currently — which also includes income protection and critical illness cover — provides $15 billion of coverage and has seen 10x growth in the last year — a bumper one for life insurance policies, possibly for the worst reasons (hello, pandemic; goodbye, predicting what the future might look like). Customers include Capital One, Co-op, Curve, Havas Media, Severn Trent, and Sodexo.

That $15 billion is just a drop in the bucket in an industry that is currently estimated to be worth some $2.2 trillion.

The company got its start on the back of a persistent problem that Rubin experienced at his previous insurance startup PruProtect (which is now called Vitality Life).

“Usually insurance benefits just sit on shelf and never get used,” he said. YuLife set out to change that by making the policy “all about engagement.”

The app — built by veterans of the gaming industry — is designed around the concept of different environments, currently covering forest, ocean, desert and mountains, which YuLife collectively terms its “Yuniverse.” (This incidentally also became a template for the company’s HQ design in London.)

Within each of these environments, users are encouraged to walk, cycle, meditate and do other activities to get around their environments in a healthy way, while at the same time being able to compare their progress against other co-workers. There is a degree of personalization in everyone’s experience, in that one person leaning into one activity over another seems to produce different subsequent scenarios.

Along with this, users are offered discounts on third-party products to further engage with the game within YuLife, which could include a subscription to meditation app Calm, FitBit and Garmin devices, and more.

As users make their ways through their worlds, they get rewards, in the form of something called YuCoins. The YuCoins can in turn be used to redeem vouchers from the likes of Amazon and Asos to buy things… consumerism being another way to improve happiness for some of us.

All of this sums up as more than just a policy aimed at giving people peace of mind for their families should they depart this world.

“Long term, it’s not just about health, it’s about lifestyle,” Rubin said.

It’s also about YuLife’s business: the various products that it offers are built around an affiliate model, so there is a business interest for the company around offering and seeing items purchased and redeemed. However, this is not essential to using the app as a policy holder.

The win-win theme runs strong, but so too does the fact that YuLife is taking a different approach altogether, in an industry where most of the “disruption” has up to now been more about how to buy life insurance, rather than reassessing what life insurance actually is. For others in the space doing just that, see DeadHappy, BIMA, and the Jay-Z backed Ethos. That being said, it’s also not the only one tackling “lifestyle” as part of life insurance: Sproutt is another rethinking that area as well.

“YuLife is redefining life insurance, using the most innovative technologies to transform a largely traditional industry,” said Ben Kaminski, partner, Target Global, in a statement. “With health and wellbeing increasingly thrust into the limelight in the wake of Covid-19, YuLife is fundamentally changing insurance by incentivizing people to lead healthier lifestyles. YuLife is ideally positioned to build on its tenfold growth during the pandemic and lead the way in helping its clients respond to the challenges posed by an ever-changing working environment. We are very proud to partner with YuLife on its journey of becoming a global leader in life insurance.”

#enterprise, #europe, #health, #insurance, #life-insurance

Miami twins raise $18M for Lula, an insurance infrastructure upstart

Lula, a Miami-based insurance infrastructure startup, announced today it has raised $18 million in a Series A round of funding.

Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures co-led the round, which also included participation from SoftBank, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, Shrug Capital, Steve Pagliuca (Bain Capital co-chairman and Boston Celtics owner), Tiny Capital’s Andrew Wilkinson. Existing backers such as Nextview Ventures and Florida Funders also put money in the round, in addition to a number of insurance and logistics groups such as Flexport.

The startup’s self-proclaimed mission is to provide companies of all sizes — from startups to multinational corporations — with insurance infrastructure. Think of it as a “Stripe for insurance,” its founders say.

Founded by 25-year-old twin brothers and Miami natives Michael and Matthew Vega-Sanz, Lula actually emerged from another business the pair had started while in college.

“We couldn’t afford to have a car on campus and wanted pizza one night,” Michael recalls. “So I thought it would be cool if there was an app that let me rent a car from another student, and then I thought ‘Why don’t we build it?’ We then built the ugliest app you’ve ever seen but it allowed us to rent cars from other people on the campus.” It was the first company to allow 18-year-olds to rent cars without restrictions, the brother say.

By September 2018, they formally launched the app beyond the campus of Babson College, which they were attending on scholarships. Within eight days of launching, the brothers say, the app became one of the top apps on Apple’s App Store. The pair dropped out of college, and within 12 months, they had cars available on more than 500 college campuses in the United States.

“As you can imagine we needed to make sure there was insurance coverage on each rental. We pitched it to 47 insurance companies and they all rejected us,” Michael said. “So we developed our own underwriting methodologies or underwriting tools into the operations and had the lowest incident rate in the industry.”

As the company grew, it began partnering with car rental providers (think smaller players, not Enterprise, et al.) to supplement its supply of vehicles. In doing so, the brothers soon realized that the most compelling aspect of their offering was the insurance infrastructure they’d built into it.

“Our rental companies begin to put a significant portion of their business through our platform, and one day one called us and asked if they could start using the software in the insurance infrastructure we’d built out in the rest of our business.”

That was in early 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“At that moment, we began to realize, ‘Hey maybe the big opportunity here is not a car-sharing app for college students, but maybe the big opportunity here is something with insurance,’” Michael said.

A few weeks later, the duo shut down their core business and by April 2020, they pivoted to building out Lula as it exists today.

“In the same way that Stripe has built a payment API that eliminates the need for companies to build their own payment infrastructure, we decided we could build an insurance API that eliminates the need for companies to build their own insurance infrastructure,” Matthew said. “Companies would no longer need to build out internal insurance systems or tools. No longer would they need to deal with insurance brokers to procure them coverage. No longer would they need to deal with insurance teams. We can integrate on to a platform and handle all things insurance for companies and their customers via our API.”

By August of 2020, the company launched an MVP (minimum viable product) and since then has been growing about 30% month over month after reaching profitability in its first four months.

Image Credits: Lula

Today, Lula offers a “fully integrated suite” of technology-enabled tools such as customer vetting, fraud detection, driver history checks, and policy management and claims handling through its insurance partners. It has a waiting list of nearly 2,000 companies and raised its funding to fulfill that demand.

“The main purpose for raising capital was so we can build out the team necessary to fulfill demand and sustain growth moving forward,” Matthew said. “And apart from that, we also just want to further develop the technology — whether it be in the ways that we’re collecting data so we can get more granular and make smarter decisions or just optimizing our vetting system. We’re also just working toward developing a much more robust API.”

Existing clients include ReadyDrive, a car-sharing program for the U.S. military and a “ton of SMBs,” the brothers say. Investor Flexport will be conducting a pilot with the company.

“Every time a trucker picks up a load or delivery, instead of paying monthly policies, they will be able to pay for insurance for the two to three days they are on the road only,” Michael says. “Also, if someone is shipping a container via Flexport, they can add cargo coverage at the point of sale and get an additional layer of protection.”

Ultimately, Lula’s goal is to act as a carrier in some capacity.

Founders Fund’s Delian Asparouhov believes that the way millenials and Gen Zers utilize physical assets is “wildly different” than prior generations.

“We grew up in a shared economy world, where apps like Uber, GetAround, Airbnb have allowed us to episodically utilize assets rather than purchase them outright,” he said.

In his view, though, the insurance industry has not picked up on the massive shift.
“Typical insurance agents both don’t know how to underwrite episodic usage of assets, and they don’t know how to integrate into these typical of digital rental platforms and allow for instantaneous underwriting,” Asparouhov told TechCrunch. “Lulu is combining both of these technologies into an incredibly unique approach that digitizes insurance and gives us flashbacks to how Stripe disrupted the digitization of payments.”

Despite their recent success, the brothers emphasize that the journey to get to this point was not always a glamorous one. Born to Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, they grew up on a small south Florida farm.

“We started our company out of our dorm room and initially emailed 532 investors only to get one response,” Michael said. “Founders just see the headlines but I just want to advise them to stay persistent and really keep at it. I’m not afraid to share that the company started off slow.”

#delian-asparouhov, #finance, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #infrastructure, #insurance, #insurtech, #khosla-ventures, #lula, #miami, #michael-vega-sanz, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

Meet Super.mx, the Mexico City-based insurtech that raised $7.2M from VCs and unicorn CEOs

Super.mx, an insurtech startup based in Mexico City, has raised $7.2 million in a Series A round led by ALLVP.

Co-founded in 2019 by a trio of former insurance industry executives, Super.mx’s self-proclaimed mission is to design insurance for “the emerging Latin American middle class,” according to CEO Sebastian Villarreal.

“That means insurance that is easy to buy – it can be bought on a cell phone in minutes – and that pays quickly with no adjusters,” he said. The company has built its offering with proprietary models that are used both on the underwriting side to predict risk and on the claims side to make payments automatically. 

Goodwater Capital, Kairos Angels and Bridge Partners also participated in the Series A round in addition to angels such as Joe Schmidt IV, vice president of business development at insurtech Ethos and former investor at Accel and Kyle Nakatsuji, founder and CEO of auto insurance startup Clearcover (and also a former VC). Better Tomorrow Ventures led Super.mx’s $2.4 million seed round, which also saw capital from 500 Startups Mexico, Village Global, Anthemis and Broadhaven Ventures, among others.

Unlike most insurtech startups in Latin America, Villarreal emphasizes that Super.mx is neither an aggregator nor a carrier. Instead, it’s an MGA, or managing general agent.

“This lets us have a ‘best of both worlds’ approach,” Villarreal said. “We handle the entire user experience just like a direct to consumer carrier, but with the breadth of product choice offered by an aggregator.”

That product choice includes property, natural disasters and life insurance. The company soon plans to expand to also offer health insurance. 

The founding team brings a variety of insurance experience to the table. Villarreal previously co-founded Chicago-based Kin Insurance (which raised over $150 million in funding from the likes of Flourish Ventures, Commerce Ventures and QED Investors). He was also once head of auto product at Avant, a growth-stage company funded by General Atlantic and Tiger Global, among others.

With over two decades of insurance industry experience, Dario Luna once served as Mexico’s insurance regulator and helped develop Mexico’s disaster risk management strategy. Marco Ahedo has designed parametric insurance products for 19 Caribbean countries. He was also once a solvency expert for life and health insurance lines at MetLife, and has developed financial models for several P&C carriers.

Villarreal lived in the U.S. for a while before deciding to move back to Mexico, which he recognized was home to an “underinsurance problem.”

“That’s actually a very acute problem,” he said. “People in Latin America buy a lot less insurance than they do in the U.S., and people in Mexico, in particular, buy a lot less insurance than they do in other Latin countries.”

Some have blamed the lack of insurance coverage on the country’s culture but Super.mx operates under the belief that this notion is “total BS.”

“It’s not a cultural problem,” Villarreal said. “The problem is that the insurance products that exist in the market just suck. They’re super expensive. They’re really hard to buy, and they pay very little.”

Image Credits: Super.mx

So far, Super.mx has sold “thousands of policies” but is more focused now on increasing the number of products that it’s selling. The company started out by selling earthquake insurance before adding COVID insurance, and more recently, in April, it launched life insurance. Next, it’s going to offer property, renter’s and health insurance.

“It’s really a different strategy than what you would find in the U.S.,” Villarreal said. “In the U.S, when you look at insurtechs, it’s like everyone just does one thing, but here, it’s very different because when someone says ‘I want insurance,’ really what they’re saying is ‘Hey, something happened that makes me nervous that didn’t make me nervous before.’”

That something could be a new child, for example, that prompts a need for life insurance.

“What we’re trying to do is like Lemonade, Roots and Hippo or Kin all rolled into one,” he added. It’s a big, big play.”

Digital adoption in Mexico, and Latin America in general, has increased exponentially in recent years. The bigger hurdle for Super.mx, according to Villarreal, has less to do with technology and more to do with Mexicans getting over what he describes a “deep mistrust” based on bad experiences in the past.

“People are really distrustful and that’s a huge hurdle, but once you show them that you actually are different,” Villarreal told TechCrunch, “that you actually do things in a different way, you get this incredible emotional response.”

Eventually, Super.mx plans to outside of Mexico to other countries in Latin America.

ALLVP’s Federico Antoni said his Mexico City-based firm had been looking for a team building in this space “for years” before investing in Super.mx. The venture firm was impressed with the company’s technical knowledge and industry expertise. It was also drawn to their multi-product approach and “capacity to ship highly complex products to the market quickly” — both of which he believes are “unique” in the region.

Citing statistics from MAPFRE Economics, Antoni pointed out that globally, the insurance market has been growing over the last 10 years. During that time, Latin America expanded faster on average (4.4% vs. 2.4% worldwide), albeit with more volatility. Life insurance has been driving this growth, at 6.1%, over the period. 

“Insurtech may be even bigger than fintech. Also, harder,” he told TechCrunch via email. “We knew the team to unlock the market potential would need to be highly competent and highly disruptive.”

Antoni said he is also convinced that Insurtech is the “next frontier” in financial inclusion in Latin America especially as digitization continues to increase.

“Providing risk coverage to individuals and businesses in the region, brings financial stability to families and unlocks economic potential for SMEs,” he said. “Moreover, the insurance incumbents have been unable to address a growing and underserved market.”

 

#anthemis, #clearcover, #federico-antoni, #funding, #fundings-exits, #health-insurance, #insurance, #latin-america, #life-insurance, #mexico, #mexico-city, #recent-funding, #startups, #super-mx, #venture-capital, #village-global