Just raises $8M in its effort to beat Root at the car insurance game

Just Insure, a pay-per-mile insurance technology company, has raised $8 million in a funding round. 

CrossCut Ventures, ManchesterStory and Western Technology Investments co-led the investment, which brings its total raised to $15.3 million since its January 2019 inception.

Los Angeles-based Just says it uses telematics “to reward safe drivers and reduce insurer bias” by looking at factors such as how, when and where customers drive, rather than factors such as ZIP code or marital status as most traditional insurers do. Or put more simply, it charges customers only for miles driven and its rates vary based on driving behavior. This way, Just says it’s able to offer lower rates for “safer drivers,” and it claims to save its customers around 40% from their “previous auto insurance company.” For now, it’s only available in Arizona, although the company plans to expand to other markets such as Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia.

Image Credits: Just Insure

Of course, Just is not the first company to offer personalized auto insurance. There’s Metromile, which launched its personalized pay-per-mile auto insurance in 2012. And there’s also Root Insurance, an Ohio-based car insurance startup that uses smartphone technology to understand individual driver behavior. Although there are similarities between Root and Just, there are also distinct differences, according to founder and CEO Robert Smithson.

Root charges customers a monthly fee, and when policies are renewed, the rate is subject to change based on driving behavior. Just has a similar model. If its drivers exhibits safe driving behavior, their rates can fall. On the other hand, if they exhibit dangerous behavior, their rates can rise. But unlike Root, Smithson said, Just only charges its “liability only” customers for miles driven. There is no monthly fee. For “full cover” customers, Just also includes a “small daily charge” to reflect the risk that someone could steal their car. For its part, MetroMile charges customers a base rate plus a per mile rate. Neither rate are affected by how a person drives, notes Smithson.

“The [Just] per mile price that a customer gets can change every month. This means we’re able to rapidly reward safe drivers with lower rates, and to increase them for those who drive less well,” Smithson said. “This rapid feedback loop encourages people to make smarter driving decisions. And it means that our customers have fewer accidents, and we do better. ”

In 2020, Root had a direct loss ratio of 82%. Just’s direct loss ratio is 65.8% year to date so far. But of course, it has far fewer customers and is only serving one market. Still, the company says that it has already achieved underwriting profitability in terms of what portion of premium to it pays out in claims.

Also, with so many people shifting to working from home over the last year, Just says it has seen increased demand this year. It issued over 1,000 new policies in the second quarter, up “tenfold” compared to the same period in 2020. The startup said during that same time, its revenue climbed 1,400% compared to the second quarter of 2020

“People are simply driving less as a result of increased work-from-home rates, and this isn’t changing anytime soon,” Smithson said. “Our approach enables us to offer customers rates that are truly reflective of their driving.”

The company likens its user experience to that of a prepaid phone card. Just customers can “load up” their account for $30 for minimum liability-only coverage and $75 for full coverage to start driving. The company’s insurance policy is for 30 days. So as customers drive, their balance declines. Every 30 days, the company changes each customer’s price as it gathers more data about their driving habits.

It’s an approach that Matt Kinley, co-founder and managing partner at ManchesterStory, had never before seen.

“It is more fair, affordable and customized across the board, and unique because the company offers customers rates that are actually reflective of their driving, which rewards safe drivers with lower insurance premiums,” he said.

The company plans to use its new capital in part to do some hiring — it currently has a staff of 35 — and scale its product offering. It is also planning to launch beyond Arizona into neighboring states. In particular, Smithson said the startup is “keen” to launch in Texas.

#apps, #crosscut-ventures, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #insurance-technology, #insurtech, #just, #los-angeles, #manchesterstory, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #transportation, #venture-capital, #western-technology-investments

Founded by an Impossible Foods, and Google data scientist, Climax Foods raises $7.5 million to tackle the cheesiest market

Oliver Zahn began his professional career studying the stars. The founder of Climax Foods, a startup that’s using data science to replace animal proteins with plant-based substitutes, spent years at the University of California at Berkeley with his eyes fixed firmly toward the heavens before taking up with Pat Brown and Impossible Foods as the company’s leading data scientist.

That experience focused Zahn on more terrestrial concerns and undoubtedly led the founder down the path to launching Climax Foods.

Now with $7.5 million in financing from investors including At One Ventures, founded by the GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi, along with Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital and Global Founders Capital, Zahn is ready to take on the future of food.

The pitch to investors is similar to the one that Josh Tetrick made at Just Food (the company formerly known as Hampton Creek). It’s elegant in its simplicity — scan the natural world for proteins that have the same or better characteristics than those that are currently made by animals and make products with them.

By looking at what makes animal products so delicious, the company will find their plant-based analogs and start producing.

As with most things that depend on data science, the taxonomy is the key. So Climax Foods is building machine learning algorithms that will process and cross-reference molecular structures to find the best fit. It’s starting with cheese.

While, the replacing the humble wheel of cheese may not seem like a worthy adversary for an astrophysicist, companies have already raised hundreds of millions to defeat the big dairy industry.

“We are at a pivotal time where industrialization enabled explosive population growth and consumption of animal products. Today, more than 90% of all mammalian animals and more than 70% of all birds on the planet exist for the sole purpose of metabolizing plants and being turned into food,” said Zahn in a statement. “This industry is complex and wasteful, creating as much climate change as all modes of transportation combined, and using more than a third of the earth’s water and usable land. By speeding up food science innovation, Climax Foods is able to convert plants into equally craveable foods without the environmental impact.”

Joining Zahn on this quest to conquer the cheese industrial complex and its milk-made monstrousness are a few seasoned industry veterans including co-founder, Caroline Love, the company’s chief operating officer and former sales and operations executive from JUST foods, and Pavel Aronov, a Stanford-educated chemist who previously worked at the chemicals giant thermo-Fisher.

“Climax Foods is tackling the same opportunity to change the market and the food system, but they are doing it with an entirely novel technological approach. They are using data science to produce a new category of foods that will not merely compete with, but out-compete, animal products in terms of taste, nutritional density, and price,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, one of the largest investors in the plant protein space and Chief Investment Officer of S2G Ventures. “The machine intelligence approach Climax Foods is pioneering is critical for harnessing the vast number of ways raw ingredients and natural processes can be used to create the ultimate digital recipes.”

Krishnan would know. He’s an investor in Beyond Meat, the most successful public offering of a plant-based protein replacement company.

#beyond-meat, #california, #chemicals, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #founder, #global-founders-capital, #hampton-creek, #impossible-foods, #josh-tetrick, #just, #luminous-ventures, #manta-ray-ventures, #meat-substitutes, #prelude-ventures, #protein, #s2g-ventures, #stanford, #tc, #thermo-fisher, #university-of-california, #valor-siren-ventures

Future Fields is tackling cultured meat’s biggest problem

One possible solution to cellular agriculture’s biggest problem — how to develop a cheap, humane, growth material for cultured meat — may have come from a conversation in line at a Tim Hortons in Alberta.

The husband and wife duo of Matt and Jalene Anderson-Baron were waiting for Timbits and coffee and talking about the technology behind their startup, Future Fields, when Jalene suggested a possible new growth medium.

Matt Anderson-Baron had hit a wall in his research, and the pair, which represented two-thirds of the founding triumvirate of Future Fields, were out for a snack. Along with co-founder Lejjy Gafour, the three friends had set out to launch a startup from Canada that could do something about the world’s reliance on animals for protein.

They recognized that the attendant problems associated with animal farming were unsustainable at a scale needed to meet global demand for meat. So the three turned their attention to cell-based alternatives to the meat market.

“It was all just our interesting crazy side project that we never thought would turn into a business,” said Jalene Anderson-Baron. “That has evolved into a successful business idea over the last year.”

Future Fields co-founders. Image credit: Future Fields

Initially, the trio had hoped to launch their own cultured meat brand to sell lab grown chicken to the world, but after four months spent experimenting in the lab, Matt Anderson-Baron and the rest of the team, decided to pivot and begin work on a new growth serum. All thanks to Tim Hortons.

“Our MVP was a chicken nugget. It worked out to be about $3,000 per pound… Which is obviously not a lucrative business model. Given that the aims was to produce something price comparable to meat,” said Anderon-Brown. “We shifted to focus on a new medium that would be economically viable. Originally we intended it for something that just we used. We didn’t realize at first the novelty of our product and how beneficial it would be to the industry. About eight months ago we decided to pivot and make that growth medium our product.”

Now, as it gets ready to leave the Y Combinator accelerator program, the company has some paid contracts in place and will be rolling out the first couple of pilot product lines of its cell growth material for shipment within the next month.

The potential demand for the company’s product is huge. Alpha Meats, Shiok Meat, Finless Foods, Memphis Meats, Meatable, Mosa Meat, Aleph Farms, Future Meat Technologies, Lab Farm Foods, and Eaat, are all companies developing lab grown alternatives to meat and fish. All told, these companies have raised well over $200 million. Some of the biggest names in traditional meat production like Tyson Foods are investing in meat alternatives.

Image Credit: Getty Images/VectorMine

“It’s about getting the price at scale. The companies that are using smaller volumes are bringing it down 10 to 100 times cheaper. We can do that. But our superpower is producing the growth medium at scale and doing it 1,000 times cheaper,” said Matt Anderson-Brown. “We’re talking about $2 to $3 per liter at scale.”

Future Fields’ founders didn’t say much about the technology that they’re using, except to say that they’re genetically modifying a specific organism by inserting the genetic code for specific protein production into their unidentified cell line to produce different growth factors.

The University of Alberta isn’t unique in its development of a Health Accelerator Program, but its equity-free approach allows startups and would-be bio-engineering entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their businesses without fear of dilution.

Future Fields has already raised a small, pre-seed round of $480,000 from a group of undisclosed angel investors and the Grow Agrifood Tech Accelerator out of Singapore.

And company has the capacity to produce a few hundred liters of its growth factor, according to Gafour, and is working on plans to scale up production to hit tens of thousands of liters per month over the next year.

For Gafour and his compatriots, the cellular agriculture industry has already reached an inflection point, and the next steps are less about scientific discovery and radical innovation and more about iteration and commercialization.

“With the inclusion of a growth media solution, the core pieces are in place, and now it’s a matter of understanding the efficiencies in being able to scale it up,” said Gafour.

Still, there are other components that need to be developed for the industry to truly bring down costs to a point where it can compete with traditional meat. Companies still need to develop a scaffolding to support the growth of protein cells into the muscle and fatty tissues that give meat its flavor. Bioreactor design needs to improve as well, according to Matt Anderson-Baron. “It’s the wild west. There’s so many things still to be done.”

And there are many companies working on these technologies as well. Glycosan, Lyopor and Prellis are all working on building tissue scaffolding that can be used for animal organ development.

“The vision oif our company was to accelerate this industry and move the industry along,” said Jalene Anderson-Baron. “At first we didn’t realize the potential of our technology. We thought that everyone would overcome that roadblock around the same time. As we were speaking with other companies and speaking with investors who had been in touch with other companies, we realized this was the key piece to move the industry forward.”

#alpha, #cellular-agriculture, #cultured-meat, #food-and-drink, #future-meat-technologies, #just, #memphis, #memphis-meats, #singapore, #tc, #tim-hortons, #tyson-foods, #university-of-alberta