4 reasons why Insurtechs need start-up accelerators
Digital transformation has the insurance industry in its grip. Insurance companies are experimenting with the possibilities of new technologies: Insurtechs have established themselves as potential disruptors of the insurance world. How can these insurance start-ups accelerate successfully?
Insight in brief
- As a result of digitalisation, insurance companies are moving into new technologies.
- InsurTechs are entering the market as potential disrupters.
- How can the new players establish themselves?
The total value and the total number of deals in Insurtech in the past year has been astounding. According to the CB-Insights Quarterly Insurtech Briefing Q2, the quarterly investment in Insurtech has been over 1.2 billion USD for each of the past four quarters. This had only been achieved twice before since they started collecting data seven years ago. The total number of deals in the second quarter in 2019 was 69 at an average deal size of over 20 million USD.
Booming Insurtech start-up funding
These staggering numbers have been achieved for two reasons. First, almost every large insurance company is looking over its shoulder at disruptive technologies, innovators, distribution channels, ecosystems etc. and is trying to stay ahead of the curve by investing and partnering with Insurtechs. The funds that these insurance behemoths have available are immense as shown by a few examples in Europe:
- AXA Venture Partners: manages 600 million USD, 40 portfolio companies
- Aviva Ventures: Plans to invest 100 million GBP
- Munich Re: ventures 20 portfolio companies and 150 million USD + invested
- Allianz X: Has 15 direct investments, 1 billion USD fund size
The second reason for those numbers is that Venture Capital Funds are also diving into this field because they see large potential buy-outs, notwithstanding that many of the co-investors are the insurance funds who may eventually want to acquire the start-ups.
Insurtechs alone in the field
A couple of years ago, I was knowledgably told by insurance companies that they no longer needed to partner with FinTech and Insurtech Accelerator programs – for a number of strongly felt reasons:
- Insurance companies could find any new venture that they wanted to on the Internet. So why pay business Accelerators for the privilege?
- Insurtechs were mostly not very disruptive and so would soon be beating a path to their door to look for channels to market and access to customers.
- Regulatory constraints would force Insurtech ventures to partner with incumbents.
Why are Insurtech start-up accelerators still needed?
However, despite these predictions, Accelerators and Incubators specialising in Insurtech and FinTech are still around. Why? I have been working with Insurtech start-ups for a number of years and, to me, the driving forces are:
- Technology Centricity: Often, if a core technology is the raison d’etre of the start-up they then start searching for markets (not really the best thing to do but most tech start-ups start this way) and they may happen upon the Insurance industry as having some good use cases for their technology. Here, the business Accelerator or Incubator helps the start-up understand the needs of either end-users in B2B2C applications or more often of potential Insurance company customers.
- Introductions: Much as you might think that the Internet has made the world smaller, there is still nothing better than having a person to person meeting and introduction to a prospective customer and the specialised Insurance Accelerator or Incubators can do this.
- Curation: Despite the Internet, the large Insurance companies and Venture Capitals can’t review and filter every idea for a new Insurtech venture and so relying on Accelerators or Incubators to do the first filtering saves a lot of time.
- Specialised Markets: The Lloyd’s Lab, from Lloyd’s of London, has for example focused on bringing in ventures to its Accelerator with the purpose of addressing challenges specific to the Lloyd’s of London Market. It has gone from strength to strength and is already on its third cohort in less than a year.
Accelerator and Incubators as intermediates for Insurtechs
What we see happening in the Insurtech market is not unusual in that business Accelerators and Incubators fulfil a funding and development role between the Family and Friends and Seed Rounds of investment and the Series A Rounds from Venture Capitals and Corporate Venture Capital. However, given the very specialised nature, especially around regulation, privacy, capital adequacy of the Insurance industry, having a knowledgeable intermediate layer which can give expert Insurtech or FinTech advice and introductions is essential to the smooth functioning of the capital raising markets.
Brewster Barclay has a long history developing and selling innovative software and hardware solutions in the electronics and Internet industries, including running a start-up for 6 years. He is dedicated to helping customers create innovative solutions in healthcare and has shown this outside of his Zühlke responsibilities in his frequent mentoring of e-health and medtech startups.