Sep
22
2020
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EasySend raises $16M from Intel, more for its no-code approach to automating B2C interfaces

No-code and low-code software have become increasingly popular ways for companies — especially those that don’t count technology as part of their DNA — to bring in more updated IT processes without the heavy lifting needed to build and integrate services from the ground up.

As a mark of that trend, today, a company that has taken this approach to speeding up customer experience is announcing some funding. EasySend, an Israeli startup which has built a no-code platform for insurance companies and other regulated businesses to build out forms and other interfaces to take in customer information and subsequently use AI systems to process it more efficiently, is announcing that it has raised $16 million.

The funding has actually come in two tranches, a $5 million seed round from Vertex Ventures and Menora Insurance that it never disclosed, and another $11 million round that closed more recently, led by Hanaco with participation from Intel Capital. The company is already generating revenue, and did so from the start, enough that it was actually bootstrapped for the first three years of its life.

Tal Daskal, EasySend’s CEO and co-founder, said that the funding being announced today will be used to help it expand into more verticals: up to now its primary target has been insurance companies, although organically it’s picked up customers from a number of other verticals, such as telecoms carriers, banks and more.

The plan will be now to hone in on specifically marketing to and building solutions for the financial services sector, as well as hiring and expanding in Asia, Europe and the US.

Longer term, he said, that another area EasySend might like to look at more in the future is robotic process automation (RPA). RPA, and companies that deal in it like UIPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism, is today focused on the back office, and EasySend’s focus on the “front office” integrates with leaders in that area. But over time, it would make sense for EasySend to cover this in a more holistic way, he added.

Menora was a strategic backer: it’s one of the largest insurance providers in Israel, Daskal said, and it used EasySend to build out better ways for consumers to submit data for claims and apply for insurance.

Intel, he said, is also strategic although how is still being worked out: what’s notable to mention here is that Intel has been building out a huge autonomous driving business in Israel, anchored by MobileEye, and not only will insurance (and overall risk management) play a big part in how that business develops, but longer term you can see how there will be a need for a lot of seamless customer interactions (and form filling) between would-be car owners, operators, and passengers in order for services to operate more efficiently.

Intel Capital chose to invest in EasySend because of its intelligent and impactful approach to accelerating digital transformation to improve customer experiences,” said Nick Washburn, senior managing director, Intel Capital, in a statement. “EasySend’s no-code platform utilizes AI to digitize thousands of forms quickly and easily, reducing development time from months to days, and transforming customer journeys that have been paper-based, inefficient and frustrating. In today’s world, this is more critical than ever before.”

The rise and persistence of Covid-19 globally has had a big, multi-faceted impact how we all do business, and two of those ways have fed directly into the growth of EasySend.

First, the move to remote working has given organizations a giant fillip to work on digital transformation, refreshing and replacing legacy systems with processes that work faster and rely on newer technologies.

Second, consumers have really reassessed their use of insurance services, specifically health and home policies, respectively to make sure they are better equipped in the event of a Covid-19-precipitated scare, and to make sure that they are adequately covered for how they now use their homes all hours of the day.

EasySend’s platform for building and running interfaces for customer experience fall directly into the kinds of apps and services that are being identified and updated, precisely at a time when its initial target customers, insurers, are seeing a surge in business. It’s that “perfect storm” of circumstances that the startup wouldn’t have wished on the world, but which has definitely helped it along.

While there are a lot of companies on the market today that help organizations automate and run their customer interaction processes, the Daskal said that EasySend’s focus on using AI to process information is what makes the startup more unique, as it can be used not just to run things, but to help improve how things work.

It’s not just about taking in character recognition and organizing data, it’s “understanding the business logic,” he said. “We have a lot of data and we can understand [for example] where customers left the process [when filling out forms]. We can give insights into how to increase the conversion rates.”

It’s that balance of providing tools to do business better today, as well as to focus on how to build more business for tomorrow, that has caught the eye of investors.

“Hanaco is firmly invested in building a digital future. By bridging the gap between manual processes and digitization, EasySend is making this not only possible, but also easy, affordable, and practical,” said Hanaco founding partner Alon Lifshitz, in a statement.

Dec
18
2019
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Huckleberry raises $18M to put small business insurance online

The insurance industry, sleepy and ancient, is ripe for disruption. We’ve seen companies like Lemonade, Hippo and Rhino get in on that opportunity. Today, an insurtech company focused on small business insurance has raised $18 million to keep growing.

Meet Huckleberry, whose Series A was led by Tribe Capital, with participation from Amaranthine, Crosslink Capital and Uncork Capital.

Huckleberry launched in 2017 to offer business insurance, including workers’ compensation and general liability, all through an online portal.

Small business insurance coverage is not like car insurance or renters insurance. It’s not as simple as filling out a few forms and getting a quote. Even if a few platforms do have algorithms for providing quotes, you can’t really close the deal unless you get on the phone.

It’s an incredibly tedious and stressful process. In fact, Huckleberry co-founders Bryan O’Connell and Steve Au first came up with the idea for Huckleberry when they were seeking out their own small business coverage for a previous startup idea.

The industry itself is incredibly fragmented, which is caused in part by the fact that small business coverage underwriting varies wildly from business to business. For example, the policy for three or four restaurants might look relatively similar. However, a fast food restaurant might be identified as a higher risk with regards to workers’ compensation than a Michelin-star restaurant, where workers might be more eager to get back to work and take home their tip money. These differences come in the form of location, operations and many other factors, as well as business vertical.

Huckleberry has worked to build out myriad coverage verticals, including food and beverage, fitness, retail, legal, healthcare, hair and beauty and more.

The firm offers worker’s comp, as well as a package policy that includes general liability, property and business interruption insurance. Customers also can purchase add-ons like hired and non-owned auto insurance, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI), liquor liability insurance, employee dishonesty coverage, professional liability insurance, equipment breakdown coverage and spoilage coverage.

Huckleberry isn’t itself an insurance carrier, but does have the authority to underwrite and sell policies on behalf of the carrier. That said, Huckleberry’s expansion both by vertical and geography is more difficult than your average software startup. The regulatory landscape of insurance in the U.S. goes state by state.

“Our biggest challenge is navigating 50 states’ worth of extremely complicated regulations on something that is much more complicated than a software product,” said O’Connell. “We’re trying to protect individual workers and businesses all while staying fully compliant in every market.”

Oct
01
2019
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Rhino looks to replace renters’ security deposits with a small monthly fee

Rhino, the insurtech startup incubated by Kairos and co-founded by Kairos CEO Ankur Jain, has today announced the close of a $21 million Series A round led by Kairos and Lakestar.

Rhino was founded in 2017 with the goal of getting back to renters the billions of dollars that are locked up in cash security deposits, all while protecting landlords and their property. As it stands now, landlords usually take one month’s rent to cover any damage that might be done to the apartment during the lease. This is piled on top of first and sometimes last month’s rent, and even at times a broker’s fee of one month’s rent, which adds up to an incredibly steep cost of moving.

Because of certain regulations, this money is held in an individual escrow account and can’t really generate interest, which results in billions of dollars zapped out of the economy and instead sitting dead in some account.

Rhino is looking to give renters the option to pay a small monthly fee (as low as $3) to cover an insurance policy for the landlord. Rhino is itself a managing general agent, allowing the company to both sell and create policy plans for landlords through partnerships with carriers.

Thus far the startup has saved renters upwards of $60 million in 2019, with users in more than 300,000 rental units across the country.

“The greatest challenge is working against legacy and industry norms,” said Rhino CEO and co-founder Paraag Sarva. “That start has begun, but there is a huge amount of inertia behind the status quo and that is far and away what we are most challenged by day in and day out.”

To help speed up the process, Rhino is working alongside policymakers to enact change on a federal level.

Alongside the funding announcement, the company is announcing its new policy proposal that was created in collaboration with federal, state and local government officials. The policy essentially allows for renters to be given a choice when it comes to cash deposits, including allowing residents to cover security deposits in installments or use insurtech products like Rhino to cover deposits.

Rhino says it will be sharing the policy proposal with 2020 presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Rhino is one of a handful of companies that has been incubated by Kairos, a startup studio led by Ankur Jain with the goal of solving the biggest problems faced by everyday Americans. The studio focuses on housing and healthcare, with companies such as Rhino, June Homes, Little Spoon, Cera and a couple of startups still in stealth.

Aug
27
2019
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Sweden’s Hedvig raises $10.4M led by Obvious Ventures to build ‘nice insurance’

Hedvig, a Swedish startup, is following in the footsteps of Lemonade, building a new generation of insurance platforms that use AI to help evaluate customers and operate on a policy of using surplus for social good. Today the company announced the next stage of its growth. The startup has closed a SEK100 million ($10.4 million) round of funding to expand from its current offering of property insurance into a wider range of categories, and begin the costly process of expanding its business into more countries beyond its home market.

The funding values the company at SEK342 million ($35.5 million) — a modest figure considering Lemonade’s recent $300 million round, reportedly (per PitchBook) at a $2.1 billion post-money valuation — but helps position the company to set its sights on being a strong regional player (if not an acquisition target for Lemonade if it wants to quickly add new regions: the latter kicked off its first services in Europe earlier this year, so its global aspirations are clear).

It currently has 15,000 customers in its home market of Sweden, who use it for property insurance on rented or owned apartments, and Lucas Carlsen, the co-founder and CEO, said in an emailed interview with TechCrunch that it “definitely” plans to expand that to houses as well as other categories. Home insurance also covers contents, such as gadgets, and travel, and Carlsen said that the former (gadgets) accounts for the majority of claims at the moment.

The round was led by Obvious Ventures, the venture fund co-founded by Twitter/Medium/Blogger co-founder Ev Williams, with D-Ax, the early-stage investment arm of Swedish retail giant Axel Johnson Group, also participating, along with past investor Cherry Ventures.

“We are building a global company. We just started in Sweden since we happened to live here, and it serves as a good test market as we have some of the worlds’ most progressive and demanding consumers. Today, we do not have any news to share about future markets, but stay tuned!,” said Carlsen.

“The new funding will mainly be used to fuel growth in Sweden, but we’ll also be looking at extending into new markets and insurance categories. Insurance is capital intensive and our new partners are committed to supporting our long-term vision,” he continued.

Indeed, getting an investor like Obvious (which published its own short announcement about the investment) involved could open the door to introductions with a number of other investors down the road.

Hedvig is harnessing its purpose, the power of AI, and its human-centered product to create a modern, full-stack insurance company. Their incredible team is delivering against the mission – to give people the world’s most incredible insurance experience – and we at Obvious are honored to help scale it further,” said Vishal Vasishth, one of Obvious Ventures’ other co-founders, in a statement.

Hedvig — named, Carlsen said, after a legend of “someone who stood up for others and fought for their causes: that’s what we do,” — will sound familiar to you if you know Lemonade.

It follows in a wave of more socially forward businesses that are being created, which are using technology to help disrupt the status quo but also to bridge the gap between building services that consumers need and the principles they would like to adhere to more if possible. (Other examples include the likes of Beyond Meat, which is also backed by Obvious; as well as the plethora of electric and hybrid vehicle makers; and more.)

In the case of Hedvig and the challenge of insurance, the proposition goes like this:

Hedvig uses technology and innovative algorithms to help assess a potential customer, who is then provided with lowest-cost, and often competitively priced, premiums. Then, as a “full-stack” digital company, it also uses its algorithms to help process claims. After Hedvig uses its bigger pot of money to pay out claims, the annual surplus is donated to charities selected by its customers.

“By not pocketing this money ourselves we can focus on providing the best service possible to you and not on making more money from denying claims,” Carlsen said.

Hedvig itself makes money by taking a cut off users’ monthly premiums (it doesn’t specify how much). To date, Hedvig has not disclosed how much it has been able to “give back” according to its business model. But the philosophy is that by digitising some of the more mundane processes that are relegated to human adjustors and customer agents at traditional agencies — and by not being inherently greedy — the startup is able to provide a more pleasant, more efficient and more conscionable service.

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