Growing InsurTech market reflected in SBC London Demo Day

Neil Ainger, special to CNBC
The London skyline at night, with Blackfriars Bridge visible in the foreground
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"Over $100 million has been invested in insurance technology (InsurTech) companies that have gone through Startupbootcamp's (SBC) financial technology (FinTech) accelerators," said program managing director, Sabine VanderLinden, at its second dedicated Demo Day held on Wednesday in London.

Ten new startup companies that want to use InsurTech to disrupt the sector gathered at the Indigo O2 venue in London on 26 April to pitch to a roomful of investors, mentors, insurers and technologists.

Some of the FinTech companies were no doubt looking for another new vertical market to infiltrate, using many of the same artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, data analytical and risk tools that have already been successfully deployed in the retail or investment banking arenas. Other newcomers were targeting the insurance market specifically.

Both types of pitchers were evident at the second SBC Demo Day in London. There were attendees from South Africa, Sweden, U.S., U.K. and elsewhere, and much talk about the sharing economy and on demand insurance via mobile phone apps.

End uses on display included experience days at music gigs (Sharenjoy) or for hard to insure activities like surfing (Tikkr), which are typically excluded from most traditional policies.

"On demand insurance is expected to be worth $600bn by 2025," claimed Hitesh Saini, founder and CEO of the pitching Tikkr start-up, without attributing the research. He added that, "there are 25 million uninsured surfers globally."

There is, therefore, potentially a niche market to exploit. Tikkr has signed up 30 surf clubs to try to do so. They plan other on demand insurance offerings in the future. "We're looking to raise $300,000 in our upcoming seed fundraising effort," said Saini.

The full line-up of pitching InsurTech companies included:

  • Adapt Ready
  • Aerobotics
  • AIMO
  • Emerge
  • Insure A Thing
  • NuvaLaw
  • Port
  • Sharenjoy
  • Tikkr
  • Track Active.

There was also one mature startup in residence CBien, which was there to offer advice and share knowledge with their peers.

CBien is a digital asset management platform that can value items and offer traditional coverage and/or help users to manage claims. It can also provide niche on demand insurance options for unusual or expensive personal items, such as cameras, antiques, watches and so forth, offering real-time market value pricing.

David Gascoin, CEO and co-founder of CBien, described the start-up as "a digital inventory platform that enables the sharing economy". It counts Sebastian Preel of BlaBlaCar, a €1.4bn unicorn among its mentors.

CBien also has backing from Thomas Ollivier, head of sharing economy and emerging practises at French mutual insurer MAIF, which has offered a €125 million avenir (future) fund over the last two years to promising start-ups, as part of its effort to encourage InsurTech.

Ollivier also gave a speech at SBC's 2017 InsurTech Demo Day in London advising attendees how his MAIF fund operates and providing tips about how to proceed along the development path.

An alumni from last year's show was also present in London to offer advice and give a speech.

Becky Downing, founder and CEO of BuzzVault, another digital asset vault that uses blockchain technology, advised attendees to "embrace the new digital reality" that emerging technologies such as AI-inspired machine learning techniques, blockchain and other new innovations were bringing to the insurance sector.

BuzzVault raised £6 million from White Mountains Insurance Group in August 2016 – the largest such seed investment in Europe at the time.

Talking to CNBC exclusively afterwards, Downing explained that she'd been circling huge insurance companies for six months in the early stages of BuzzVault's development before realizing that it was "futile" to approach them directly "as so many others were trying to do the same thing. Startupbootcamp gave me a way to get in front of large insurers and pitch my ideas."

The SBC InsurTech event is supported by Zurich, Allianz, Admiral, Swiss Re, the aggregator website, PwC, Old Mutual and many others.

"We empower entrepreneurs to explore their original idea, and test and design sustainable business models. We then enable corporate innovation via our partnerships," VanderLinden explained.