CNBC Disruptor 50

35. Bestow

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Founders: Melbourne O'Banion (CEO), Jonathan Abelmann
Launched: 2016
Headquarters: Dallas
Funding:
$145 million
Valuation: $490 million (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, machine learning
Industry:
Insurance
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Persephone Kavallines

The worldwide pandemic forced many people to rethink their priorities and what they cherish most. Covid exposed a flawed and broken medical infrastructure in America and, for perhaps the first time in a long time, had the majority of Americans thinking about the possibility of an untimely and unexpected death. Life insurance enjoyed a bit of renaissance as a result of the pandemic.

Northwestern Mutual, the largest seller of life insurance last year saw a 15% jump in the number of policies sold between April and September 2020. AccuQuote, an online insurance marketplace saw its policy sales grow nearly 30% as a result of the pandemic. There was a 13% increase in life insurance applications among the under-44 age group according to MIB, an insurance analytics firm.

But getting life insurance has never been associated with ease. Many people put off getting life insurance because of the hassle of doctor visits and medical tests. A super-majority (84%) of Americans agree that they need life insurance, yet 41% do not have any coverage at all. Bestow appeals to people who may have never bought life insurance before.

In 2020, Bestow became the first fully digital life insurance carrier and entered into a definitive agreement to purchase a nationally licensed life insurance company. More than 75% of Bestow customers bought insurance on a mobile device, the majority in under 10 minutes. The typical Bestow user ranges in age between 25 to 45, with most having young children at home.

The entire process is digital, no doctor's visit and zero human contact, which was a huge advantage during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Becoming a carrier provides Bestow the ability to bring news products to market as well as use data to improve its artificial and machine learning algorithms.

In 2020, Bestow had a big venture year, raising $120 million across Series B and Series C funding, and bringing total equity funding to $145 million. The company also hired aggressively, adding 70 employees, more than doubling its staff size to a total of 130. It signed several new partnerships: with traditional insurance sector players Munich Re and Sammons Financial Group; app-based legal and insurance services start-up Tomorrow; and two-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company Lemonade, which together launched Protect API, an AI-enabled insurance-as-a-service solution that allows partners to directly offer life insurance within their apps or sites.

Contributed by AJ Horch

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