Is the COVID-19 crisis slowing down startups, corporate innovators or investors? On the contrary: InsurTech Hub Munich sees its stakeholders gain momentum.
In the midst of somber news about markets strongly affected by COVID-19, large layoffs and massive state subsidies, the insurtech ecosystem seems to be defying the crisis. In the past weeks, success stories from members of InsurTech Hub Munich’s (ITHM) network have arrived in bulk. “Venture capitalists are very actively investing in startups now and insurers are signing POCs at an unprecedented frequency and speed”, explains ITHM Acting Managing Director Christian Gnam, “it is obvious that digitisation will be one of the key ingredients of the ‘new normal’.”
Gnam recounts: “when the world came to realise that the pandemic is not going to go away soon, we were smack in the middle of our annual Innovation Programme. Mid-March, everyone – founders, mentors, corporate partners and investors – felt a discomforting uncertainty”. But, in hindsight, this standstill lasted only for a very brief period. ITHM promptly restructured its accelerator and resumed virtually. “Ever since we’ve seen few startups in the insurtech ecosystem struggle, but many thrive”, says Gnam.
Service-oriented sectors are pre-determined to introduce customer- and process-centric digital solutions quickly. In fact, when the Corona crisis hit Germany, insurance was one of the industries privileged to maintain operation. Even those with a more sceptical view on digital transformation learned that customers and employees were not only ready to use new tools, but extremely eager to take advantage of them. Thousands of employees successfully switched to home office from one day to the next. “A few months ago, this speed of transformation would have been unthinkable for most”, says Benedikt Kalteier, Head of Strategy and Board member, Generali Deutschland Versicherung AG, and Member of the ITHM Board, “a few years ago it would have been impossible”. The insurance group just recently announced a cooperation with Munich-based startup MotionsCloud, making claims handling safer and faster with a video-based approach. “In times of Corona we witness technology to be a key element in preventive measures”, comments Generali Deutschland CEO Giovanni Liverani.
Ample interest from investors and insurance companies
Many entrepreneurs from the ITHM network reacted nimbly to the crisis, tweaking their solutions to contribute in the combat against the virus. Berlin-based digital health startup Thryve developed one of the first tracking apps, “Corona Datenspende”, distributed by renowned Robert-Koch-Institut. And insurers were quick to assess the situation as well. ADAC is currently running Proofs of Concept with no less than five different participants from the Innovation Programme. At ITHM’s Investor Showcase in mid-June, representatives from more than 50 international VCs followed the pitches from the best thirteen startups in this year’s ITHM cohort – a much larger number than ever before. Demo Day, one day later, attracted an unrivalled number of 500 attendees.
The ample interest in ITHM alumni already is well seizable : Carsten Maschmeyer’s Alstin Capital announced taking a stake in Nect, an identity verification startup from Hamburg, in May. Back in April, data sovereignty startup It’s My Data (Munich) scored a large investment from family office 4L Vision. Leipzig’s contract manager startup Wechselgott, the Austrian AI specialists from Prewave and the Spanish fintech Finnu completed seed financing rounds. Digital health provider Go! Insurance, based in Singapore and Thailand, raised pre-seed funding. Instahelp (Austria) and Vitadio (Czech Republic) have been listed as top-funded European e-health startups on the CB Insights, the leading tech market intelligence platform – and insurer LV1871 just announced a cooperation with Instahelp. Bdeo (Spain / claims automation) and Kruzr (US / road safety) have been named “Cool Vendors in Insurance” by research company Gartner. Emmora was one of the winners of the “Digitaltag” challenge, supported by the Federal Government of Germany to raise digital awareness, in June. Digital health startups Pathmate and Zelros acquired certifications for their app respectively online course – a prerequisite for the prescription and reimbursement of their services in Germany.
Qualified reaction to an unprecedented crisis
“We have witnessed markets crash during the 2008 financial crisis or the dot.com bust of the early 2000s. We have endured terrorist attacks, election surprises, huge natural catastrophes. But the dimension of the COVID-19 crisis, and even more so the measures taken all over the globe, is unheard of. Yet it’s also unprecedented how qualified we can react to that”, comments Tom Van den Brulle, Global Head of Innovation at Munich Re and Chairman of the ITHM Board. Benedikt Kalteier complements: “What’s working – or not working – today can be traced back directly to the transformation efforts, or lack of, we’ve taken during the past few years. Cutting back on innovation would be fatal and make us even more vulnerable during the next crisis.”
Download: Press Release in German language
About InsurTech Hub Munich
InsurTech Hub Munich (ITHM) is the epicenter of corporate innovation and insurance technology entrepreneurship, appointed as de:hub by the Federal Government of Germany. The non-profit organization guides founders through a variety of programs every year, connecting them with its cross-industry corporate partners, investors, world-class mentors, academia and governmental entities.
InsurTech Hub Munich’s mission is to foster the advancement of innovation and create value for its partners. The team believes that entrepreneurship can be taught and aims to build bridges between incumbents and disruptors for the sake of making the insurance industry future-proof.
Text: Markus Walter