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As Metromile looks to go public, insurtech funding is on the rise

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Earlier this week, TechCrunch covered the latest venture round for AgentSync, a startup that helps insurance agents comply with rules and regulations. But while the product area might not keep you up tonight, the company’s growth has been incredibly impressive, scaling its annual recurring revenue (ARR) 10x in the last year and 4x since the start of the pandemic.

Little surprise, then, that the company’s latest venture deal was raised just months after its last; investors wanted to get more money into AgentSync rapidly, boosting a larger venture-wide wager on insurtech startups more broadly that we’ve seen throughout 2020.


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But private investors aren’t the only ones getting in on the action. Public investors welcomed the Lemonade IPO earlier this year, giving the rental insurance unicorn a strong debut. Root also went public, but has lost around half of its value after a strong pricing run, comparing recent highs with its current price.

But with one success and one struggle for the sector on the scoreboard this year, Metromile is also looking to get in on the action. And, per a TechCrunch data analysis this morning and some external data work on the insurtech venture capital market, it appears that private insurtech investment is matching the attention public investors are also giving the sector.

This morning let’s do a quick exploration of the Metromile deal and take a look at the insurtech venture capital market to better understand how much capital is going into the next generation of companies that will want to replicate the public exits of our three insurtech pioneers.

Finally, we’ll link public results and recent private deal activity to see if both sides of the market are currently aligned.

Metromile

Let’s start with Metromile’s debut. It’s going public via a SPAC, namely INSU Acquisition Corp. II. Here’s the equivalent of an S-1 from both parties, going over the economics of the blank-check company and Metromile itself.

On the economics front for the insurtech startup, we have to start with some extra work. During nearly every 2020 IPO we’ve spent lots of time examining how quickly the company in question is growing. We’re not doing that today because Metromile is not growing in GAAP terms and we need to understand why that’s the case.

In simple terms, a change to Metromile’s reinsurance setup last May led to the company ceding “a larger percentage of [its] premium than in prior periods,” which resulted “in a significant decrease in our revenues as reported under GAAP,” the company said.

Ceded premiums don’t count as revenue. Lemonade, in its recent earnings results, explained the concept well from the perspective of its own, related change to its business:

While our July 1, 2020 reinsurance contracts deliver a significant improvement in the fundamentals of our business, they also result in a significant change in GAAP revenue, as GAAP excludes all ceded premiums (and proportional reinsurance is fundamentally about ceding premium). This led to a spike in GAAP gross margin and a dip in GAAP revenue on July 1 – even though no corresponding change in the scope or profitability of our business took place at midnight on June 30.

So Lemonade has shaken up its business, cutting its revenues and tidying its economics. The impact has been sharp, with the company’s GAAP revenues falling from $17.8 million in the year-ago quarter, to $10.5 million in Q3 2020.

Root has undertaken similar steps. Starting July 1, it has “transfer[ed] 70% of our premiums and related losses to reinsurers, while also gaining a 25% commission on written premium to offset some of our up-front and ongoing costs.” The result has been falling GAAP revenue and improving economics once again.

All neo-insurance companies that have provided financial results while going public have changed their reinsurance approach, making their results look a bit wonky in the short term, leaving investors to decipher what they are really worth.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Apple’s new editorial franchise, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, to highlight interesting creators

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Apple today announced a new editorial franchise called Apple Podcasts Spotlight, which aims to highlight rising podcast creators in the U.S. The editorial team at Apple will select new podcast creators to feature every month and then give them prominent screen real estate in the Apple Podcasts app and promote them across social media and elsewhere. This will allow creators to reach a wider audience, similar to how the App Store showcases a selection of recommended apps and games with large banners at the top of its screen.

The first Spotlight creator is Chelsea Devantez, who hosts the podcast Celebrity Book Club. On Fridays, Chelsea and special guests including Emily V. Gordon, Gabourey Sidibe, Ashley Nicole Black and Lydia Popovich will meet to discuss the memoirs of “badass celebrity womxn,” as an announcement describes it.

The idea for the show began a year ago when Devantez was reading Jessica Simpson’s memoir and started recapping it on Instagram. The reaction from her followers prompted her to expand the concept into a podcast.

Upcoming episodes will feature Oscar-nominated writer and producer Emily V. Gordon talking Drew Barrymore’s “Little Girl Lost;” actress Stephanie Beatriz discussing Celine Dion’s memoir “My Story My Dream;” Leighton Meester on Carly Simon’s “Boys in the Trees;” and a special Valentine’s Day episode where Chelsea and TikTok star Rob Anderson read Burt Reynolds’ and Loni Anderson’s competing divorce memoirs.

“Apple Podcasts Spotlight helps listeners find some of the world’s best shows by shining a light on creators with singular voices,” said Ben Cave, Global Head of Business for Apple Podcasts, in a statement about the launch. “Chelsea Devantez has created a fun, vibrant space with Celebrity Book Club for listeners to gain new perspectives on the celebrities we thought we knew. We are delighted to recognize Chelsea and Celebrity Book Club as our first Spotlight selection and look forward to introducing creators like Chelsea to listeners each month,” he added.

Apple says future Spotlight creators will be announced monthly from across a range of podcast genres, formats and locations, and will often focus on independent and underrepresented voices. The content is previewed ahead of selection to ensure quality, but there are no specific requirements about the podcast size and reach.

In general, the new Spotlight creators will debut toward the front of the week, but the specific days are fluid to adapt to holidays, major cultural events, and others. The next Spotlight selection, for example, will launch in mid-February.

The Spotlight creators will be featured at the top of the Browse tab of Apple Podcasts and will be promoted through the Apple Podcasts social media accounts. Some form of in-app featuring will continue throughout the entire month the creators are in the “spotlight.”

Apple says it will also collaborate with the featured creators on their own channels. And, over time, you’ll see promotion via additional Apple-operated channels including outdoor advertising in major U.S. metros.

The news of the new editorial program comes shortly after a report from The Information suggested Apple is working to expand its podcasts platform with the introduction of a podcast subscription service, threatening rivals like Spotify, SiriusXM and Amazon.

Though Apple Podcasts still leads the market, Spotify has been catching up by spending over $800 million on podcast companies, like Anchor, the Ringer, Gimlet Media, and more recently, podcast ad company Megaphone.

SiriusXM, meanwhile, bought podcast management and analytics platform Simplecast, ad tech platform AdsWizz, and podcast app Stitcher. Not to be left out, Amazon just a few weeks ago announced it was acquiring the podcast network Wondery.

Beyond helping the creators grow their audience, Apple says the larger goal with the program is to welcome new audiences to podcasts, in general.

Though podcasts are growing in popularity, the monthly podcast listener base is just 37% in the U.S., according to Edison Research. That means it’s nowhere near being an activity that’s popular among a majority of the U.S. population at this time. Before Apple can effectively monetize podcasts as a subscription service, it needs to help get more people listening to podcasts on a regular basis.

Apple declined to say if the program would expand outside the U.S. at a later date.

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We’ll discuss the future of the gig economy and contract works at TC Sessions: Justice on March 3

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Like so many other subjects, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought concerns about the gig economy and contract workers into sharp focus over the past year which is why we’ll be diving into this topic at TC Sessions: Justice on March 3.

From food delivery services like Seamless to warehouse and fulfillment jobs at places like Amazon, these often low-paid jobs have kept people supplied with essentials during one of the most difficult moments in modern American history.

But why is it that jobs our society has labeled “essential” often carry the least number of protections for those who fulfill them? Is there a way to ensure a safety net for the people who need it the most?

As the pandemic continued to rage, California passed Proposition 22. The law was regarded as a big win for companies like Uber and Lyft (who pumped a collective $200 million into promotions) and a tremendous step back for workers looking for basic employment rights. But the battle between the Prop 22 proponents and the gig workers who oppose it continues. A group of rideshare drivers in California and the Service Employees International Union have filed a lawsuit alleging Proposition 22 violates California’s constitution.

To discuss the gig worker economy and its future in a post-Prop 22 world, we will be joined by Jessica E. Martinez, the co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an organization devoted to promoting health and safety conditions for workplaces; Vanessa Bain, a gig worker activist who co-founded the Gig Workers Collective; and Christian Smalls, a former Amazon worker turned activist.

TC Sessions: Justice will be held online on March 3. Get your tickets today!


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Wendy Xiao Schadeck becomes Northzone’s first New York partner

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Northzone‘s new partner Wendy Xiao Schadeck isn’t new to the firm — she actually joined back in 2015.

Before entering the venture world, Schadeck co-founded co-working and childcare startup CoHatchery. And as a Northzone principal, she’s already been involved in the firm’s investments in Spring Health (mental health), 3box (cloud infrastructure), Livepeer (blockchain-based video transcoding) and Magic.link (user authentication).

More broadly, Northzone says Schadeck helped to develop the firm’s investment theses around crypto, consumer technology, health, developer/web 3.0 infrastructure.

“Wendy has already proven herself through very insightful sector-driven thought leadership and has solidified our position in the New York ecosystem,” said General Partner Pär-Jörgen Pärson in a statement. “She has defined and redefined an honest, authentic and inspiring dialogue between herself as an investor and the entrepreneurs she supports.”

Schadeck told me that her interests have “crystallized” around three key areas — “open data, open finance and open community.” And she said that with her promotion to partner, she will be able to work even more closely with founders, a topic she’s become “obsessed” with.

“We’ve all seen this VC meme, ‘How can I be helpful?’ and I’ve sometimes accidentally literally said it,” Schadeck said. “But we mean it: Other than providing capital, first and foremost, on good terms, what other dimensions are there that are becoming more and more important? … How can I customize my approach to provide what the founder needs from me?”

While Schadeck is Northzone’s first New York-based partner (its other partners are in London and Stockholm), she said she will make investments outside the region, albeit with an NYC focus.

“We’ve tried to do this matrix approach, where we both have sectors that we’re pretty excited about and build expertise and experience in, as well as relationships” she said. “And those relationships are better with local entrepreneurs.”

 

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