Home, the all-in-one place to be

The time we spend at home has changed over the past year. Home is no longer the place where we only sleep or where we spend the weekends. Our concept of home has changed radically, for many of us it was not only the place to live but also to work, exercise, cook, learn and entertain.

The connectedness from most homes is at some level happening. We have different devices that measure, report and act on data from some of our daily home routines. The Home Safe Home ecosystem keeps growing, not only in new technologies, but also in the actors that are interested in this attractive medium, where people are more aware of what is happening at their homes 24/7 in terms of efficiency, events and security. The connectedness trend provides opportunities for big names such as Amazon and Google at home, and in addition, there is an important participation of new companies who are willing to establish a more direct connection with people in their homes. Such is the case of insurance companies that can become a key element in the consumer's life, instead of only when something goes with their home insurance and they need to open a claim process.

Consumers are aware of what they want in home insurance and what they are not willing to accept. Aspects like prevention, hyper-personalization, 24/7 support and simplicity are key elements that they look for in a service and they step away from intrusion and from services that do not have very clear privacy and data policies

There is something however that does not change at home, and something that consumers must be aware of, risks are there, and we need to pay attention to them. In most homes, the appliances in them were not designed for use 24/7, and as a result they break down. Insurers have been receiving more frequent claims on these matters. COVID-19 has kept people at home around the clock for some time and this has accelerated the digitalization on home insurance. If customers were expecting more before, this is now a reality, they are now at home 24/7 and so their service expectations are related to fast responses on coverage Information, quotes, risks modeling and claims process.

Regarding relevant collaborations during 2020 in the home safe home ecosystem, one worth mentioning is between the insurer Hiscox and the UK-based Insurtech LeakBot, in which the insurer offered LeakBot´s services to all of its new and existing building insurance customers for free. LeakBot´s technology is an end-to-end claims mitigation system that helps tackle water damage claims within a home by using an IoT device that leverages Thermi-Q technology to detect water leaks, without requiring professional installation. The Insurtech has other important clients such as Aviva, the Insurtech Neos and RSA Group.

In recent events in public Insurtech, Lemonade, paired up with its competitor, Nexsys Technologies, last year, with the aim of simplifying the homeowner insurance verification process. This partnership includes the digital transformation of the traditional home financing process and will work via Lemonade’s AI-powered insurance platform, to integrate Lemonade and a mortgage lender’s LOS via these new APIs.

The future of the home safe home ecosystem will empower the connections between the different actors who are able to be flexible and act no matter the unexpected challenges that may arise. Hyper-personalization, simplicity and data privacy-compliant are aspects demanded by tech-savvy consumers who are connected in their homes 24/7 now more than ever.

TechGiants in the Home Safe Home Ecosystem

The home safe home ecosystem continued to grow and show technological advances to help people live better and smarter experiences. Options are endless, so users can choose from various brands that can connect their smart home and have everything under control.

Big American Giants names like Apple, Amazon and Google were in the consumers home ecosystem radar.

Apple

Apple surprised everyone at the end of 2020 by releasing the new HomePod mini, which directly competes with Google Nest and Amazon Echo. This new smart speaker is a smaller and less expensive option, and offered personalized experiences integrated with Phone devices. The original HomePod was a product whose main focus was of being just a great smart speaker. In the case of the new HomePod mini it is not just a way for Apple to introduce consumers into Apple Music or Siri at Home; but to expand its HomeKit ecosystem to a wider audience. Apple is definitively working on a strategy to introduce products such as HomePod, Apple TV, and iPads as the “home hubs” that can Help consumers control their smart home devices when they are not directly connected to a WI-FI network, enabling them to invite other guests to use their home accessories and create automated routines. Consumers that have a strong affinity with brands, understand that that the more Apple products they have the better they will all work together and deliver a better Apple ecosystem experience.

Amazon

Amazon and Google also continued adding features to their existing smart home product lines and maintaining a close relation with their users in 2020.

In the case of Amazon, it launched Amazon Echo Studio, the most advanced, biggest and loudest Alexa speaker. Google launched the Google Nest Hub Max, a smart display to be used as a tv in the kitchen, as an indoor camera, a smart home controller, a digital photo frame and a display for video calls. Amazon, in empathy with the change in people´s routines last year where they were spending more time at home than ever before, saw that Alexa´s users had adapted and were using devices differently. The features that customers were using more were Alexa calling or Drop In, which allows the use of Alexa-enabled devices like an intercom system, connecting to one of your contacts automatically. The pandemic created a greater sense of urgency for Amazon and it understood that it needed to create convenience for its customers and provide assistance with basic home routines for customers, such as turning out the lights, making sure that home is clean with the robot vacuum, taking care of the home´s temperature and helping to monitor how often the TV or lights are on.

Google

In September 2020, Google announced a partnership with Samsung SmartThings, the leader in smart home automation, by bringing Google Nest products into SmartThings, one of the largest IoT ecosystems. The integration of Google Nest devices, which includes thermostats, cameras and doorbells, will be “Works With SmartThings” (WWST) certified, allowing users to seamlessly control their smart homes through SmartThings. Consumers were willing to finally have the possibility to adjust a Nest thermostat, view live camera feeds from outdoor Nest cameras and hear who is at the door with Nest Hello, all through their smart devices. Together these big companies are working on generating a universal system where smart home devices can coexist.

Microsoft

Last year Microsoft decided to shift its product Cortana from the smart home to a focus of personal support and away from connected products. This will end the competition of Cortana with Alexa and Google´s assistant. Cortana is now called a “personal productivity assistant” able to navigate Microsoft 365 in order to access calendar details, add reminders and even send emails. However, what the Cortana assistant will not be able to do is control some consumer skills, for example: music, connected home and third-party skills.

Asia

In the case of the Asian Market, we saw a trend in the home ecosystem of major standardization of individual products connected to each other, gaining interconnectivity between different brands working together.

The major players during 2020 were high-tech giants: Baidu and Alibaba, who were competing with ecommerce giants like Xiaomi, JD.com and also with household appliance big names such as Midea and Hisense in order to build their own smart home ecosystem or platform.

Baidu

Baidu’s second edition of its Xiaodu Smart Speaker Ultimate edition was lauched in 2020, which is an updated version of this speaker, with new connection features and voice recognition technology. This new speaker was customized for the evolving needs of China´s households with an AI-powered interaction and with a Child safe mode. This device integrates a new content service ecosystem for family entertainment that includes: home feed, videos, live streaming, music, games, and online education programs for children. An interesting technological innovation from this gadget is the way it includes an eye-protection function and an assistant function to help protect children.

Alibaba

Alibaba is developing the next generation of technology for the Tmall Genie voice assistant. Most of its investment will go toward an upgrade in artificial intelligence and an Internet of Things platform. The Asian giant is planning to spend 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) in developing the next generation of technology and will look to upgrade the artificial intelligence and Internet of Things platform. The strategy Alibaba is following is to expand the content accessibility through its smart speakers and create new technologies to run smart home devices.

Insurtechs in the Home Safe Home Ecosystem

Of the 793 insurtechs in the sample, a total of 78 companies belong to Home Safe Home ecosystem (which represents 9.62% of the total figure), and of these, only 23 received investment during 2020.

The total investment figure in 2020 in the ecosystem was 910 million dollars, which represents 15.04% of the total investments in 2020.

The company that received the most investment in 2020 in the Home Safe Home category was Hippo Insurance, which received 500 million dollars. This investment was led by the Japanese Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, venture arm of MS&AD, with the objective of ensuring Hippo growth in its product range and expand in the U.S. market. Other investor names who were part of the 2020 operation were: Comcast Ventures, Dragoneer and BOND. Hippo which reached unicorn status in 2020, has one important thing in mind, to be a customer-centric insurance provider. But how? By helping their customers identify and resolve issues throughout their home before they become a major headache. Last year the company stated that it wanted to be a “1-800 number for everything in your home” continually driven by the fact that people wanted different experiences from their service providers and also that COVID-19 has sped up digital distribution by three to five years. AI and machine learning are the top technologies that are shaping a new type of online insurance service that can not only help them connect in new ways with customers, but also to keep track of problems or damages that are common in home insurance claims. The company plans to continue growing in headcount in 2021, to keep transforming their offers and expand their national presence.

Another relevant investment in the Home Safe Home is States Title which received 123 million dollars. The startup is making an effort to become a leader in the real estate industry, with is Series C financing round during 2020 led by Greenspring Associates, which experienced a 100x growth over the past year. With this new funding the company will provide support for lenders, real estate agents, and homeowners and also continue to enhance their technology investments during the changing times we are experiencing. Greenspring Associates, as lead investors of the company, support States Title as they believe that the mortgage industry needs to be transformed by reducing costs and improving the customer experience. In the technology field, the company has patented technologies that enable the use of data science by creating predictive title insurance based on an assigned risk score, all this to gain in an agile title processing and an efficient underwriting.

The third company, by volume of investment received, in our sample is Luko, which received 60 million dollars in 2020. The Paris-based startup grew six-fold since its last funding round despite the COVID-19 crisis, turning into one of the fastest-growing Insurtech companies in Europe. With its latest round, the company is committed to provide the best experience in home insurance by focusing on transparency and technology at its core. It is worth a mention that their investors list includes important names, such as Accel, Founders Fund, Speedinvest, Orange Ventures alongside insurance-expert angels including Assaf Wand (CEO and co-founder of Hippo Insurance). The startup launched its latest innovation, Doctor House in 2020, a tele-home maintenance in an innovative video consultation service that protects and supports policyholders with home maintenance. This new service meets the user´s needs and combines human and digital advice with the protection of homes.

Hippo smart sensors and home care assistance empower home owners to prevent undesirable repair costs, fire damage or theft. The whole purchase process can be made on Hippo’s website.

Last Rounds: $500M in 2020

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States Title help lenders, home owners and real estate professionals to close loans in an efficient way.

Last Round: $123M in 2020

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Luko is a developer of a home insurance platform designed to help prevent miscalculations in claims.

Last Round: $60M in 2020

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