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Former Google developer startup scores £8M to apply machine learning and detect fraud in insurance

Amid a plethora of innovative economic disruptions in the UK’s fintech industry driven by the pandemic, one of the verticals which has emerged as a clear winner is the insurtech sector.

Acing the game, these companies are continuously looking at providing new additions to the insurance value-chain and marketplace in terms of home automation, cyber insurance, price comparison websites, insurance telematics, online broking and underwriting services etc. Hence, they have been reaping continuous investments in recent times.

The £8m-funding

Joining this bandwagon of attracting investments is London-based Urban Jungle. The startup has now completed its biggest-ever investment round of £8 million with backing from investors, including Mundi Ventures and London-based Eka Ventures.

With this, the company’s total funding has almost doubled to £15.8 million.

The latest round includes £2 million of investment from specialist insurtech investor Mundi Ventures. And further £500,000 comes from existing investor Eka Ventures, with the remaining investment coming from private backers.

To scale and diversify in 2021

Founded by Jimmy Williams and former Google developer Greg Smyth in 2016, the 30-strong company has 40,000 customers, having more than doubled in size during the pandemic. Using technology to help young customers access cheaper and better home insurance, the company offers building, home contents, and tenants liability insurance.

Talking about what lies ahead for the group, CEO Jimmy Williams said the funding will enable the company to continue to scale rapidly and add new insurance products to its suite. “We’ve continued to grow strongly throughout the pandemic, and that has been attractive for both new and existing investors. Our tech platform means we can rapidly grow our customer base without building an army of customer service agents. That said, we’ve got ambitious growth plans, so we’ll be doubling our headcount in the next 12 months to support that,” he said.

Insurance companies effectively discriminate against various groups, such as young customers, people on low incomes, and people who have recently moved to the country.

“We think you shouldn’t be charged more for things that you can’t control. Our data helps us detect very quickly when potential fraudsters are lying and, as a result, allows us to offer cover to a much broader group of customers who have proven to be honest. Yes, we’ve made insurance 100% digital, fast, flexible and affordable, but it’s our ability to help a very broad range of customers, with carefully crafted insurance products, that really makes us stand out. We are looking to expand quickly into several new markets and to shake up the insurance industry. It’s still dominated by big names and I’m enjoying giving them a run for their money,” Williams added.   

Team of scientists at work

Talking about the new development, Yago Montenegro, investment director at insurtech fund Mundi Ventures, said Urban Jungle are like a ‘team of scientists’. “The insurance industry is experiencing a major shift powered by new technology and innovation, and it is accelerating,” said Montenegro.

“Jimmy and his team go beyond what traditional and emerging competitors are doing. They are a team of scientists experimenting on the best ways to cover risks and provide insurance. We are very excited to back them as they expand their reach and range of products,” he added.

Roadmap ahead

Going forward, with the new raised investments, former Prudential CEO Rob Devey, who was previously a non-executive director, will now become Urban Jungle’s Chairman, subject to regulatory approval.

Talking about how the industry is in dire need of disruption, Devey said: “Jimmy, Greg and the team are building a very impressive business at Urban Jungle. Having worked in the insurance industry for many years, I know that the market is enormous and is ripe for disruption. By building products that customers actually want, delivered how they want them, Urban Jungle is doing just that.”