If you were wondering why less and less homeowners are buying home insurance, it’s because insurance has become increasingly less accessible to new homeowners. Understanding the growing needs of the insurance market, Urban Jungle is making insurance more available to young people. With a 5 star rating and FCA approval, the mobile-friendly insurance product is fully refundable and makes maneuvering the insurance market seamless.
LondonTechWatch chatted with cofounders Greg Smyth and Jimmy Williams about the Insurtech scene and about the company’s most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a Seed round of £1M from a group of experienced Angel investors. The round was led by Rob Devey, former CEO of Prudential UK and HBOS insurance. The broader group of Angels are very experienced, and early investors in other huge FinTech successes including Funding Circle, Octopus investment group, and BoughtByMany.
Tell us about your product or service.
We’re an Insurtech business, using technology to make home insurance cheaper and better for young people.
That means better, more inclusive cover, policies that are easier to buy, and manage and a simpler claims process.
What inspired you to start the company?
We started as disgruntled customers. We lived in several flat shares in London and found that even as a bunch of sensible, careful people we couldn’t buy home insurance. Being entirely excluded from a product like that is incredibly frustrating, and definitely an inspiration.
How is it different?
We’re rebuilding all of the technology that insurers use bottom up, using modern techniques. The allows us to make the experience much simpler for customers (for example by allowing them to make changes to their policy online for free), but also allows us to keep our cost base very low, and pass that on to customers in the form of better prices.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Ultimately, we’re addressing the global £3T insurance market, but right now we’re focused on helping young people in the UK buy home insurance and associated lifestyle products, which is a market of around £1B.
What’s your business model?
We take a percentage of the sale value on each product that we sell.
What originally attracted you to home insurance?
Home insurance specifically, was the product we were excluded from, so we knew it was an opportunity, but it is also one of the least disrupted parts of the consumer insurance space. There are lots of opportunities to try new things.
What was the funding process like?
Raising money is alongside running a business is very hard work. I’m pretty extroverted, so I enjoy meeting smart people and talking to them about the business, but the entire experience is high pressure and high stakes.
We were very lucky in that we had a very supportive group of existing investors, who both invested more themselves, and worked hard to help us find other high quality investors to add to the group.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Raising capital is a huge time sink, so there’s not a huge amount of sleep, or time with the family going on whilst you’re doing it.
It’s also a massive juggling act. You get some investors committed early, but it could be 2 months later before you get most of the money committed, so you have to keep communicating with them, and make sure they don’t go off the boil.
Also, at the end of the process, we ended up really over-subscribed, so we had to say no to several great people. It’s really hard if you have spent time with someone persuading them to believe in you and your mission, and they have committed to taking a risk on you, when you can’t repay that commitment by letting them invest. I personally found that very difficult.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
You’d have to ask them that! But I would say because we’re a strong team, in an exciting market, making quick progress.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’ve got a couple of new products that we’re hoping to launch in Q1, in particular one focused on house and flat sharers. We’re hiring at the moment (in particular for software developers), so that’s a big focus.
What advice can you offer companies in London that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
London is an amazing place to start a business. There are so many resources to support new startups, like accelerators, free office space, and mentorship programmes. More importantly there is a huge pool of talent of people who love tech, and if you are working on something exciting, they will want to help you with it.
I worked on UJ in my spare time for 9 months, and full time for 5 months before we raised any money, and even then, it was only a small amount. You can get a long way bootstrapping, and proven progress is ultimately the best way to attract investors.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Overall, this year will be about improving our product (in all senses of the word), and building an insurance provider that our customers love.
We’re growing very quickly, and internally we talk a lot about setting a new pace, in an industry that moves very slowly.
Starting the new year with a new injection of capital to invest is a really exciting place to be.
What’s your favorite tourist destination in London?
I’m a bit of an Olympics nut, so I really love going to the Olympic Park in Stratford. There are still loads of events going on there, so its easy to create excuses to go, and the whole place has an incredible energy about it, that’s hard not to absorb when you’re there.