The London company — co-founded by identical twins Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham and David Goaté — has raised $85 million in a new round of funding. The Series B valuation is significant on two counts: it catapults Marshmallow to a “unicorn” valuation above $1 billion — specifically, $1.25 billion; and Marshmallow itself becomes one of a very small group of U.K. startups founded by Black people — Oliver and Alexander — to reach that figure.
(To be clear, Marshmallow describes itself as “the first UK unicorn to be founded by individuals that are Black or have Black heritage”, although I can think of at least one that preceded it: WorldRemit, which last month rebranded to Zepz, and is currently valued at $5 billion; co-founder and chairman Ismail Ahmed has been described as the most influential Black Briton.)
Regardless of whether Marshmallow is the first or one of the first, given the dearth of diversity in the U.K. technology industry, in particular in the upper ranks of it, it’s a notable detail worth pointing out, even as I hope that one day it will be less of a rarity.
Meanwhile, Marshmallow’s novel, big-data approach and successful traction in the market speak for themselves. When we covered the company’s most recent funding round before this — a $30 million raise in November 2020 — the startup was valued at $310 million. Now less than a year later, Marshmallow’s valuation has nearly quadrupled, and it has passed 100,000 policies sold in its home country, growing 100% over the last six months.
The plan now, Oliver told me in an interview, will be to deepen its relationships with customers, in part by providing more engagement to make them better drivers, but also potentially selling more services to them, too.
In this, the startup will be tapping into a new approach that other insurtech startups are taking as they rethink traditional insurance models, much like YuLife is positioning its life insurance products within a bigger wellness and personal improvement business. Currently, the average age of Marshmallow’s customers is 20 to 40, Oliver said — and there are some early thoughts of launching new products aimed at even younger users. That means there is long-term value in improving loyalty and keeping those customers for many years to come.
Alongside that, Marshmallow will also use the funding to inch closer to its plan to expand to markets outside of the U.K. — a strategy that has been in the works for a while. Marshmallow talked up international expansion in its last round but has yet to announce which markets it will seek to tackle first.
Insurance — and in particular insurance startups — are often thought of together with fintech startups, not least because the two industries have a lot in common: they both operate in areas of assessing and mitigating risk and fraud; they are in many cases discretionary investments on the part of the customers; and they are both highly regulated and require watertight data protection for their users.
Perhaps because so much of the hard work is the same for both, it’s not uncommon to see services built to serve both sectors (FintechOS and Shift Technology being two examples), for fintech companies to dabble in insurance services, and so on.
Source: Tech Crunch