Why 2022 insurtech investment could surprise you

A diverging insurtech market could injure many companies while others remain unscathed

There were two markets for insurtech startups in 2021: one welcoming and one dismissive. Private market investors poured capital into promising insurtech startups, while the public markets sent the value of recently public insurtech companies down — and then further down as the year progressed.

The decline in the value of public insurtech unicorns was a theme that The Exchange covered throughout last year, noting rising damage as valuations fell from low to lower. And yet when CB Insights dropped its 2021 fintech data collection, it noted that global insurtech venture activity hit a new high in the year. In 2021, insurtech funding reached 566 deals (an all-time record and a 21% gain over 2020) and $15.4 billion in capital (again, an all-time record, and a 90% gain over 2020.)

TechCrunch has discussed the growing gap between public and private tech valuations in recent weeks, as an exuberant venture capital market seemed to move further apart from a late-2021 decline in the value of many technology companies. Much of the losses persisted or worsened in early 2022.

And yet the insurtech market is an even more extreme example of the decoupling we’re seeing more broadly in startup land. How so? Root, which raised a $350 million Series E in 2019 at a valuation of around $3.6 billion, per Crunchbase data, traded as high as $22.91 per share after going public. Today it’s worth $1.82 per share, or $460 million, about half the money it raised while private.

The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.

Other examples are at hand. MetroMile was valued at $540 million during its final private round in 2018, per PitchBook data. The company’s SPAC-led public debut valued the company at around $1.3 billion. Today, after seeing its stock crest the $20 per share mark, MetroMile is worth $1.52 per share and awaiting a new home inside Lemonade, another recent insurtech IPO. Lemonade has seen its value fall from an all-time high of $171.56 per share to $28.92 as of this morning. The company went public at $29 per share.

For insurtech startups, the public-market mess that some of their peers have endured is bad news. Florian Graillot, a seed-stage investor in Europe who puts capital to work in the insurtech space through Astorya.vc, told The Exchange that “there is a growing gap between valuations of these startups and M&A deals done recently in the insurance industry,” citing the recent sale of Aviva France for $3.9 billion.

The company had, per Reuters, “3 million customers and 7.8 billion euros in revenue.” (The deal cleared regulators.) Revenue multiples of less than one don’t get founders’ hearts racing. And there are startups in the business of writing insurance products for which such a low multiple would be akin to a death sentence, from a valuation perspective.

Falling share prices for insurtech startups and worrying acquisition prices for insurance companies could prove a sticky wicket for the companies in the sector that raised so much money last year. But that doesn’t mean that all the news is bad.