Insurtech company Descartes Underwriting secured $18.5 million in a Series A round of funding, which it will use to leverage technology and data science to create new insurance models.
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The Paris-based startup, founded in 2019, specializes in climate risk modeling and data-driven risk transfer, and works with corporate brokers to design and underwrite innovative, bespoke and affordable insurance.
Instead of traditional products, the company uses parametric insurance products, which cover the probability of a predefined event happening–such as a major hurricane–and pays out according to a predefined plan. Traditional insurance models compensate for the actual loss incurred.
“With traditional insurance, when a corporation has a claim you can wait more than 18 months to get a payout. It is usually unclear and you have to hire a lawyer to assess, with the claim adjusters, the final amount to be paid,” Descartes co-founder and CEO Tanguy Touffut told Crunchbase News. “Parametric insurance is a solution for that.”
Using the recent Hurricane Laura as an example, Touffut said by being able to tap into data sources—satellite imagery, Internet of Things and client data—an insurance company can monitor the hurricane’s eye in real-time along with wave height to know the exact speed, location and impact of a flood in a specific area. NPR reported the hurricane is estimated to have caused between $4 billion and $12 billion in damages to Louisiana and Texas.
As a result, the insurance company can avoid sending people to assess risky areas, it will take a few hours after the hurricane passes an area to assess the damage and the company can provide payouts to those affected in a matter of days, he added.
Serena and Cathay Innovation co-led the funding round and were joined by existing investor BlackFin Capital Partners. The new investment comes 18 months after Descartes raised $2.5 million in seed funding from BlackFin, giving the company a total raise of $21 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.
The new financing will be used to support Descartes’ global expansion to the U.S. and Asia, particularly to open offices in New York and Singapore, Touffut said. Descartes will also use the funds to grow its product range, target larger deals and deepen its tech capabilities and data science team.
“We want to be closer to our partners and clients,” he added. “Right now, the U.S. is the largest market by far and Asia is the fastest-growing market.”
Since being founded, the company has attracted approximately 100 clients around the world, including Fortune 500 companies and governments that are using Descartes’ models to build insurance tools protecting against climate change and other natural catastrophes.
Meanwhile, the company has begun hiring additional staff and starting the legal processes to secure the licenses needed to operate in the U.S. and Singapore.
At the end of 2019, Descartes had 1 million euros in demand under management and wants to have 3 million euros by the end of next year, Touffut said. Today, the company employs 20 people, and he expects to have 50 next year operating out of the three hubs—Paris, New York and Singapore.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias