March 28, 2018
Savannah Dowling is a writer at Crunchbase News. She's a Cornell graduate and a Fulbright scholarship awardee.
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Columbus-based auto insurance provider Root Insurance raised a $51 million Series C. California-based Redpoint Ventures led the round, with participation by Scale Venture Partners, Ribbit Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank.

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The company previously raised a $5 million Series A round in March 2016 by Columbus-based Drive Capital. Root raised a $21.5 million Series B led by Ribbit Capital in June 2017 with investments from Drive Capital and Silicon Valley Bank as well. This latest round brings the company’s aggregate total funds raised to $77.5 million since its inception.

Founded in 2015, Root Insurance is a mobile first, data-centric quoting platform. Instead of connecting with an insurance agent and going through the usual channels, Root users download the app and sign up for a test driving period. During this period, driving habits will be uploaded to Root’s system for analysis. That data is then used single largest determinant of an insurance quote, along with age, credit score, and other demographic data.

The definition of what a bad driver is… has become more sophisticated over time

So how does one begin to collect that kind of data?

“In the very early days of Root, we were basically taking college kids and giving them dozens of cell phones and having them tape them all over their bodies and drive around,” CEO Alex Timm explained in an interview with Crunchbase News. Since then, the company’s data collection has advanced, with the program now distinguishing between drivers and passengers and tracking distracted driving.

“The definition of what a bad driver is, or what a good driver is, has become more sophisticated over time,” Timm told Crunchbase News.

In light of recent coverage regarding cybersecurity and data safety, Crunchbase News asked Timm about Root’s collection and usage of customer data.

“It usually takes about three weeks to gather enough data for a quote. After a user purchases, we’ll usually monitor them for about ninety days,” he explained. “But after they purchase a policy, consumers can always turn off the data collection.”

According to its press release, the startup will use its latest infusion of cash to expand its business to other areas. Timm told Crunchbase News that the company operates in 12 states and will begin further expansion within the next month, starting with Arkansas, Montana, and New Mexico. He explained that while expansion into many places like Ohio, Kentucky, and the like is a lot more uniform, movement into unique, more heavily regulated states like California and New York will take time and a different approach.

“It will be a different product that will have to be launched,” Timm said. He further explained that customers in those states will not have access to the full-fledged benefits of Root because of regulations regarding the use of driver data.

Even so, Timm is confident that Root will offer more transparency, better pricing, and more equal treatment in those areas.

“We’re going to launch and use our technology there, and it’s going to be a fantastic product.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Editorial Update: Drive invested $7 million as part of the $21.5 million Series A total. Additionally, Root insurance does factor demographic and other data into it’s quoting process.