RRE is excited to announce our lead investment in the Series B of Ladder, the company that introduced instant, simple, and smart life insurance exactly one year ago today.
While there has been innovation in the insurance industry over the past couple of years, many of the new companies created focused on the distribution of traditional products. We believe that innovation in distribution alone is not enough to build an industry leading company in this space. Innovation in technology, data, product, and consumer experience are critical to creating a leading next generation insurance company.
There is an opportunity to build such an offering in the life insurance space. Life insurance alone accounts for annual premiums of $138B in the US. Even though the industry is massive, there are many Americans today who are not adequately covered by life insurance, which accounts for an estimated $16T coverage gap today.
We feel that Ladder’s approach to technology, data, product, and customer experience, along their incredible team, set them up to be the leader in this space. Ladder has built a full stack solution with proprietary technology across the life insurance value chain which includes customer acquisition, application, underwriting, policy admin, and claims management.
“Ladder’s full stack approach sets them up to deliver breakthrough innovation in this space,” said Stuart Ellman, Co-founder & General Partner of RRE Ventures. “We’re excited to work alongside this great team as they build the next generation life insurance offering.”
The Data Advantage
Ladder is one of the few companies we have seen in the life insurance industry that has built the full tech stack needed from the ground up to leverage data across every stage of the life insurance process.
There is an adage that life insurance is sold and not bought. In the traditional insurance ecosystem, insurance is sold and delivered by multiple parties from agents, brokers, and wholesalers to carriers and reinsurers. While incumbents in this space should have a data advantage, they often face challenges when trying to liberate their data across multiple disparate systems and entities. Yet this is an industry where data drives economics. The better data you have, the better you can be at acquiring customers, assessing risk, underwriting, managing claims, and retaining customer over time.
Ladder built data into the foundation of everything they do, and this is a core advantage to their business. They can use this data to create an innovative product, an ideal consumer experience, and a sustainable business model. As the industry continues to evolve, data will play an even larger role in the economics of all insurance companies.
Ladder designed the term life product solely with the end consumer in mind and did not have to take into consideration agents or brokers due to their direct-to-consumer distribution model.
One of the first product innovations was the launch of dynamic life insurance, which allows people to “Ladder Up” or “Ladder Down” coverage. The team understood that as people's lives change, their life insurance should seamlessly change with them. For example, if someone has a second child they can Ladder up their coverage, or if someone’s child graduates from college, they can save money by Laddering down their coverage. Dynamic coverage allows life insurance to become a part of a consumer’s overall financial picture, which can adapt as their financial situation changes.
Enabling product innovation in this space does not come without its technological and regulatory challenges. Ladder’s proprietary technology and full stack enable them to innovate at the product level. Equally important, they have key partnerships in the industry, from reinsurers to financial institutions, to integrate their technology and bring these products to markets. All of these foundational decisions have set them up to continue to innovate on their product and consumer experience into the future.
You can tell from Ladder’s tagline “Data is the heart, people are the soul” that they fundamentally care about the consumer experience. They bring this tagline to life by consistently striving to provide the best consumer experience from purchase to claim. They know how important this product can be to somebody’s life, as it was for CEO Jamie Hale when he was a life insurance beneficiary. By making it easy to buy life insurance, they are ensuring that more consumers have the benefits of this product.
Many prospective life insurance consumers drop out of the purchase funnel because the existing process is so cumbersome. The traditional experience takes 8 weeks, a process which Ladder has brought down to minutes. Their system uses data analysis to help eliminate complexities within the traditional application process, enhancing the consumer experience. In their first year of launch, they are live across 44 states and writing hundreds of millions of dollars in coverage. It is also not surprising that a majority of their customers bought life insurance policies on a mobile device outside of work hours, so perhaps it is possible after all for insurance to be bought and not sold.
Ladder’s fully-digital product eliminates manual processes and commissioned sales agents as well, and these savings are passed on to the consumer. In our first interaction with Ladder and throughout our diligence process, it was clear that they aim to delight their consumers with everything they build.
The final thing that sets this company apart is the outstanding management team. As early stage investors, we know that the success of a company comes down to its people. In this industry specifically, getting the right balance between technology and industry expertise is critical. We believe the Ladder team has these traits in their DNA and will define what the future of life insurance should be.
The team has experience building financial services companies and a deep understanding of their industry. They recognize that the incumbents are strong companies that will continue to adapt, so they need to be able to move faster and constantly improve their offering. Ladder continuously pushes the status quo to improve but also respects the complexity of the industry in which they operate.
Ladder announced today that they have opened up their API access. This means that Ladder can now seamlessly integrate with investment platforms, lending companies, benefits managers, health and wellness innovators and more. We are proud to be backing this team with great co-investors such as Canaan Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Nyca Partners, and Thomvest Ventures. We could not be more excited to work alongside Jamie, Jeff, Laura, Jack and the entire Ladder team to bring their vision for next generation insurance to life.