Startup insurance group UpSure blazes a trail on its own growth journey

Startup insurance group UpSure blazes a trail on its own growth journey

UpSure co-founders Matt Almond (left) and Andrew Birt are preparing to tackle the UK market

After spending the past three years providing a safety net for Australian entrepreneurs looking to scale up their businesses, startup insurance group UpSure is poised to bring its niche offering to a wider market with plans to expand into the UK.

UpSure co-founder Andrew Birt says startup-specific insurance plans often get overlooked by early-stage ventures seeking to grow. Generally, they rely on “suburban brokers” to cover growth risks for their businesses.

Birt, whose background in the investment sector led him on many startup journeys, points out that the insurance needs of a fintech are significantly different to a company developing a physical product. Insurance needs also change depending on whether startups are in the seed funding stage or planning to scale up.

“The sub-sectors of the startup market each have their own risks that founders and startups need to address,” says Birt.

 The Brisbane-based UpSure, which Birt established with insurance industry professional Matt Almond in 2020, has struck a chord with the startup community by recording 300 per cent year-on-year growth since then.

The insure-tech currently has more than 220 startups and scale-ups on its books, including the likes of Forcite, Thrive, Payble, Joyride, AirBolt and Greener.

UpSure is currently writing just under $2 million in gross written premium a year, with plans to continue growing its base in Australia where competition is pretty thin for its niche insurance offering.

“We have had consistent month-on-month growth,” says Birt. “The vast majority of our clients are staying with us year on year and our goal is to get to the $1 million recurring revenue point sometime this year and we’ll continue to grow from there.”

Birt says plans are afoot to establish a foothold in the UK this year as a prelude to future expansion into Europe.

“We already have a relationship in the UK to launch the same business model there,” says Birt.

“We’re currently hiring ahead of broking for that market now. The UK is definitely the next market we want to tackle and from there we could expand into Europe.”

UpSure is planning a seed round this year to help fund its push into the UK. While the details of that round have not been disclosed, Birt says it will be much larger than the company’s $1.1 million pre-seed funding campaign which was backed by community broker network CBN Australia, a small cap venture fund from Germany and local angel investors.

Birt sees solid prospects for global expansion in a sector that is largely underserviced. Among the biggest names in the sector is California-based Vouch which raised US$90 million $130.4 million) at the end of 2021, valuing the company at US$550 million ($796.8 million). Vouch has a big presence on its home turf supporting startups in Silicon Valley.

“In comparison, the competitors we face in Australia is the conventional broking market that covers insurance for houses, boats and the like,” says Birt.

“Many of our clients are moving to us from a traditional broker. A lot of times these businesses may not have even been able to secure insurance as they may have been rejected by some providers.”

Birt sees many businesses in the midst of rapid growth lumbered with products that are not "fit for purpose".

“You might find some companies are now quite large but they are stuck with a generic business policy that just doesn’t have them covered for the type of risks they might face,” he says.

UpSure is part of the CBN Australia network, giving the company access to all underwriters in Australia as well as Lloyds of London agencies.

“We initially thought there would be a one-size-fits-all approach but we quickly realised the diversity of the businesses that people are building in the tech sector, so our products take a bespoke approach for each client,” says Birt.

UpSure also sees its offering as a warning beacon for businesses on the startup journey.

“People need to get their heads around the type of risks they could face in their new venture,” says Birt.

“It can be handy to know where the particular potholes lie for your type of business and how you can offset those risks. That goes not only from an insurance perspective but as a startup generally.

“It makes the businesses look at everything from processes, policies, legal documents, warranties and indemnities, in addition to the insurance needs to de-risk the company as it grows.

“It also gives many of the people we work with insights into aspects of their business they might not have thought about.”

As UpSure grows, both Birt and Almond are keen to continue cultivating a highly connected startup community around their business.

“I have been working with startups my whole career, developing good relationships with investors and capital partners,” says Birt.

“I have been on the same journey as many of our clients. So, it’s important for us to create that community where our clients can reach out to us at any time, and we can put them in touch with some of the founders we are working with.”

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