YuLife picks up $120M at an $800M valuation for gamified, wellness-focused life insurance

YuLife originally made a name for itself in its home market of the U.K. for its new approach to the provisioning of life insurance: yes, sell a policy that provides financial security to your people in the event of your death; but do so with a focus on improving the policyholder’s current life with wellness opportunities, and encourage use of that with gamification — a model that not only is aimed at benefitting the policyholders more, but increases engagement on the platform and provides a complementary revenue for YuLife, which offers deals on the wellness services.

Its idea took off — it is now used by more than 500 businesses, including Co-op, Del Monte, Jaguar Land Rover, Santander and CapitalOne, which in turn provide plans to their employees, one of three of whom engage on the app daily. On the heels of that, now the company is announcing that it has raised $120 million to expand the concept. Today, YuLife covers group life insurance, critical illness protection and income protection, but it is now rapidly expanding to new categories like dental and health, as well as financial services (pensions being one example of a category that has a strong affinity with life insurance), as well as to new markets like the U.S.

The funding, a Series C, is bringing a new strategic investor on board, Japan’s Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, which is leading the round, along with participation from previous investors Creandum, LocalGlobe, Target Global, Latitude, Anthemis, OurCrowd, Notion, MMC and Eurazeo.

CEO and co-founder Sammy Rubin tells us that this latest fundraise values the company at $800 million. For some context on that figure, when YuLife more recently raised money before this — a Series B of $70 million in 2021 — it was valued at $346 million.

That is a decent jump considering the current climate. Many tech companies are finding it hard to raise rounds, and when they are doing so valuations are definitely getting buttoned down (and in a number of cases seeing down-rounds). And insuretech specifically is definitely not being spared: on the heels of a boom during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, insurance technology funding in Q1 2022 was 50% lower than a year ago, and Q2 is shaping up to be even slower, according to research from Dealroom.

Part of the reason for YuLife’s bump is that the company itself has continued to grow through the slowdown.

Rubin tells me that its customers — it sells only directly to organizations in a B2B model, who in turn provide life insurance their employees as part of larger benefits programs — have grown 4X in the last year (not as many as the year before, which was 10X, but still growing), with revenues up five-fold, and coverage now totaling $50 billion, versus $15 billion a year ago. Close to 50% of its customers are new to the platform, he said, and in doing so is expanding the scope of those that are considering it as a worthwhile benefit for their employees.

“These are companies that had never had life insurance before,” Rubin said, noting that they are attracted not just “by the whole life insurance benefit, but the holistic platform around it.”

That holistic platform is an interesting twist on the basic concept of what life insurance can be about.

The app is built by veterans of the gaming industry and is designed around the concept of different natural environments such as forest and mountains, which YuLife collectively terms its “Yuniverse.”

Within each of these environments, users are encouraged to walk, cycle, meditate and do other activities to get around their environments in a healthy way, while at the same time being able to compare their progress against other co-workers. As with a lot of gaming these days, is a degree of personalization in everyone’s experience: one person leaning into one activity over another seems to produce different subsequent scenarios.

Along with this, users are offered discounts on third-party products to further engage with the game within YuLife, which could include a subscription to meditation app Calm, FitBit and Garmin devices, and more. As users make their way through their worlds, they get rewards, in the form of something called YuCoins. The YuCoins can in turn be used to redeem vouchers from the likes of Amazon and Asos.

Group life insurance, Rubin said, is the company’s flagship product and accounts for over 80% of revenues. Its other products — currently critical illness, income protection and dental — account for the other 20%. Its revenues, he added, are attributed to the sale of insurance policies. “Our insurance policies are holistic and include the wellness element,” he said.

Wellness in itself is a massive opportunity — worth some $1.5 trillion in 2021 according to McKinsey estimates — and while you can see a strong affinity between how that might be oriented around a life insurance product, and indeed a health insurance product, it will be interesting to see how YuLife tailors the concept to other kinds of insurance, and to other products such as financial services. Rubin noted that right now one of the perks in the dental product is a free electric toothbrush for each new user (although users still have to pay to replace the heads).

In terms of the other way that YuLife could grow, Rubin added that it has “no plans” to become a D2C product, but to continue selling through companies. This continues to set it apart from the wider wave of insurtechs, which have largely disrupted the incumbent market by improving accessibility to getting insurance in the first place.

AIG, Met Life and Zurich are YuLife’s current underwriters in the U.K. and Rubin said the company is currently negotiating with underwriters and other partners for its U.S. launch. Dai-chi Life does have operations in the U.S. market — among other activities it owns Protective Life — but Rubin said the strategic element of this investment is not aimed at that, but rather a longer-term plan also to expand into Japan.

“Dai-ichi Life is committed to supporting companies that have a proven track record of changing people’s lives for the better, and YuLife does exactly that, by bringing tangible value to financial products to bolster individuals’ wellbeing,” said Toshiaki Sumino, director and managing executive officer at Dai-ichi Life Holdings, Inc., in a statement. “YuLife has immense potential to build on its achievements to date, and we are thrilled to invest and help propel YuLife towards its next steps and scale its global operations. YuLife shares our ethos of harnessing the latest trends in technology to make a genuine difference to the lives of those using financial products.”

This article was originally published on TechCrunch.com. Read More on their website.

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