Digital Insurance startup Next Insurance nailed down $29 million in Series A funding, with an investor roster that underscores how many old-school carriers are hedging their bets on technology-fueled industry disruption.

Munich Re, Markel and Nationwide are investors and coverage partners, and they have other ventures underway with additional InsurTech startups.

Munich Re/HSB Ventures led Next Insurance’s round, with Markel, Nationwide – and other existing investors participating. The Palo Alto, CA-based company launched in 2016 with $13 million in seed funding from Ribbit Capital, TLV Partners and Zeev Ventures. Nationwide, Munich Re, Markel, Liberty Mutual and Hiscox are the “trusted insurance partners” behind the policies it sells, according to Next’s web site.

Plans call for using the money to fuel continued development and expansion of Next’s insurance product offerings, which are targeted to small and medium-sized business markets.

“The small business sector is vast and extremely varied, yet the small business insurance market is digitally underserved. This is especially true for independent business owners like photographers and personal trainers that we’re already serving,” Guy Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Next, said in prepared remarks. “Partnering with investors of this caliber will enable us to expand our activities faster and bring valuable products to a wider range of these types of business owners.”

Next Insurance uses an online platform and big data to link directly to customers to help them tailor insurance programs in a matter of minutes that best fit their needs and budgets. The firm works with its insurance providers to create small business policies uniquely tailored to clients’ needs.

Next Insurance’s product policy classes include: handyman photographer, personal trainer, yoga, contractors, carpenters, janitorial and landscaping insurance.

Many of Next’s partners are actively eying next-generation insurance technology investment opportunities.

Nationwide has a venture investment fund, for example, and the insurer linked up earlier this year with Sure, a developer of an on-demand insurance mobile app, to offer consumers the ability to buy renters insurance on their smartphones as they shop for an apartment or condo. Markel and EMC Insurance Companies invested in the Global Insurance Accelerator in 2016, a business focused on developing innovative insurance-centric startups. Beyond Next Insurance, Munich Re has signed on as a coverage partner with Slice Labs Inc., an InsurTech startup launching a tap-for-coverage, on-demand insurance platform to support the on-demand economy.

InsurTech venture funding plunged 64 percent in the 2017 first quarter versus the previous year, and Willis Towers Watson said the trend might be due to startups moving from the fundraising to product launch stage.

Source: Next Insurance