Insurtech startup Ethos raises $11.5 million led by Sequoia to accelerate rapid growth and enhance product development
The life insurance industry is a $650 billion market. While the US economy, job market and home ownership rates, wages and the population as a whole continue to grow, life insurance policies sold in the US are declining. The share of Americans with life insurance has fallen to less than 60 percent, from 77 percent in 1989. Once seen as a vehicle for financial empowerment and protection for families, life insurance is now seen as a burden due to a confusing, lengthy and frustrating process managed by agents whose incentive structures are misaligned with the needs of everyday consumers. This reality has left tens of millions of families unprotected.
Ethos is a new insurtech startup that is building ground-breaking software to make life insurance accessible, affordable and simple to close the coverage gap for millions of Americans. The company’s mission is to make protecting your family affordable, accessible, and instant. Officially launched out of stealth on June 14, Ethos announced that it has secured a $11.5 million in financing led by Sequoia Capital with participation from investors include Stanford University, Arrive, a subsidiary of Roc Nation, Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures, Kevin Durant’s Durant Company, Will Smith’s Smith Family Circle, and a credit facility from Silicon Valley Bank. As part of the announcement, the company also said that Sequoia Partner Roelof Botha will join the board of directors.
Founded in 2016 by Lingke Wang and Peter Colis, the San Francisco, California-based Ethos is a new kind of life insurance built for people who don’t have time for fine print, extra doctors appointments or hidden fees. Ethos uses the power of technology and predictive analytics to modernize the life insurance process and align products with what families want and need during critical times in their lives. An application is fast and easy, turning a process that used to take weeks into a ten-minute experience for most customers.
Ethos is licensed in 49 states and has already processed thousands of applicants for life insurance coverage, is on a mission to simplify and modernize life insurance products through technology to better align with the wants and needs of American families. Ethos policies are issued and guaranteed by Assurity, a large U.S. life insurance provider since 1890.
“Ten million new individual life policies are sold annually in the U.S., and Peter and Lingke have identified the opportunity to modernize their delivery and packaging for the next generation,” said Roelof Botha, Partner at Sequoia. “Ethos is revolutionizing the insurance purchasing experience and we’re thrilled to partner with them as they create a simple way for consumers to provide for the people they love.”
The process for getting a life insurance policy on Ethos is fast, easy and inexpensive, turning a process that was once like going to the DMV to more like shopping online. Using Ethos, most people can apply and qualify for a policy after a ten minute application versus the ten weeks it takes through a more traditional process. There is always a non-commissioned licensed agent available to give unbiased guidance. More than 99 percent of Ethos customers have required no medical exam or blood test to get a policy.
“As an organization built on family-first principles, we admire Ethos’ mission to simplify life insurance and ultimately empower people to protect their families,” said Kosaku Yada, CEO of Smith Family Circle. “We’re focused on supporting ideas that positively impact people’s lives and we’re thrilled to help Ethos do that.”
Ethos is co-founded by Peter Colis and Lingke Wang, who together previously co-founded Ovid Life, a life insurance marketplace. “Life insurance is about families, financial empowerment and protection. Intrinsically, it is a good thing. But somewhere along the way, protecting profits, not people, became the industry’s passion.” said Peter Colis, CEO at Ethos. “We have the opportunity to rebuild a broken industry and put honesty at its core, ultimately expanding life insurance accessibility to the millions of US families who have college debt, mortgages, spouses and children to care for, and who want to be financially empowered to live their lives without worry. We are proud to partner with Sequoia and our other investors on this mission.”
“Ethos is working to make life insurance more accessible and affordable for people, through transparency and technological efficiency,” said Neil Sirni, President of Arrive. “We’re excited to help them achieve that goal.”