The Future of Insurance Podcast – Martha Notaras

Managing Partner, Brewer Lane

Season 2, Episode 8, December 21, 2021

Guest Bio

Martha Notaras serves as Independent Director of the Company. Ms. Notaras is Managing Partner at Brewer Lane Ventures. Prior to joining Brewer Lane, Ms. Notaras was a Partner at XL Innovate, investing in insurtech, including startups focused on data & analytics and new business models. XL Innovate’s investments include Lemonade, Embroker, New Energy Risk, Notion, Cape Analytics, Slice Labs, Pillar Technologies and Stonestep. Ms. Notaras served on the boards of: Cape Analytics, which leverages geospatial imagery, computer vision, and machine learning to deliver more accurate property data; Pillar Technologies, an end-to-end environmental monitoring solution to reduce risk at construction sites and in commercial buildings; GeoQuant, creator of a revolutionary platform for measuring political risk in real time, using machine learning; and Notion, an IoT home awareness solution provider, which reduces risk for insurers and homeowners. Ms. Notaras continues as a board observer at Cape Analytics and Pillar Technologies. Previously, Ms. Notaras ran corporate development for DMG Information, the business data and analytics division of the Daily Mail and General Trust plc. Of the 20 investments Ms. Notaras made at DMG Information, two achieved valuations over $1 billion. Ms. Notaras has served as board director for many early and growth stage companies focusing on fintech, insurtech, proptech, edtech and digital media. Ms. Notaras’s prior experience includes investment banking at Merrill Lynch and commercial banking at Credit Suisse. Ms. Notaras earned her A.B. cum laude from Princeton University and her MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar, awarded for graduating in the top five percent of the class.

Highlights from the Show

  • Martha Notaras is a venture capital investor who started investing in data and analytics companies over 25 years ago, including RMS when it was still very small
  • Having focused on later stage companies, she shifted to earlier stage companies when Tom Hutton, who had been the CEO at RMS, went to XL to launch their CVC, XL Innovate, and asked Martha to join right before the wave of InsurTech (or the word) took off
  • Some of their investments included companies like Lemonade, Zendrive, Cape Analytics, Emrboker and Slide Labs
  • This gave Martha great insight into what makes selling into insurance so tough and what having insurers as your customers means
  • At XL Innovate, Martha and the team focused on P&C, while her move to her current firm, Brewer Lane, has allowed her to look across P&C, Life, Health and solutions around all of those spaces and FinTech, too
  • Brewer Lane also takes an earlier stage focus, which has been fun because it allows Martha to engage in things when they’re still forming rather than when so much is already fixed, as it can be with later stage companies, allowing for investors to be able to pull more levers to help the business
  • When funding is so plentiful, as it is today, what the VC offers is so much more important than when money is tighter as you can really look for a better fit in your investor
  • BL has a framework for selecting investments in InsurTech and FinTech, with four kinds of companies
    • Engagement Layer – companies that reach out to customers as their primary business, like Hi Marley
    • Risk & Analytics – things that drive better risk selection, understanding and decision making around it, like Cape Analytics (for jer fifth time) and Codoxo
    • Infrastructure – core systems, like Socotra
    • Disruptors – could be disrupting all of these categories and more, like Ladder Life, Brella and Cowbell Cyber
  • For some of these disruptors, how do you know early on whether they have a real, robust platform that has legs?
  • Martha shares how they looked at investments like Ladder, and how they looked for decisions Day 1 on how they can underwrite better
  • As a VC, you can’t have a single view of the future, so you need to place a few bets on different teams and operating plans that have the ability to scale
  • One thing they’re seeing is a lot of companies building APIs, especially for connecting agents, and marketplaces to connect different insurance products to other sales avenues
  • As a VC, Martha thinks about scale – how much can your top line scale, and is it going to be enough to have an impact on the market
  • When you are going after a large market, you have to believe you are doing something special, and that you can communicate that
  • The quality and relationship of the founding team really matters, and was a hard thing to judge when things shifted to Zoom because you can’t always read how people are interacting, interrupting, supporting, challenging, etc
  • As advice for founders, Martha thinks you need to be sure your team doesn’t just agree – you need diversity to push you outside of your comfort zone
  • She also says you should really talk to everyone – ask questions, learn and grow

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Special thanks to Hi Marley ( for sponsoring this episode.

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