We launched the Achmea Innovation Fund (AIF) in October one year ago. The idea behind the fund is to invest in businesses that aim to have a positive impact on society. A birthday calls for cake (and I’m not going to deny myself that pleasure), but the real treat is on my desk – a pile of business plans that has been growing rapidly over the past year.
These documents are full of technological innovations and new business models developed by various start- and scale-ups that have one thing in common – the story behind them, or rather the sometimes missionary zeal of the founders, is to make a difference in society.
It’s not only highly energising – it’s a delight to read each one of them – it also ties in nicely with why we launched the fund a year ago.
The power of doing things together
At Achmea, we want to make society healthier, safer and more future-proof. And based on our cooperative identity, we are convinced that the best way to achieve this is by partnering up.
That’s why we launched the Achmea Innovation Fund – to provide growth capital to tech companies and other businesses whose ambitions match our mission and with whom we can cooperate in the long term. By doing so, we make each other stronger.
This has led to a couple of great investments over the past year. One of these is in a company called Roamler, a scale-up that offers crowdsourcing solutions to businesses looking for efficient and on-demand professionals. Our brand Centraal Beheer is partnering with Roamler to help customers fix their problems. For example, if a customer calls to report that they have a water leakage with their roof, Achmea can, with the help of Roamler, send somebody to look at it and fix it if necessary; whether it falls under the insurance or not.
More great examples are mentioned later in this blog.
Start-ups can be an accelerator for us
What else have we discovered over the past year? That we can find great companies by just talking to each other. We are working with 45 “scouts” at Achmea. These scouts meet a lot of daredevils and doers in their daily work in our strategic focus areas: health, the living environment, mobility, entrepreneurship and financial solutions. And climate.
Entrepreneurship, the desire to innovate, to think outside the box, can often be found in young tech businesses, and is tremendously valuable to Achmea. It helps us to look at a problem from a totally different perspective and to get things done quickly without having archaic structures in the way. Start-ups can be an accelerator for Achmea.
Achmea can help to get things done
But conversely, we are also hearing that the start- and scale-ups benefit from working with us. To partner with a large organisation with a trusted brand and a sizeable customer base can potentially be of great help.
And Achmea can help to get things done – to find a suitable partner, or to organise pilot trials. Or help to find a way through a complex regulatory system or a maze of rules and regulations.
That is probably why start-ups backed by corporate venture capital tend to be more successful than start-ups without such backing.
A good example is Organ Assist, another business we invested in. This Groningen-based company has developed ground-breaking technology to nourish donor organs artificially so that they can be kept viable for longer. In this way, more patients get access to life-saving organs. Organ Assist has recently joined forces with the Swedish company XVIVO Perfusion.
This shows how well it can work – how the Achmea Innovation Fund can help a start-up through the ‘difficult growth phase’, and by doing so, give it the chance to become an organisation that can ultimately commercialise its solution to then meet society’s needs on a large scale.
The companies we work with also have access to Achmea’s network. All our brands operate in many different fields and areas of society. What’s more, Achmea is part of ICMIF and Eurapco (a partnership of European mutual insurers), which can help companies gaining access to international markets.
Future solutions might well be found where areas overlap
An added bonus for start- and scale-ups of working with the Innovation Fund is that Achmea is active in so many different markets.
It is no coincidence that our investment managers, who specialise in the different domains, work in pairs. They deliberately look beyond our different focus areas (and brands) because the solutions of the future might well be found where domains intersect. Themes such as ‘living environment’ and ‘financial solutions’ touch and overlap. And not to mention health and vitality. These are all things that matter to people’s lives.
I am expecting to see some great deals in the years ahead.
Talking of which, I will end with a cliff-hanger. It is very likely that we’ll shortly be signing a long-term partnership and investment agreement with a Dutch tech-driven start-up. It’s a young company with a very promising ambition to help achieve our climate goals. We’ll be exploring solutions in the domains of living environment, mobility, entrepreneurship and financial solutions.
It’s nice that the innovation fund is a year old, but these new opportunities are the real celebrations.
I’m off to enjoy my slice of the fund’s birthday cake now.
If you would like information about the Achmea Innovation Fund, please visit: https://www.achmeainnovationfund.nl/en/