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The Zebra reaches $100M run rate, turns profitable as insurtech booms
By: Alex Wilhelm
From a cluster of insurance marketplace startups raising capital earlier this year, to neoinsurance provider Lemonade going public this summer at a strong valuation, Hippo’s huge new round and Root’s impending unicorn IPO, 2020 has proven to be a busy year for startups and other growth-oriented private tech companies focused on insurance.
That news cycle continues today, with The Zebra announcing that it has reached a roughly $100 million run rate, and, perhaps even more notably, that it has turned profitable.
TechCrunch most recently covered the car and home insurance marketplace startup in February, when it raised the first $38.5 million in a Series C eventually worth $43.5 million that Accel led. As we noted at the time, the startup joined “Insurify ($23 million), Gabi ($27 million) and Policygenius ($100 million) in raising new capital this year.”
The Zebra released a number of financial performance metrics as part of its Series C cycle, including that it recorded revenues of $37 million in 2019, and that it had reached a $60 million annual run rate around the time of its Series C. The Zebra also said that it could double in size this year, putting it above a $100 million run rate by the end of 2020.
With that history in hand, let’s talk about the company’s more recent performance.
A changing market
According to the company, The Zebra recorded net revenue of $6 million in May, 2020. That number grew to around $8 million in September. For those of you able to multiply, $8 million times 12 is $96 million, or a hair under $100 million. According to a call with the The Zebra’s CEO Keith Melnick, the company’s September was very close to $8.3 million, a figure that would put it on a $100 million run rate.
Given that our $100 million ARR club has a history of granting startups a little wiggle room when it comes to their size, it seems perfectly fine to say that The Zebra has reached revenue scale of $100 million; at its current rate of growth, even if its final September revenue tally is a hair light. the company should reach a nine-figure topline pace in October.
According to Melnick, while the bulk of The Zebra’s revenue isn’t recurring, a growing portion of it is. Per the CEO, around 2-5% of The Zebra’s revenue was recurring last year, a figure that he said is up to around 10% today. (If The Zebra binds an insurance policy itself, and that policy is renewed, its commissions can recur.)
What drove the company’s quick 2020 growth? In part, the insurance market changed, with insurance networks that depended on in-person sales seeing their ability to drive business slow thanks to COVID-19. Insurance marketplaces like The Zebra stepped in to assist, helping move some offline demand online. Melnick detailed that dynamic to TechCrunch, adding that when certain advertising channels saw demand fall, his company was able to leverage inexpensive inventory.
A number of factors appear to have added to The Zebra’s rapid growth thus far in 2020. Our next question is whether other, related players in the insurtech startup space have seen similar acceleration. More on that in a few days.
Finally, regarding The Zebra, the company said that it is now profitable. Of course, profit is a squishy word in 2020, so we wanted to know precisely what the company meant by the statement. Per the company’s CEO, it is generating positive net income, the gold-standard for profitability as the metric is inclusive of all costs, including the non-cash expenses that startups tend to strip out of their numbers to make the results look better than they really are.
If other players in the insurtech space are surfing similar trajectories, all that capital that went into the sector around the start of the year is going to appear prescient.