Ascend Raises $5.5M Seed Round to Modernize Insurance Financial Infrastructure

Live in 20 states across the U.S., Ascend’s API provides distributors with the technology to sell more policies and increase customer experience.

(Ascend Team, left to right: Andrew Wynn, Eddie Ruvalcaba, Praveen Chekuri, Nick Rockwell and Jaskirat Khangoora. Source: Ascend.)

Ascend (Palo Alto, Calif.), an insurance payments platform offering automated all-in-one financing, collections, and payables, has raised $5.5M in seed investment funding. The round was led by First Round Capital (San Francisco), with participation from Susa Ventures (San Franscisco), FirstMark Capital (New York), Box Group (New York).

Andrew Wynn, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Ascend.

In describing its offering Ascend says its payments APIs automate insurance payments end-to-end, from online point of sale with “buy now, pay later” financing to the distribution of commissions and carrier payables. This enables insurance distributors to sell more policies by eliminating labor intensive, expensive processes while providing customers with a standard of online checkout and financing experience they’ve come to expect from online retailers. Ascend says it was built on the premise that, as the insurance industry moves from offline to online, insurance distributors will need to provide a modern seamless customer experience with a payment infrastructure in order to keep pace with the increasing demand for high quality customer experiences.

Ascend says this latest round of funding will contribute to its expansion and evolution, with a focus on product development, go-to-market initiatives, and new hires.

“The insurance space is seeing a once in a lifetime transformation,” says Andrew Wynn, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Ascend. “Today, insurance distributors and carriers aren’t enabled with modern technology, leaving them stuck with pen and paper processes, outdated systems and complicated operations behind the scenes. This results in a poor customer experience because modern tools for critical things like billing and payments don’t exist. Our mission is to modernize insurance’s financial infrastructure so that carriers and distributors can be successful in today’s digital world.”

Praveen Chekuri, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Ascend.

Wynn says that he and co-founder, Praveen Chekuri, saw first-hand the challenges that existed on the back end for insurance sellers and how it impeded building strong customer experiences. The co-founders found that property/casualty insurance payments are outdated, operationally intensive, and offer a poor customer experience, resulting in problems for all parties to transactions, including insurance sellers, buyers, and carriers. They say this is what inspired them to create a platform like Ascend, which seeks to modernize the insurance payments system and tackle the pain points they identified through their observations.

“There is a massive opportunity in insurance infrastructure, which is extremely outdated,” comments Bill Trenchard, Partner, First Round Capital. “With Ascend, insurance sellers/distributors now have an effective way to collect payments, offer financing, and handle accounting and payables. Automating the many steps of money movement associated with selling an insurance policy, saving lots of time and operational effort will become an industry game changer. We’re excited to stand alongside the team as they continue on this journey.”

Best Possible Customer Experience

Spike Lipkin, CEO, Newfront Insurance.

“At Newfront, we pride ourselves on being the foremost modern and technology enabled insurance brokerage,” says Spike Lipkin, CEO, Newfront Insurance. “We’re excited that Ascend’s payments solution shares our vision to deliver the best possible customer experience and simplify tedious, expensive operational processes.”

A series of strategic angels also contributed to the seed funding round including Joshua Motta, CEO of Coalition; Spike Lipkin, CEO of Newfront Insurance; Gordon Wintrob, CTO of Newfront Insurance; Sam Hodges, CEO of Vouch Insurance; Phillip Hodges, CEO of Layr Insurance; Max Bruner, CEO of Anzen Insurance; Tanner Hackett, CEO of Counterpart Insurance; Chad Nitschke, former CEO of Bunker Insurance; Paul VanderMarck CTO of SageSure; Max Mullen & Brandon Leonardo, Co-Founders of Instacart; & Ben Rubin, Co-Founder/CEO of HouseParty.

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 936-2803.

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