Coterie raises $8.5M to build ‘commercial insurance as a service’

Ohio-based Coterie, a startup working on in the commercial insurance space, has announced today it has raised $8.5 million Series A. The company had previously raised a little over $3 million in early investments, bringing its equity capital raised to nearly $12 million to date; the firm also told TechCrunch that it has raised $2.5 million in available venture debt as part of its current round.

In an uncertain market, Coterie is better capitalized than it ever has been, thanks to Intercept, and The Hartford, and Hippo, which led its latest round.

Coterie operates in insurtech, a space we’ve covered extensively in recent months. But it’s not MetroMile or Lemonade, both of which selling consumer insurance. Nor is it akin to The Zebra, Policy Genius, Gabi, or Insurify, helping consumers link to third-party insurance products. It’s closest private market comp, looking at our recent coverage, is Briza, which produces APIs linking small businesses to small business insurance products.

But what Coterie does is slightly different if we’re grokking its model correctly: It offers what it calls “commercial insurance as a service,” according to an interview with TechCrunch. Let’s explore.


In a call with TechCrunch about its latest funding event, Coterie explained that, using APIs, it connects “places that have some commercial insurance requirement, or service customers who need commercial insurance, and we simply pass that information into our system and we quote and bind automatically.”

While Coterie does partner with external insurance entities (more on that in a second), it handles a lot of the work in-house: “We actually have the underwriting control, so we don’t we don’t ship it off to 10 different carriers. We actually say yes, we will bind this policy, or no, we won’t,” said Coterie CEO David McFarland, adding that “most of the time we have a pretty broad appetite so we can write a good bit of business.”

Helping it in this process are some partners in the insurance market that help with “the licenses and the capital requirements,” the company said.

What makes Coterie interesting isn’t that is a digital take on a previously paper business, but that it’s product allows it to insure freelancers (Coterie partners with freelance marketplaces, allowing it access to a potential customer base and helping the marketplace itself provide insured providers) for even small increments of time; that’s something that wasn’t economically attractive under old models, if even possible.

According to the firm, it offers general and professional liability insurance, along with business owners policies. Coterie has eyes on various types of data to power its model (and make good policy pricing choices), highlighting information like business payment flows to vet company health, to pick an example.

Coterie only started selling its products in September of 2019, but noted to TechCrunch that it saw “pretty good growth” from from the jump, and “pretty steady growth” since then. But as Coterie noted in our call, insurance is a somewhat low-margin business, meaning that policy growth, while good, needs to be pretty steep for the gross margin generated to stack up too high.

But with $8.5 million in new equity capital and total access to over $10 million in funds, the startup now has more money than ever to pursue its model. And if it’s like the rest of the insurtech space, it has a good shot at quick growth.

Four rounds for women-led startups, and a huge Series A for Motif

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

February is now behind us, but we gathered the troops to send it off in style: Connie Loizos was here, Kate Clark was in, I was around, and NEA’s Jonathan Golden joined us, as well.

It was good to have a full contingent on hand, as there was a lot to get through:

  • ThirdLove raises $55 million: Direct-to-consumer undergarment company ThirdLove raised a huge round this week, picking up $55 million on top of the roughly $13 million it had raised before. The company is well-known for having a plethora of sizes for bodies of all types. The company’s round was one of four from women-led businesses that we wanted to highlight this week.
  • Dipsea raises $5.5 million: Dipsea just , but it’s launching out the gate with $5.5 million in capital. The company’s subscription app ($8.99 per month, or yearly at a discount) provides short-form audio erotica aimed at the women in the market. The company is female-founded and fits into a recent trend we’ve seen of audio content picking up new money as the genre’s listening base expands during this, the second golden era of podcasting.
  • Rockets of Awesome raises $19.5 million: Our third woman-led startup that picked up capital this week is Rockets of Awesome, which sells subscription-based clothing for kids to parents. The new round contains a strong infusion of money from Foot Locker, a brand that we’re all aware of. Notably, Rockets of Awesome intends to dip its toe into the physical realm with its new money.
  • Coterie raises $2.75 million: Wrapping up our list of women-led companies that have raised this week, Coterie raised a smaller round to help fuel its Instagram-ready-party-in-a-box business. Sadly I didn’t get to mock Instagram during the show, but we did get to learn all about what a “friendaversary” is.
  • Wrapping the topic on women in venture, and women founding and running startups, we looked at a few data points here, and here. Summary: There’s more work to do.
  • Motif raises $90 million: Returning to our running look at companies that have raised outsized rounds, Motif, a spinout, raised a $90 million Series A. I wanted to know if we can all such a thing a Series A, and Jonathan told me to stop being such a square.
  • Uber versus Lyft: Closing out, we wanted to call ourselves out for being wrong about Uber and Lyft not taking shots at one another this close to their IPOs via discounts. They are, indeed, back on their bullshit.

All that and February is behind us. Here’s to March and what’s next.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

Coterie, a young New York startup, promises to deliver charming party kits at your doorstep (though shhh, we won’t tell your guests)

Party planning can be fun if you have the time for it and happen to know what you’re doing. For the rest of us, it can be a daunting, time-consuming endeavor, one that requires visits to numerous websites, in-store visits when those products invariably don’t arrive in time, then return visits to pick up those last items that you could have sworn you’d thrown in your shopping cart but, hmm, looks like you did not.

Enter Coterie, a nine-month-old, New York-based startup that was incubated with the help of the investment firm Female Founders Fund and that is assembling party kits that it’s delivering to customers’ doorsteps, for everything from birthday party to baby shower to friendversary get-togethers. Just tell the site how many people you expect, whether it’s 10 or 50, then pick a kit. For example, the “lux” version of its “shine on” package — which could pretty much suit any occasion — comes with glittery plates, metallic flatware, confetti, votives, string lights, gold paper straws, dressed-up paper cups and napkins, and confetti. Oh, also, gold paper fans as either wall or table decoration.

In the near future, customers of the site will also be able to handpick their products,

Can any of it be reused? No, but it can be recycled and, more to the point for Coterie, the sum of these parts will make the party sparkle in photos. Indeed, a big motivator for Coterie customers seemingly will be how that easily assembled party looks on social media, though Laura Chau, an investor at Canaan Partners who wrote a check to Coterie on behalf of her firm — Coterie has raised $2.75 million altogether, including from Female Founders Fund — says it’s the wrong conclusion to draw.

In her view, says Chau, Coterie is building a modern brand that gives consumers a “frictionless, elevated and more beautiful experience. But the goal is not to feed on the fake perfection of Instagram, but to blow up the idea that such perfection is real.”

Either way, party kits done the right way looks like a big business opportunity to Chau, who says she sees dozens of direct-to-consumer brands every month that might be interesting but don’t fit the venture model because the market is too small or too crowded. With Coterie, she says, it’s a “massive category with only one legacy player – Party City. And no one likes Party City.”

This last part is true, though there are also other, legacy players that no one really likes, including Oriental Trading Company.

Canaan and Female Founders Fund also appear to be betting that the tailwinds from Instagram and Pinterest will drive consumer demand for this kind of product.

Coterie was founded by Sarah Raffa and Linden Ellis, two early employees of another e-commerce brand, Daily Harvest. According to an interview with CNN earlier this week, the friends were determined to start their own company, bouncing ideas off the partners at Female Founders Fund until collectively striking on Coterie.

The service launched on Monday.