These twin brothers have built the second-fastest growing company in Europe with a $1.25 billion valuation

BY Preta Peace Namasaba October 21, 2023 9:50 PM EDT
Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham. Photo credit: Marshmallow

British twin brothers Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham are the co-founders of Marshmallow, a digital insurance company. The firm caters to the needs of marginalised customers and those who usually struggle to find affordable insurance. With a $1.25 billion valuation, the insurtech company is the UK’s second Black-owned startup to reach unicorn status and the second-fastest growing company in Europe.

From childhood, the Kent-Braham twins excelled in all their pursuits. At 12, they established a business selling golf balls they had retrieved from the lake. The twins credit their unwavering determination to having played tennis at an elite level. Their sports abilities earned them a scholarship to the prestigious Reed School.

Following their burgeoning interest in technology, the twins ventured into FinTech. They both worked at Yoti, a software development app that digitizes identification. While interacting with a South African, they got to learn of the predatory premiums he was paying for motor insurance in the UK. They conducted further research and discovered that the issue spread across the board with all incoming foreign residents having to pay colossal sums to obtain insurance coverage.

Inspired by the success of Monzo Bank, a British online app-based mobile bank, the Kent-Braham brothers set out to transform the insurance framework. Aware that the future of financial services lies in FinTech, they developed the idea of a digital insurance service. With a gym membership and a desk for £80 a month at a cafe in a Virgin Active, they emerged on the scene of Europe’s trillion-dollar insurance industry.

In 2017, Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham launched Marshmallow, an insurance company that allows users to make digital claims via its app. Although the insurtech initially focused on providing motor insurance to immigrants, it is now open to all. Nonetheless, its focus remains on providing coverage to young drivers and newcomers on temporary visas who grapple with finding affordable insurance.

It was really clear again and again that insurers play this hugely pivotal role in society, yet they probably weren’t digitizing fast enough. We found that we were able to use data that other insurers aren’t using.

Oliver Kent-Braham in Claims Journal

Marshmallow outperforms competitors by the way it uses data. The company leverages data analytics to price customers effectively, offering cheaper insurance options to particular sections of the market. Unlike legacy IT system databases that make retrieval of data arduous, Marshmallow’s technology is flexible and suits each user’s personalised needs. With its internal pricing and fraud algorithms and models, the company gives financially feasible rates to customers with no driving history in the U.K.

From having neither capital nor clients, the company reached unicorn status ($ 1 billion valuation) in 2021, becoming the UK’s second black-founded unicorn firm. Marshmallow is also one of two UK insurance start-ups to be granted a license by the Financial Conduct Authority which enables them to directly sell insurance to customers. Since 2017, the company has sold 342,000 policies, with more than 300,000 app downloads and over $80 million paid out in claims.

To begin with, no one believes in you. Your parents say, ‘Oh my god, don’t quit your job!’ They don’t want you to take that risk. So take the risk and be bold in your approach. Start small, but go after really big problems.

Oliver Kent-Braham in BBC

While most companies decreased business operations during the pandemic, the Kent-Braham twins led Marshmallow through an expansionary chapter. In 2022, the insurtech’s turnover increased by 175% to $28 million with a $860,000 boost in profits. Currently valued at $1.25 billion, the Financial Times recognised Marshmallow as the second-fastest growing company in Europe.