Google’s Gradient Ventures invests in Openly’s $7.65m seed round

26 Nov 2019

The Maurice J Tobin Bridge in Boston. Image: © mandritoiu/

With the backing of Gradient Ventures, Boston-based Openly has plans to accelerate its US expansion.

Today (26 November), Boston-based insurtech start-up Openly announced a $7.65m seed round of funding led by Gradient Ventures, a fund set up by Google to support founders building AI-powered companies.

Gradient Ventures primarily targets early-stage businesses and provides its portfolio companies with access to domain experts in the fields of AI, from systems and applied AI to deep learning and machine learning techniques.

Some of the start-ups in Gradient Ventures’ portfolio already include Canvass Analytics, an AI-powered predictive analytics platform for industrial IoT; Cogniac, a start-up that provides software to create and visually compose convolutional neural network models; and Streamlit, a platform that lets machine learning engineers quickly create apps for data exploration, model debugging and results presentation.

Besides Gradient Ventures, Openly has received investment from Techstars Ventures, Greenlight Re, PJC and the Hanover Insurance Group. The founders participated in the Techstars Boston accelerator programme in 2018.

Openly’s aims

The start-up was founded in 2017 by Matt Wielbut and Ty Harris. Harris is an MIT alum and actuary who previously served as chief product officer at Boston’s Liberty Mutual, while Wielbut previously served as VP of technology at Goldman Sachs and also ran his own insurance agency.

Openly is a tech-enabled home insurance provider designed to empower agents and simplify the home insurance buying process. While other insurtech start-ups are focused on selling insurance directly to consumers without agents, Openly sells its home insurance exclusively through independent insurance agents.

By leveraging emerging data sources, next-generation predictive models and AI, Openly says that it enables agents to generate firm quotes for their customers in less than 20 seconds.

Helping agents

Harris, who is the company’s CEO, said: “Some people in the tech world think the term ‘insurance agent’ refers to a relic of the past, but they’re wrong. At Openly, we know agents add value by delivering objective advice and options to their clients. Our goal is to help agents as they work to modernise their businesses.

“We let them offer their customers better, faster and more economical products with comprehensive insurance protection for a wide range of needs. We’re pleased to have the support of such heavyweight investors and reinsurers to fuel our rapid growth into 2020 and beyond.”

Openly also announced its market debut in Illinois and Arizona today. In these two states, the start-up will offer its first product, which is a premium homeowner insurance product designed for customers who “value broad, innovative and responsive coverage”.

With the new capital, Openly plans to expand at a greater speed, with plans to launch in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in the next few months. The company also plans to launch new product lines.

Zachary Bratun-Glennon, partner at Gradient Ventures, said: “The expertise that Ty and Matt share makes them the perfect team to tackle the challenge of modernising home insurance. Openly offers a combination of pricing sophistication, cutting-edge technology, insurance expertise and innovation that is unparalleled in the industry.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic