CXA, a health-focused digital insurance startup, raises $25M

CXA Group, a Singapore-based startup that helps make insurance more accessible and affordable, has raised $25 million for expansion in Asia and later into Europe and North America.

The startup takes a unique route to insurance. Rather than going to consumers directly, it taps corporations to offer their employees health-flexible options. That’s to say that instead of rigid plans that force employees to use a certain gym or particular healthcare, a collection of more than 1,000 programs and options can be tailored to let employees pick what’s relevant or appealing to them. The ultimate goal is to bring value to employees to keep them healthier and lower the overall premiums for their employers.

“Our purpose is to empower personalized choices for better living for employees,” CXA founder and CEO Rosaline Koo told TechCrunch in an interview. “We use data and tech to recommend better choices.”

The company is primarily focused on China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, where it claims to work with 600 enterprises, including Fortune 500 firms. The company has more than 200 staff, and it has acquired two traditional insurance brokerages in China to help grow its footprint, gain requisite licenses and increase its logistics in areas such as health checkups.

We last wrote about CXA in 2017 when it raised a $25 million Series B, and this new round is a bridge to a Series C that takes the company to $58 million from investors to date. Existing backers include B Capital, the BCG-backed fund from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin; EDBI, the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board; and early Go-Jek backer Openspace Ventures. They are joined by a glut of big-name backers in this round.

Those new investors include a lot of corporates. There’s HSBC, Singtel Innov8 (of Singaporean telco Singtel), Telkom Indonesia MDI Ventures (of Indonesia telco Telkom), Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia (Japanese trading firm), Muang Thai Fuchsia Ventures (Thailand-based insurance firm), Humanica (Thailand-based HR firm) and PE firm Heritas Venture Fund.

“There are additional insurance companies and strategic partners that we aren’t listing,” said Koo.

Rosaline Koo is founder and CEO of CXA Group

That’s a very deliberate selection of large corporates that are part of a new strategy to widen CXA’s audience.

The company had initially gone after massive firms — it claims to reach a collective 400,000 employees — but now the goal is to reach SMEs and non-Fortune 500 enterprises. To do that, it is using the reach and connections of larger service companies to reach their customers.

“We believe that banks and telcos can cross-sell insurance and banking services,” said Koo, who grew up in LA and counts benefits broker Mercer on her resume. “With demographic and work/life event data, plus health data, we’re able to target the right banking and insurance services.

“We can help move them away from spamming,” she added. “Because we will have the right data to really target the right offering to the right person at the right time. No firm wants an agent sitting in their canteen bothering their staff, now it’s all digital and we’re moving insurance and banking into a new paradigm.”

The ultimate goal is to combat a health problem that Koo believes is only getting worse in the Asia Pacific region.

“Chronic disease comes here 10 years before anywhere else,” she said, citing an Emory research paper that concluded that chronic diseases in Asia are “rising at a rate that exceeds global increases.”

“There’s such a crying need for solutions, but companies can’t force the brokers to lower costs as employees are getting sick… double-digit increases are normal, but we think this approach can help drop them. We want to start changing the cost of healthcare in Asia, where it is an epidemic, using data and personalization at scale in a way to help the community,” Koo added.

Talking to Koo makes it very clear that she is focused on growing CXA’s reach in Asia this year, but further down the line, there are ambitions to expand to other parts of the world. Europe and North America, she said, may come in 2020.

Update 03/13 18:36: The original version of this article has been updated to not that the round is a bridge ahead of a Series C, not a Series C.

Startup Law A to Z: Employment Law

Your startup will not succeed unless you, the founder, build an exceptional team. Great teams are built on top of great culture. Yet any venture-backed startup founder will tell you, myself included, that developing a positive corporate culture is more art than science, requiring constant and creative recalibration as your company grows. What then does this have to do with employment law?

First, building an exceptional team means hiring great people; whether that involves W-9s for consultants, I-9s for employees, lengthy H-1B visa applications, or a new employee handbook, you need to hire the right people in the right way. Second, one bad employment-related legal dispute can have ripple effects throughout an organization, undermining employee morale and executive credibility in one fell swoop, with palpable culture fallout.

Fortunately, when working to promote healthy company culture, founders can look to employment law for some preventive medicine. In fact, transparency through written policies, clearly communicated in advance and followed in practice, can help create the trust and accountability which are foundational to positive company culture. Moreover, in the event employment disputes do arise, well-drafted employment policies actually provide valuable guidance through difficult to navigate situations, while limiting downside risks to the company, as well.

This article, the fourth in Extra Crunch’s exclusive five-part “Startup Law A to Z” series, follows previous articles on customer contracts,  intellectual property (IP) and corporate matters. This series is calculated to provide founders the information needed to assess legal risks in the areas common to most startups.

After reading this article, or other “Startup Law A to Z” articles, should you identify legal risks facing your startup, Extra Crunch resources can help. For example, the Verified Experts of Extra Crunch include some of the most experienced and skilled startup lawyers in practice today. So use these resources to identify attorneys focused on serving companies at your stage and then reach out for further guidance in the particular issues at hand.

The Employment Law checklist:

Employee vs. independent contractor classification

  • Payroll Taxes and Payroll Providers
  • Federal Classification: 21-Part Test
  • State Classification: Various tests, e.g., Dynamex in California
  • Intentional vs. Unintentional Misclassification and Penalties

Minimum wage and hour laws

  • Application to founders
  • Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • State Laws

Meal and rest breaks, vacation pay

  • Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • State Laws

Deferred compensation

  • Rule 409A
  • Founders
  • Employees

Sexual harassment, discrimination, and related claims

  • Federal:
    • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
    • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
    • Equal Pay Act of 1963
    • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
  • State Laws
  • Employee Handbook
  • Documentation and Investigation

Work authorization / immigration

  • Form I-9 (Employees) and W-9 (Independent Contractors)
  • For Temporary Workers:
    • Visa Waiver Program
    • B-1
  • Employee Visas:
    • H1-B
    • L-1
    • O-1
  • Students:
    • F-1 with OPT STEM Extension
  • Other Visas:
    • EB-5
    • E Visas (E-1, E-2, E3)


Employee vs. independent contractor classification

One of the biggest employment law issues that startups get wrong, often willingly, is “employee” versus “independent contractor” classification. For employees, a startup must withhold and pay federal, state, and local income taxes, state disability, and payments under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act and Federal Insurance Contribution Act (i.e. Social Security and Medicare), not to mention contributions for federal and state unemployment and workers compensation insurance. Given this complexity, startups should absolutely hire a payroll provider to help manage the process, such as ADP, Gusto, Paychex or Quickbooks.

Of course, all of this gets expensive. Instead, far too many early-stage startups simply hire “independent contractors” to avoid everything mentioned above, often misclassifying these workers in the process, whether under federal law, state law, or both.