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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2021

Alchemy Crew is Unearthing New Sources of Growth by De-Risking Insurance Venturing


Today’s sales and marketing, finance, transformation, and R&D departments are under high pressure to succeed in a cost-constrained environment. They must deliver results fast. And many now realize that partnering and investing in promising startups and growth ventures can help them adapt quickly, gain knowledge, and become more responsive to evolving market dynamics. It is well known that startups backed by corporate VCs generate higher returns than pure VCs. With current growth pressures brought about by COVID-19, corporate venturing arms will amplify their venturing activities to drive the top-line growth many businesses need to see right now. Alchemy Crew’s systemic approach de-risks game-changing initiatives for executive, transformation and innovation leaders in the insurance sector, and adds speed and convenience to project delivery regardless of market dynamics.

Alchemy Crew’s main objective is to accelerate insurance players’ ability to de-risk their venturing activities. “We want to accelerate companies’ ability to respond to changing threats and be more engaged with opportunities that can yield significant returns, eliminating initiatives that may cause poor ROI by forcing decisions through collaboration and co-investment,” said Sabine VanderLinden, CEO and Managing Partner of Alchemy Crew.

The company’s process considers five criteria:

  • aligning selective priorities with the corporate center and solving those through ecosystem-led thinking
  • protecting the internal venturing team from corporate apathy
  • linking the inner-corporate-self to a vibrant outside venture community
  • accelerating partnerships, investment, and the launch of new ventures while leveraging corporate assets to make them successful
  • balancing the value of financial vs. strategic returns from these ventures

Alchemy Crew does this by deploying its central capability, a virtual venture lab, which combines R&D, reinvention, and commercialization.

We interviewed the company’s Co-Founder, CEO and Managing Partner Sabine VanderLinden to know about how Alchemy Crew is working to make things easy for insurers, reinsurers, and other players in the fintech sector. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.

Firstly - please give us an overview of your company, the work that you do, and the services you offer.

Alchemy Crew is a venture validation and commercialization lab primarily designed for insurers, reinsurers, and financial services institutions. Still, we are often approached by adjacent industries wanting to enter the finance sector. We use open innovation, digital experimentation, and ecosystem-building techniques to accelerate an incumbent’s ability to either partner, invest or build growth ventures. The ultimate goal is to help disruptive market players unearth new growth sources by leveraging emerging corporate venturing techniques. We also want to help them deliver relevant product and service options that align with the wants and needs of a changing customer. Due to COVID-19 and with the support of Innovate UK, we virtualized and digitized our structured delivery framework to short-cut evaluation experimentations and significantly de-risks corporate-led growth initiatives.

We exploit a series of Venturing Lab options to speed up transformative venturing activities for the novice to the expert market player – young or mature:

  • Light option -> The R&D Lab: our partners use this option to augment their ability to speed up their R&D activities by balancing customer, market, and venturing insight to identify the most effective partnership and investment options
  • Core option -> The Reinvention Engine: our partners use this option to accelerate their ability to launch new products and services quickly. We leverage validation, experimentation, and commercializing techniques to speed the launch of customer-led offers by identifying ecosystems of ventures rather than building things from scratch
  • Build option -> The Venture Lab: We understand that not all concepts are made equal. And while a lot of ventures are already building innovative and disruptive concepts, gaps still exist. We leverage our insight on needs, existing venture ecosystems, and business model transformation to help find new growth opportunities to accelerate the design of winning digital businesses

Q. What kind of clients do you serve, and how do you approach them?

We have a three-sided business model. We work with:

  • Insurers and financial services institutions: our goal is to enable them to accelerate their venturing activities by considering partnership and investment opportunities as the core growth options. We also see adjacent sectors engaging to access our insurance expertise (e.g., automotive, energy)
  • Startups, scaleups, and grownups: based on our understanding of the competitive threats emerging within specific tech areas, we work with a wide range of ventures to support major digital initiatives’ fast executive.
  • Investors (corporate VCs and CVCs): those with specific investment priorities share with us their investment mandates to help us better direct those ventures that fit the bill. As we identify great candidates for partnership, they also become interesting contenders for investment

Q. What role does your staff play in the success of your firm?

Our team is essential to the success of the business. A vital part of Alchemy Crew’s success is the “Crew” word of the name. We are a team of like-minded people that thinks like entrepreneurial owners, with the kindness and emotional-relatedness to understand the needs of a multitude of market segments and find solutions to some of the most challenging problems.

However, the Crew is not the only part of the equation. Our network of trusted execution partners, from dedicated value proposition design strategists, academia, design sprinters to venture builders, enable us to shape quickly the teams needed to address some of the most complex digitization experiments and commercialization environments. Together, we work as a unified and engaged network of multi-disciplinary competencies. We brainstorm. We design and build effective programs to solve tomorrow’s digital transformation challenge via strong relationships, ethics, transparency, and trust among engaged networks of relations.

Q. Can you tell us about any specific industry-based challenges you are facing right now or you may face in the near future? What impact has COVID-19 had on your industry or operations?

COVID-19 has had an impact on the world at large. We do see new challenges emerging within new spaces, such as Climate Change, Sustainability, and The Transition Economy. However, will all industry players consider these topics as part of their strategic priorities? The latter is unlikely as the cost to undertake the research or get started is not insignificant. Due to current existing uncertainty, we can see our sector taking time to make significant decisions.

Building partnerships within the insurance and financial services industries, known for their risk-averse nature, has become strenuous for some, particularly those who had left their digitization initiatives on the back burner. The intense focus on research, detail-orientated reporting, resilience, and emerging risks has become highly prevalent. The added complex justifications for any expenditure, let alone innovation, are almost impossible when most organizations are cutting costs, if not struggling to survive. A laser-focused lens on what matters most will be even more critical.

Q. Were there any unexpected benefits or advantages to the situation you found yourself in during COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased attention for specific topics due to the transition required to survive in a post-COVID world. We have spent the past year curating a few highly relevant topics for our market and stakeholders. These include:

  1. sustainability and climate change,
  2. health and wellness,
  3. emerging risks (e.g., electric/ autonomous vehicles), and
  4. operational resilience

These topics now require entirely different perspectives on how solution-market fit, partnerships, and ecosystems are built.

“We exploit a series of Venturing Lab options to speed up transformative venturing activities for the novice to the expert market player – young or mature.”