The top 25: Jacqueline LeSage, managing director, Munich Re Ventures
Jacqueline LeSage is founder and managing director of Munich Re Ventures (MRV), the strategic corporate venture capital (CVC) arm for Germany-listed reinsurance firm Munich Re including its US-based Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) Inspection and Insurance arm and its Europe-based ERGO primary insurance subsidiary.
LeSage joined the company to form the venture group in 2014, initially with $50m in capital from HSB. Over the past five years under her leadership, MRV has expanded to work strategically with all Munich Re business groups and grown to more than $500m in capital committed across four funds and 12 investment themes.
At MRV, LeSage has applied her insights to drive the firm and industry forward. She currently sits on the boards of Augury and Trov and is a board observer at Helium and Forge. Previously, she was on the board of Relayr, until its acquisition by HSB/Munich Re.
LeSage explained that as MRV is a strategic CVC unit, strategic goals come first while financial goals are equally important for ensuring partnership success and CVC longevity, adding that MRV funds have a financial return target. By leveraging Munich Re’s balance sheet and industry network, portfolio companies receive added value from the group’s many different business units (BUs).
This is demonstrated by the strategic success of Munich Re’s initial three BU-driven funds – Munich Re Fund, HSB Fund and Ergo Fund. All of these funds’ portfolio companies have had strategic engagement with a Munich Re business. And two of the companies went on to either be acquired by Munich Re/HSB (Relayr) or had a significant investment from the parent company (Next).
Munich Re’s newest fund – a strategic optionality fund – is governed by MRV and invests in strategic investment themes ahead of the businesses. A robust portfolio development team within MRV takes over the strategic relationship initially, nurturing potential future opportunities for mutual strategic value between the portfolio company and Munich Re businesses to the point of reality. The first three investment areas for this fund are insurtech, energy transition and next-generation transportation.
LeSage’s main focus, in addition to remaining an active investor, has been to develop a strong and stable investment platform for many of the diverse and still emergent approaches that Munich Re would be taking to accessing innovation.
MRV has some 30 portfolio companies to date, primarily in the internet of things and insurtech sectors at all stages across North America and Europe. Its latest deals include rounds for electricity management technology developer Span.io, online insurance platform developer Next Insurance, pet insurance provider Bought by Many, mobile auto and health insurance platform Acko General Insurance and machine analysis technology developer Augury Systems.
Meanwhile, online home insurance provider Hippo Enterprises agreed to a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company Reinvent Technology Partners Z in March 2021 to list on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of $5bn.
This depth and range of activity have helped LeSage attract talented individuals to join her team, including GCV Emerging Leaders Sidra Ahmed Lefort and Oshri Kaplan as well as Rising Stars Ben Bergsma, Sophie Dingreville, Matthew McElhattan, Veronica Gabriele and Amir Kabir.
LeSage was previously vice-president of innovation and CVC at US-based insurer Hartford Financial Services Group. She was responsible for both internal innovation – incubating new offerings, customer experiences and business models through the Innovation Studio – and external innovation – investing in startups and forming strategic alliances through Hartford Ventures.