State Farm launches venture fund, partners with IBM Watson

State Farm is moving forward with several digital initiatives as the largest personal lines P&C insurer in the U.S. by market share rides the digitalization wave shaking up the industry.

The company has launched a $100 million fund, State Farm Ventures, with the goal of increasing its involvement in and adoption of insurtech. Led by innovation executive Michael Remmes, the unit will focus on "acquiring startups or strategic alliances that support our core products," says spokesperson Angie Harrier.

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With a major thrust of insurtech being use cases for artificial intelligence, State Farm is beginning to explore that technology as well. The insurer is running an ad campaign along with the Weather Company and IBM Watson through Halloween that uses Watson's cognitive computing technology to deliver relevant storm-preparation content to affected customers.

State Farm has provided content from its Simple Insights web page to train Watson to answer questions inside an ad that will be placed next to weather.com or app results for severe weather.

"Users can ask, 'what can I put in an emergency kit,' 'how do I keep my pet safe,' 'how do I board up windows' when severe weather approaches," explains Patty Morris, director of brand content for State Farm. "We worked over a few months to train the corpus of Watson on what responses people will interact with."

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