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Sure Inc. sues rival startup Boost Insurance, alleging it's a copycat

It's every founder's worst nightmare: You take money from a venture capitalist, who then uses what he learns from due diligence and board meetings to create a competitor.

Driving the news: Sure Inc., a startup that provides the infrastructure layer between insurance companies and consumer brands, has sued Boost Insurance, a rival VC-backed startup whose founder and CEO was an early Sure investor and director.

Sure's founding story is that serial entrepreneur Wayne Slavin was on a very bumpy plane flight and thought there could be a market for instant insurance purchases, like buying travel or life insurance while at the airport gate.

  • Sure was founded in late 2014 as a branded distribution platform, but soon evolved into more of an invisible middleman, kind of like Shopify or Stripe.
  • It raised seed funding in 2015 and in early 2017 closed a Series A round led by IA Capital Group. IA partner Alex Maffeo joined Sure's board.

Per the suit: Several weeks after the round closed, and months after IA had begun due diligence, Maffeo told Slavin about an internal IA project that would basically act as a service provider to insure-tech startups like Sure (which declined to use Boost).

  • During board meetings with Maffeo, Sure claims that Slavin disclosed the startup's plans to evolve into more of an API provider, how it planned to do so and its customer acquisition strategy.
  • On March 2, 2017, Maffeo allegedly asked Slavin for "more info on the API" and that July asked for "insight on the technology side."
  • Boost soon spun out of IA Capital as an independent, VC-backed startup with Maffeo as CEO. He was replaced as IA's rep on Sure's board, but remained an "advisory partner" and kept attending Sure meetings until February 2018.
  • By mid-2019, Sure claims that Boost had pivoted into a full-fledged competitor, no longer calling itself a service provider to insure-techs. Sure would eventually come up against Boost in at least two customer acquisition efforts.
  • From the complaint: “It was now clear to Sure that Maffeo had stolen Sure’s ideas, technology, and trade secrets, all of which he obtained while he was a member of Sure’s Board, and misappropriated that information to turn Boost into a carbon copy of Sure.”

This isn't an open and shut case, no matter the optics.

  • Yes, New York law does have a pretty broad definition of trade secret.
  • But Boost will likely argue that there are more differences with Sure than similarities, such as how Boost self-underwrites.
  • I reached out to Maffeo for comment on Thursday morning, but he said he was unaware of the suit (which was filed last night). I sent him a court-stamped copy, to which he replied: "I'll need some time to review with counsel before commenting further, but this is categorically untrue."
  • IA Capital, which focuses on insure-tech, is not named as a defendant.

Bottom line: Conventional wisdom in startup-land is that execution differentiates, not ideas. But this case may test the primacy of ideas, as Sure is essentially asking the court to shut Boost down.

National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

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Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

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Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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Driving the news: The long-distance 1,500m race has traditionally only been available to men at the Olympics, and the Tokyo Games mark the first time that it has been open to women.

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