qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalists: 5 minutes with Pablow API

iStock_000026015779LargePablow is a B2B global market place for niche travel Insurances. It provides a cloud-based platform that matches niche/micro travel insurance suppliers to travel sellers and facilitates all aspects of the transactions for a small fee. Local suppliers can now easily reach new distribution channels while sellers can access relevant and global content with just a few clicks.

What is Pablow API?

Pablow helps the David’s of this world compete with the Goliaths! For example, the website AirBnb.com enables private and unique accommodation providers from around the world (the David’s), to group together as a marketplace and compete with the established hotel industry. Similarly, Pablow enables local and niche travel insurance providers to group their services together online to compete with multinational insurance giants.

When did you found the company and where is it based?

Pablow is an Australian company, founded in 2012. We have offices on the Gold Coast and in Berlin, Germany. The European base is important to the company’s growth. It means we can easily meet with the dozens of travel insurance providers that will use the Pablow platform. We also have access to the larger scale capital markets and the larger population: 740 million versus Australia’s 23 million.

Has the product launched or is it about to launch?

We’ve launched two parts of the product. We have our own niche travel insurance product, which sells car rental excess insurance. It’s called Tripcover.me. Allianz agreed to create the product for us, and we trialed it in 2012. So far its working pretty well with more than 10,000 polices sold, generating more than half a million in sales. The second part of the product is the Pablow API platform. We initially created Pablow to scale the distribution of Tripcover. However, in the process we realised that there are literally hundreds of small to mid-sized travel insurance sellers who also needed a platform to reach the global market, we pivoted and Pablow was born. The insurance products for Australia and New Zealand have been loaded into the Pablow platform and it is now powering the Tripcover retail websites.

What gave you the idea for the product?

The initial idea of Tripcover, came about after many years in the online car rental business, we saw an opportunity to offer a disruptive alternative to the car rental company’s expensive rental insurance. The idea for the Pablow API platform came from our desire to scale up and distribute the Tripcover product globally via third party websites such as airlines and online travel agents. We quickly realised that without a truly global product offering we had little chance to be considered by global travel sites. By creating the Pablow platform – where we can combine our product offering with other insurance providers from around the world – we can offer a much more robust and global footprint.

What is an API?

In normal language, an API is a database that other websites can access and use seamlessly on their own sites. It means thousands of websites can one data source, rather than each website needing its own database. In geek language, API itself is an acronym for Application Program Interface. It allows software to successfully plug together like an iPhone recharger plugging into a compatible power point.

Have you raised any investment to date?

We secured a $40,000 Startup Chile grant (no equity) from the Chilean Government in November 2013 to build Pablow API from scratch. We also received an $80,000 offer from 500 Startups Accelerator in San Francisco, though declined the offer preferring to initially be based and funded by a European Venture Capital firm. We’re now in talks with several VC firms, both in Berlin and London.

Who are the founders?

Pablow’s founders are Steve Sherlock, Desmond Sherlock and Andrew Blake. Steve and Des are brothers who worked for six years together on a previous start-up, Oodles.com. Steve and Andrew met while working at Virgin Australia in Brisbane, as part of the eCommerce projects team. After receiving the Start-up Chile grant, Andrew came on board as CTO and a co-founder.

Have you had prior experience in developing new technologies and creating start-ups?

Steve has been involved in the online start-up space since 1997. In 2001, he founded VroomVroomVroom, Australia’s leading car rental comparison site. In 2006, he founded Oodles.com with his brother Des, for which over $2million in investment was raised. Both of these businesses used web services and API’s as an integral part of their technology platforms.

Stephen and Andrew are QUT alumni. What did you study at QUT and when?

Steve studied International Business and German for his undergraduate degree, which he completed in 2002. In 2010, he started an MBA on a part time basis and after completing two thirds of the course, he put it hold to pursue his latest venture. Andrew Blake completed his Advanced Masters of IT at QUT, graduating in 2006.

What would it mean for Pablow to win the Innovation Challenge?

Hmm a couple of things, but most importantly for us being involved and having the chance to pitch is a terrific way for us to refine and better articulate our business model and what we are trying to achieve and why. Regardless of the outcome we’ll be in front. If by chance we were to win the Innovation Challenge, the recognition from a prestigious university such as QUT would boost our profile and support our efforts to raise venture capital. Additionally, the prize money would give us more run way to gain further traction and build the value of the business, prior to raising venture capital.