Coming to a VRMA Conference Near You!

In the last quarter of 2016 Pablow, Inc. is looking to come out of stealth mode with our go to market strategy. One of the key elements of this go to market strategy is to build strategic business relationships with the US vacation rental industry, including property owners, managers, retailers, and system providers. The first major step will happen at the national VRMA conference in Phoenix, AZ starting Sunday, October 16th. This blog is for the people and companies we will meet at VRMA and serves as an introduction to our company and our booth next week.

WHO IS PABLOW?

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If you’re wandering around the VRMA conference in Phoenix looking for a guy named Pablow, you’ll surely be disappointed to find out that Pablow is the name of a company rather than a person. Our company is an insurance and technology start-up located in Des Moines, IA, but with employees and executives from across the globe.

Our mission is to rid the world of suffering … in relation to travel insurance. More specifically, our goal is to solve the insurance industry’s problems of extreme lack of personalization and clumsy infrastructure.

Our company’s vision is to make hassle-free and relevant travel insurance offers available to travelers all over the world. We want to move the perception of travel insurance towards an intelligent and highly personalized protection option for travelers on a global basis. To accomplish our vision we strive to be daring, enjoyable, considerate, accountable, reasonable, responsible, and transparent.

WHY IS PABLOW AT VRMA?

Pablow is an insurance company focused on the vacation rental industry. This year at VRMA our goal is to establish strategic business relationships with VRMA members that will allow our company to offer insurance to travelers all across the US. That means that we want to meet you and figure out if our companies could work together!

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM PABLOW?

Last year we had the chance to attend the show in New Orleans and were very impressed with the professionalism of the entire conference. As a first-time exhibitor at the national VRMA conference this year we are excited to share our fun and innovative technology with the travel insurance industry. In fact, we will be launching our automated website builder that will allow vacation rental companies to create a fully customizable insurance website in just minutes.

In addition to the new technology we are launching at VRMA, we want to have some fun as we learn about other companies and share information about Pablow. To do this we will be playing a fun and interactive game at our booth that anyone has the chance to win. If you can successfully complete the challenges at our booth you will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win a $150 Amazon gift card. Visit booth number 308 to find out what game we will be playing and to win yourself a $150 Amazon gift card!

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Find Pablow, Inc. at Booth #308 (circled in the above map)

You will also be able to bid on our company’s donation to the silent auction. Although not a typical item people would see in an auction, we pulled together some resources to support the cause of preventing regulations on vacation properties.

To all those who are joining us at VRMA’s national conference starting this Sunday, we look forward to meeting with you soon.

Startup Life: Reflections Of An Intern

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Introduction

 ‘If you find something you love doing, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ Allow me to introduce myself in a few words. I’m a young woman studying business with big dreams. Chinese by descent, Zimbabwean born and raised, a minority among minorities, culturally complex, detail oriented, highly analytical, adaptable and trying to find my niche in a fast paced, constantly evolving business world. 

This summer I took on an opportunity that I’d never had before and I had no realistic idea exactly to expect. I knew it was a startup – an entrepreneurial venture typically described as a newly emerging and fast-growing business, but I wasn’t really sure what that would mean for my day to day tasks as an intern.

Every startup environment is different, but they all seek to solve a current problem with an innovative solution. I’ve chosen a few aspects of my internship at Pablow that really stuck out to me, taught me a lot and are what I believe made my summer at Pablow a unique experience.

Passion, Drive and Self Motivation

Compared to the life of intern at a big corporate firm – the structure of mine was, speaking colloquially, relatively ‘chilled.’ I was given the responsibility of choosing my clocking in and out time, as long as my total hours weekly fell within a given range. The duration and timing of my lunch break was also up to me. I was also given the choice of working remotely (from home, library or cafe – whatever works). For someone who is most comfortable with routine and structure this was definitely a change. I learned that while this kind of flexibility comes with a lot of freedom, it requires lot of responsibility and discipline. I was fortunate to be in an working environment of driven and motivated individuals that taught me something – that if you find something you really love doing, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Use of Innovative Technology

For a company with only a handful of employees, the ball is rolling at an impressive velocity at Pablow. Steve Sherlock – my boss and seasoned entrepreneur is currently working in an Insuretech meets Traveltech startup (notice all the tech’s here). He’s a huge internet enthusiast and has the habits of a millennial when it comes to his knowledge and efficient use of all online services (i.e. it’s always Uber and Airbnb). In the beginning of this internship I felt like I had been living under a rock before and I was just starting to see the light on everything that is available in the travel industry. From the get go I learned to delegate certain tasks and work to freelancers all around the world. I watched and learned about loads of innovative online services within the travel industry and beyond, from digital guest book creators (Touchstay) to website testers and online accountants. There’s no limit to what is being created in this age of digital adaptation and Pablow is no stranger to this.

Learning by Trial And Error

On my first day, Steve sat me down where he presented Pablow’s business model, vision and products. Then I was given my role, along with a list of projects to work on, and Steve told me – there’s probably many ways out there to get this done, but how exactly I would get this done was up to me. At a startup, there’s not always a file of tried and tested programs or procedures to getting something done, and most of the time it’s never been done before – so it’s really a process of trial and error. I had never created a full survey, infographic or a demonstration video or had the concise knowledge of any programs in particular that might do the job, but the time had come to learn. I embarked on an exciting self taught journey with Survey Monkey, Tanida Demo Builder, info graphic makers including Piktochart, Canva, Venngage, Vis.me and Animaker. I was, for the most part, single handedly in charge of a list of projects and tasks, which initially didn’t seem so extensive given the eight weeks I had, but soon I learned it’s more about the quality than quantity. Additionally I learned that most marketing projects are an ongoing process that constantly change based on a number of factors, which makes checking off items on a long to-do list difficult. I had to take my meticulous work to another level and be concise in all I did. I also learned to make use of Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. This kind of practical, immediately applicable, hands on learning by simply being thrown right into the deep end, is probably the best and fastest way to learn.

Conclusion

Working under Steve and learning from him was also truly valuable – he is wise, calm, driven and his approach of describing the destination and allowing me to work out the path to get there was a liberating experience. Every startup culture is unique and a little different but mine has been an unforgettable and vital learning experience. The autonomy I was given forced me to find my feet and then jump high. Experimenting on unfamiliar ground – such as publishing a blog post for the first time is a little daunting at first, but it’s an unforgettable and empowering experience that I wouldn’t trade for another summer internship.

Global Travel Trends That Are Catching On

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Thanks to the internet, there’s more accessible information available on travel, both international and domestic than ever before. And in the travel industry, service providers are having to cater for a more diverse group of travelers of all ages, origins and reasons for travel; some for leisure and relaxation, others for business, the adventurers and thrill seekers. Let’s take a look at 3 global markets that are thriving and find out why they are, and how these trends are going global.

 

1.European Style Hotel Meets Hostels

Backpacking across the stunning European terrain has long been immensely popular for travelers of all ages of origins. Affordable and convenient transportation – both by air, rail and road between European countries may be one reason for the popularity of hiking across the Western region of this continent, but the traditionally simplistically frugal hostel type housing that originally catered for backpackers and students is becoming more popular. Providing basic, practical and useful facilities and amenities with a casual social atmosphere at a low cost is becoming increasingly popular and this trend is spreading across bigger cities in Asia and the US alike such as Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York and Miami.[1] This provides much sought after  alternative housing options in  traditionally pricier and mainstream chain hotel type lodging  and attracting millennials who are more cost conscious and make up an increasing segment of the travel industry.

 

  1. Latin America’s Homegrown Brands

Latin America is so diverse – culturally, economically, politically and geographically and the travel and hospitality industry is fragmented as a result of this. While this presents a set of challenges, a lot of opportunity is also created.[2]One of South America’s strengths lies in intimately knowing the local terrain and local consumer preferences – this is how small and medium businesses have an advantage over larger multinational companies. Partnering with local institutions from banks to restaurants and attractions rather than seeing them as competition is important and creates a win-win situation for the community. Smaller boutique type hotels have been gaining popularity as are smaller businesses and unique vacation rental and a lot of small businesses thriving simply by maximizing what is unique to them. Young travelers are looking for unique, undiscovered gems to create unforgettable memories and they don’t have to be 1000 miles away – ‘Staycations’, or staying closer to home are becoming increasingly popular. Latin America’s homegrown brands are an example of how smaller, independent businesses can flourish simply because they know the area better than anyone else.

 

  1. China’s technology and infrastructure advancement

In 2012, Chinese tourists overtook the Germans and American tourists by spending $102 billion on tourism[3] – it’s no wonder that Chinese tourists are much sought after, and such  growth  was a major  talking point of the US Travel show this year. While the habits of the Chinese tourists – good, bad, ugly or stereotypical is a whole topic for another day, let’s focus on how the Chinese get to travel at this rate. The limelight is on the technology and infrastructure present in China. China’s travel market today is based on rock solid foundations of airports, airlines, and traditional distribution methods with well established relationships all across the market. And the Chinese get all the information they need even without websites and apps, for which some of us can barely go a day without using – such as Google (Drive, Maps, Docs- all of it), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  But China’s startup and tech industry is exploding and they’ve got their own platforms, and many travel websites such as TripAdvisor have launched their Chinese .cn versions. WeChat, for example is immensely popular and has over 500 million users who discuss and share everything – travel experiences included. China does have the world’s largest smartphone market after all.[4] So if you aren’t already on board and making use of all the innovative technologies for maximizing bookings to providing ancillary services- we suggest you jump on the bandwagon. 

 

What are your thoughts? What are some other global trends we may have missed ? We want to know what you think!

 

[1] Roth, Howard and Fishbin, Michael., pg. 14 EY Global hospitality insights Top thoughts for 2015

[2]  Luke Bujarski, and Hoffman, Colie., pg. 8 Mexico Online Travel Overview Second Edition (January 2015)

[3]  Cripps, Cripps., Chinese tourism: The good, the bad and the backlash (February 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/travel/chinese-tourism-impact/

[4] https://www.tnooz.com/article/heads-up-learn-from-chinese-travel-market/

Nitty-Gritties of Vacation Rental Insurance

travel insurance

 

You have decided to treat yourself to a well deserved two week vacation. Some of your closest buddies are coming along too.  You’ve saved up 3 months for this trip , and you are just about to proceed to make the payment for your vacation rental that makes your bank account cry a little- then there’s a pop-up suggesting you pay X amount for insurance to cover your trip . Are you going to take it ?

As a startup providing next generation travel insurance – you would think that the first thing we do want to do is to convince you with a bunch of compelling  reasons why you should purchase travel insurance. But what we really want to tell you about are some flaws of the system, hurdles when it comes to providing and purchasing vacation rental travel insurance and why, in general, travel insurance tends to get a bad rep and how this can be simplified.

 

Travel Insurance…? Nah, I think I’ll pass

While some people won’t leave for a trip unless they’re covered, there’s a bigger group who see travel insurance as an unnecessary expense. Effectively more travelers intend to buy travel insurance than actually do. This was evidenced in recent UK research, where fewer than one in three adults said that they had bought travel insurance in the past 12 months, whereas “almost seven in ten adults (68.9%) said that they would not go abroad without travel insurance.” ~Goodman Fox.
Chances are you are on one of  either end of this spectrum. If you are in the latter, the thought of insurance companies, claims, underwriters are all rather incomprehensible, and daunting to you. You want nothing to do with them, because you are only going away for a couple of  weeks anyway. Furthermore you don’t understand their jargon, let alone their policy’s fine print about what’s covered and what’s not covered. The policy booklet you found online is 20 pages long,  with many policy features that are not relevant you your trip. It’s like they are offering you a one size fits all policy but one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to insurance. So you decide to ignore that pop up ad and go on without insurance on your vacation rental.

 

The Problem

A month or so down the line,  you’ve made additional purchases to your trip – finally booked your flight tickets and a car rental. You are realising you’ve got more money at stake now. Your vacation city is prone to hurricanes, what if one hits and your trip is cancelled ? And will everyone really be alright doing all those extreme water sports you have planned out ? You find yourself thinking about that pop up for travel insurance , and how you’d really rather be safe than sorry. So you go back and try to find out where that ad for travel insurance came from. No luck. So you go on the look up the major insurance companies. Only to find out that they do not sell vacation rental related travel insurance after the final trip payment was made. This, it turns out, is one of the most discouraging hurdles to consumers when it comes to purchasing specialized vacation rental travel insurance.

 

Most major insurance companies will not let you purchase insurance after you have made your initial reservation. For them, it’s too much of a risk- especially  if people are only purchasing travel insurance after they’ve their reservations in response to a hurricane or natural disaster warning or something of this sort. Which makes sense, from their perspective. But this problem in travel insurance leaves many travelers worried, with some unease and potentially uncovered. They may not even be aware of this problem but it’s this  kind of situation leaves both the traveler and the vacation rental manager in an uncomfortable,  what-if situation.

 

The Solution

With our mission to rid the world of suffering in terms of travel insurance – we are working on the solution to this problem. It involved having to get licensed to sell insurance in 50 states in the US – a lengthy and and costly process. And as a B2B2C company, our services cater  to businesses all across the vacation rental industry i.e.property managers, software providers, individual owners, channel managers and more, and effectively offer their clients or guests specialized vacation rental trip insurance via a stand alone insurance website. What makes this insurance different is that  it can be sold all the way from when the original vacation rental payment is made, right up to 24 hours before check in. Thus we are closing the gap and making vacation rental travel insurance more readily available right up till 24 hours before check in.

 

Were you aware of this problem ? What other hurdles are both providers and consumers of travel facing ? We want to hear your thoughts !

 

The Waiting Game

This blog is meant as a follow up to Steve Sherlock‘s article “License to Thrill!”  It is recommended, though not necessary, that you read the article before continuing as it provides context for the following discussion.

INTRODUCTION

When Pablow Inc. began as a company in the United States we had a vision of rapidly transforming the landscape of the insurance industry by eliminating complexities and inefficiencies that are so prevalent throughout the industry.  What we did not know is how many of those complexities and inefficiencies we would have to deal with first to try to accomplish our goals (e.g. licensing, legitimization, compliance etc.).  After a couple of years with headquarters in the United States and offices in Australia, we have come to the conclusion that working in the insurance industry can sometimes feel like a waiting game.

RULES OF THE GAME

  1. You may only participate in the game after receiving licensing in each US state for each type of insurance offered in that state, which will cost your company tens of thousands of dollars.
  2. When you want to begin the game and have everything arranged to start, be prepared to wait a significant amount of time before you may actually initiate the first turn.  The amount of time to wait depends on the players, their background, and a variety of unidentified variables, but be assured that this time can not be lessened.
  3. Once you’ve begun the game you may only advance with the most cautious of moves, as any one mistake can revert you to the starting point.  Your opponents and teammates must also play this way, which means that it will take a long amount of time to complete any one move, much less a series of moves.
  4. Once players begin the game it takes longer to develop relationships with other non-players who are cautious about the intentions of players.
  5. Verbal strategy is the quickest way to initiate execution of a plan, but beware that putting moves in writing is almost always required and will take an unexpectedly long amount of time regardless of the type of plan.
  6. The rules of the game may be changed at any time, and players are expected to react immediately or may face a loss of turn if they play outside of the new rules.

PLAYING THE GAME (Startup Companies)

Now that we’ve covered just a few of the most important rules to the waiting game, it’s important to know how to play the game.  For this you will have to rely on your experience alone due to the complexity of the insurance industry, and for those without previous experience be prepared to build it quickly or face yourself playing another game.

Although the waiting game is difficult to manage, particularly for new players, there is hope.  The first important game strategy is to find a sponsoring company whose key performance indicators are linked to your success, in other words they need you!

Once you’ve developed a relationship with a sponsor it’s critically important you continue to move your game piece toward the finish line with regular conference calls and tight timelines, because you want to get into the market as soon as possible.  Within the last year, I’ve experienced a project being killed off at the last minute after six months of preparation because someone decided we were a competitor to their organization; a fate that might’ve been avoided had I better communicated the benefits of our distributor relationship.  Instead of working with the company to distribute their product to a niche market, we entered a partnership with one of their competitors, which will help us ensure we serve a new market niche.  Based on my experience and knowledge of other entrepreneurial ventures, I can confidently say that by getting your product to market you’ve reached a major checkpoint in the waiting game.

The game can be won, but it will take time and will be incredibly difficult for even the most resilient players.  At Pablow, Inc. we’ve been through many situations working with insurance companies that have been psychologically uncomfortable, but as we persist we’ve realized that there’s a sense of thrill that comes with preparing our gameplay strategy in order to advance ourselves toward the finish line.

A NOTE TO THE GAME MAKERS (The Insurance Industry)

“An idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived.” ~ Taleb
It’s important that you look at startup companies as partners, rather than as competition, when they present new ways to solve old problems.  If you find that you have similar goals and values, then it’s easiest for the players if you provide the rules of play, but otherwise let them decide on a gameplay strategy.  This is primarily because startups are worried about timeliness, especially with technology companies, and when larger companies intervene in the process it tends to delay technology and project completion.  As a rule, entrepreneurs should be given more freedom to solve problems, because they can often get it solved more quickly than the bureaucracy inherent at larger corporations.
Finally, I strongly suggest you consider working with startup companies in the future as your problems need solutions.  If insurance companies embrace entrepreneurial partnerships then they may divert their work from business as usual to an innovative solution that they would not otherwise have thought of or been able to take advantage of.  You never know how an innovative group of entrepreneurs might solve your most complex and persistent challenges.

Small Company, Big Responsibility

INTRODUCTION

While most college students are going to end up working their summers for the parks and recreation department as an assistant manager, for the local pool as a lifeguard, or in the best scenario for a company as an intern in their field of study; few will get the opportunity to lead a department, determine company strategy, or work on their own schedule.  The one opportunity you have to make a real difference for an organization is surprisingly an option that few students apply for, an internship with a startup company.

This blog will cover the intern experience of one of Pablow Inc.‘s most recent hires, Dylan DeClerck, who was hired to lead the company’s marketing efforts this spring and has continued to work for the company this summer.  Among the projects Dylan has helped lead for the company include developing and implementing a content strategy, developing and using sales materials to contact prospective business partners, creating new processes for marketing efforts, implementing a CRM system, directing the work of freelancers, and revamping social media strategies.

DYLAN

“This spring I had an excellent experience working for Pablow Inc. and CEO, Steve Sherlock, on all of our marketing efforts.  What I enjoyed most about my internship was 1) the flexibility of my work schedule, 2) the autonomy of my work tasks, and 3) importance of my efforts on the direction of the company.

  1. FLEXIBILITY

During my internship this past semester I was taking a full course load of 18 credits and traveling eight hours every weekend to play professional ultimate frisbee, a big passion of mine.  Luckily, Steve gave me the flexibility to set my own schedule and work hours as long as it was approximately 10-15 hours per week.  After some discussion, we decided that it would work best in my schedule if I worked 6-7 hours per week in the office each Tuesday, and the rest of the work time I could simply report every two weeks so Steve could input it into the payroll system.

Besides a flexible weekly schedule, Steve was incredibly accommodating with my full academic schedule.  In fact, the week before finals I worked just a few hours and the week of finals I didn’t work at all so I could focus on my tests and projects.  While not all startup companies may be as accommodating as Pablow, I think that a majority of small companies understand the importance of certain personal commitments and are more than accommodating when it comes to flexible working arrangements.

  1. AUTONOMY

In addition to flexibility, I enjoyed the autonomy that working for a small company provided.  In a small company, not only is it unrealistic for managers to micromanage all of the intern’s tasks, it’s detrimental to the organization as a whole because work never gets done!

An example of an autonomous project was when I developed and used sales materials to contact prospective business partners.  At the beginning Steve and I sat down to cover our objectives for the project and potential approaches to achieve our goals, but after a short time of planning and introduction the rest of the project was mine to handle.  First I began writing our sales materials using information I had learned in sales classes and based on my research of the vacation rental industry.  After I had written the script I ran it by Steve and laid out our approach to contact travel system providers and retailers.  Once I had his approval, I spent two weeks reaching out to partners using our sales and marketing materials, and successfully brought on new business partners.  The best feedback I received from Steve that made my efforts feel worthwhile was that my work had “helped prove that this business concept could be a reality.”

Looking at how much autonomy I was given says a lot about the trust Steve had in my abilities to market his product to our target market, and because of the internship’s structure I can say that I successfully completed a lot of important projects for the organization.

  1. IMPORTANCE

I alluded to this in the previous section, but working for Pablow gave me the chance to work on some incredibly important work.  Did it create some pressure that I needed to perform at a high level?  Sure it did, but Steve made sure the pressure was always manageable and kept my projects moving in the right direction.

I felt the most pressure within the first couple of weeks of my internship when I was asked to essentially lay out the marketing direction and strategy for the entire company.  This challenged me to think outside of the box and use my limited experience to develop the best plan of attack for the company.

At the end of my internship I will be able to say I’ve done so many great things for this organization, and that it was an experience well worth my time.  Are there challenges of working for a small company?  Yes, of course there are, but I wouldn’t give up this experience to work for any other company or any other CEO this spring.”

Travel Apps You’ll Want To Use

 

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Travelling should always be an exciting and worry free experience, right ? Well, if you are anything like me, whether you are travelling alone or with a group you might feel somewhat stressed  or overwhelmed and maybe a little lost along the way. For one thing, like many millennials I tend to be a rather spontaneous traveler due to the occurrence of breaks or holidays or budget constraints and so my trips aren’t always planned that well in advance. So I’ve compiled a list of innovative apps and websites some of which I have used and some I’m excited to use in the near future all of which I believe will make the travel experience simpler and less stressful.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am learning as an intern at a travel tech meets insurance tech and financial tech startup that these industries are definitely in full bloom and there’s no loss of inspiration here. While there’s no perfect way of grouping these apps since many serve more than one purpose, I have tried to categorized them below.

1.Where to go and where to  stay ?  TripAdvisor, Yelp, Airbnb, Tansler

TripAdvisor, founded in 2000, continues to be the world’s leading travel websites with the freshest and most relevant information and reviews on hotels, restaurants, attractions and the like. They’ve vastly expanded over the last decade, acquiring a number of startups and gaining new and improved functionality in the process that can help you to decide what to do on your trip based hundreds of real reviews. Yelp hosts, develops and markets smaller businesses within local areas using crowd sourced reviews . Airbnb, which has taken the vacation rental market by storm by offering thousands of private accommodation listings from the most economic to most elaborate.  Tansler is a relatively new, multi award and rapidly expanding platform that allows travelers to set their price and chose at least two homes. They then send the offers to those homes creating an auction. The first host to accept the offer wins the travelers stay and the auction ends. The traveler then has 24 hours to accept the bid before it expires.

 

2.How to get there?  Rome2Rio , Uber

Rome2Rio provides comprehensive and informative information on how to get from one location to another by train, bus, plane, taxi, ferry, walking and driving route, and links from the transport companies. Uber, which has inevitably changed the way we travel is an ultra convenient, on demand taxi service all from the convenience of the Uber app. And it’s cashless and there’s no tipping necessary. Uber automatically deducts the trip fare from your credit card.

  1.  Make your travel itinerary. TripIt , Travefy Personal

TripIt creates a beautiful online itineraries available on all your devices with all your trip details – all you have to do is forward all your confirmation emails to the app. Your personalized itineraries can be emailed and shared with family, friends who might need to be on the loop about your whereabouts. TripIt also gives real-time alerts for connecting flights – so that’s less panicked running for monitors at airports for us. What about group trips ? It’s rarely an easy task to get everyone on the same page on what-to-do and what to see and travel group chats often end up with a lot of spam and irrelevant links. Travefy Personal is an app that lets groups plan trip itineraries with things to do from 8 million plus restaurants, activities, deals and more. You can also discover and make reservations for hotels and vacation rentals from Travefy Personal. Payments can be set up by card or cash so that no one gets stuck with the bill.

  1. Money Matters. Currency, Splittr

Splittr is wonderful for group trips when each of you paid for different things, and it the end , no one is sure exactly who owes what to whom. Splittr makes it simple so that you can add expenses,  who paid for it and who benefited from it. Uneven splitting and all currencies are supported by Splittr. At the end of the trip, PDF documents can be generated and sent to everyone in your group. You won’t have to worry about tedious calculations and excel documents for trips any longer. Currency is a super simple but powerful conversion app and is perfect if you are traveling abroad. It provides up to date rates of over 150 currencies and countries.

  1. Navigation. Google Maps, Waze , Maps.me

Google Maps is pretty basic , but oh-so-essential for your directions in getting from one place to another and they have some capacity to be used offline. Maps.me though, is a mapping system available offline once the maps are downloaded. And they seem to have maps of pretty much everywhere. The maps at Maps.me boasts having incredible detail right down to statues and water fountains and even dirt paths. A must if you are traveling without data or don’t have a wireless connection near you. Just don’t forget to download the map when you do have Wi-Fi. Waze is one of the largest community based traffic apps that works in real-time with real people giving live feedback about the state of roads and routes you are trying to navigate. Super helpful for road trips , especially in big cities.

So there you have it, apps designed to make your traveling  experience as stress free as possible. Are there any we forgot to mention ? Let us know your thoughts!

Adapting To The Travel Habits Of The Millennial

Young-travellers

Young travelers are taking up more of the tourism market than ever before and their lifestyle habits are creating new demands and innovations in the lodging experience. A study carried out in  2012 by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation revealed that of the $1.088 trillion spent by tourism worldwide, $217 billion came from young travelers between the ages of 18 and 34. As an innovative entrepreneurial startup connecting the lines between #insuretech and #traveltech, our mission is to bring travel insurance into this age of innovation,  and we are keen to find out what the young traveler in the fasting growing share accommodation segment seeks in his/her experience.

1.Technology Consumption

It goes without saying that technology has become an integral part of the millennial’s lifestyle. These are the early adopters of technology, this generation both creates and consumes massive volumes of digital content. The young traveler is bound to set off on their journey armed with a smartphone, laptop, tablet, and Go Pro or camera or all of the above. So much that we are considering offering gadget insurance because some of the younger generation quite literally have their entire lives on them. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and more have become the primary means to find and create travel ideas and inspiration. Wi-Fi has become a bare necessity and the entire trip was most probably executed from the beginning to end by a myriad of cutting edge apps and online services, it’s clear that the #traveltech industry is in full bloom. Generally, the more gadgets and online services you can have available from tablets and gadgets in lounges to requesting room services online, the more likely these savvy young travelers are to be impressed.

2.Unique Experiences

The millennial generation seeks personal enrichment, one of a kind experiences and a desire to travel and see as much of the world as they possibly can. This is fantastic news for non-mainstream, smaller, boutique like accommodations – even those in more remote areas. Millennials are all about finding undiscovered gems and they prefer the unique atmosphere of a smaller home-like private accommodation. This way they can find personalization in their experience and you can be sure to find pictures of the lunch served at your cabin rental on social media, these are the footprints of the gratified millennial traveler.

3.Convenience Meets Cost

A sizeable segment of millennial are students, and young adults in the early stages of their career. Thus, although some do, many are not likely to spend extravagant amounts of money if they don’t have to. This includes students studying abroad, interning abroad, or learning a new language. This might explain their preference for more casual, free and private accommodations loaded with house like amenities such as a kitchen or convenience food and beverage outlets and laundry facilities versus higher class, more formal hotels. Accessibility is also important to them and some lodging companies have ventured into partnerships with Uber and Lyft. Research has shown that millennials are the most comfortable and most likely to opt for non-traditional lodging such as private accommodation rentals. A study by PhoCusWright has shown that 31% of a new generation of private accommodation renters are under the age of 35. [1]This demographic are the ones to push the revolutionary ideas of alternative accommodation[2] into motion. Millennials tend to be spontaneous decision makers though sometimes depending on the occurrence of breaks, holidays and days off, they’ll take what they get which is both affordable and convenient.

What demands have you seen arise from millennials that are changing the travel industry? What can we, as an industry change to adapt to these new demands? We want to hear your thoughts. #PABLOWPROTECTS

 

 

 

 

[1] Quinby, Douglas and Gasdia, Marcello.,pg 3 PhoCusWright’s Share This! Private Accommodation & the Rise of the New Gen Renter (June 2014)

[2] Quinby, Douglas and Gasdia, Marcello., pg 1  PhoCusWright’s Share This! Private accommodation & the Rise of the New Gen Renter. (June 2014)

 

 

The #traveltech Industry Is In Full Bloom.

 

Travel tech

 

The idea of going on a trip, whether it’s to a tropical location by air, or a short road trip to a scenic vacation rental lakeside cabin, has always been one filled with pure excitement. The anticipation builds after much discussion and online research about where-to-go, how-to-get there, where-to-stay and what-to-do-there.  Finally the ball swings in full motion as online reservations are made for the vacation rental, flights, and rental car.

Travel Gone Digital

The immense digitization of almost all industries in the last couple of decades is without a doubt changing the landscape of the business, and the travel industry is no exception to this. Discussions on the best places to go, sites to see, places to stay and most cost-effective ways to get there have moved online to places like TripAdvisor, and transport apps such as Rome2Rio, where everyone’s voice can be heard. Then there’s the shift from traditional vacation accommodation such as hotels and lodges to the vacation rentals of rooms, apartments and entire houses anywhere from a night to a couple of months that has been facilitated by startup turned billion dollar giants such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. It’s never been easier to find the most affordable ways to get to your destination with informative and comparative websites such as Kayak and Expedia and accessible on any device.

Having an entire vacation just a couple of clicks away is just fantastic news for consumers and providers alike, and is something worth getting really excited about. For consumers, there’s never been more diverse options right at your fingertips – from beach houses to penthouses to cabins, villas and even tree houses. For service providers this is only just the beginning – the evolving terrain of the travel industry is creating new demands and needs to be met by employment opportunities which have not previously existed. This domain has really become the innovative entrepreneur’s paradise. PhoCusWright tracked that nearly $900 million in the funding of over 60 vacation rental startups alone between 2005 and 2012.[1] The products and services created are often so targeted, specific and composed of a sophisticated and savvy elements of hospitality, management, finance, digital marketing all infused with cutting edge technology tying it all together, with the end goal of giving the best value to end consumers in the simplest way possible.

Homestay, for example has a built-in video chat function for better communication and understanding prior to the stay. Handy, a startup cleaning and maintenance and hospitality service that offer on demand options for such services.  SafelyStay was created with the goal of increasing trust between all parties of the vacation rental experience. [2]Alan Clarke, CEO of Homestay was quoted saying, “As the marketplace matures, entrepreneurs will find ways to create value for that ecosystem.” These ways are possibilities are endless, and with all these new opportunities comes an element of risk both for the consumers and the service providers. Pablow, Inc. is excited to be involved in the blooming travel industry and in particular the private rental market, and who’s mission is to bring travel insurance into this age of innovation for both ends of the market – consumers and service providers alike! We are excited to hear your thoughts and innovations, where you think this market is headed and what can be done better to shape the future of our promising industry!

Get in touch with us and tell us about your business and market segment, to be covered in future blog posts. We want to hear your thoughts.  #PABLOWPROTECTS 

[1] Pg. 3 Deepak Jain, Douglas Quinby, Maggie Rauch, Cathy Schetzina., PhoCusWright’s US Vacation Rentals 2009-2014: A Market Reinvented. (May 2013)

[2] Jason Q. Freed + Skift Team., The Vacation Rental Technology Ecosystem (July 2015) http://products.skift.com/trend/vacation-rental-tech/?utm_campaign=Skift+Trends+Reports&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=2087035

 

Licensed to Thrill! How an Insurance Startup Became Licensed in 50 States.

While thinking of some titles for this article the first one that came to mind was: Walking with dinosaurs. I know that it’s a bit rude to refer to the insurance industry as being older than the Stone Age, but it many respects it fits their outdated technology and systems, not least the process of becoming licensed here in the US. Alas we settled on something a more affirmative, “Licensed to Thrill!” Given this is the emotional outcome we aim to elicit when consumers engage with next generation insurance technology. To realize this vision however, we first needed to become licensed throughout every state in the US. Here is my story …

Let me start by saying ignorance really is bliss! If I had known what I was in for, I am pretty sure I would have pivoted the business model. My ignorance led me forward to roadblock after roadblock, and after significant investments of time (more than 10 months) and money, I realized I had to keep going. In a way this is the entrepreneur’s equivalent to a gambler’s experience of “just one more roll of the dice and I’ll win it all back”.

IT BEGAN WITH AN IDEA … AND AN ACCELERATOR

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My brother, Des, and I shortly after arriving in Des Moines

In February 2015 my brother, Des, and I were accepted into the inaugural Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA), in Des Moines, Iowa. At that point I had no idea where Iowa was and had never even heard of Des Moines. When people ask how I ended up in Des Moines I retort, “I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.” The GIA is one of the very first insurance-focused accelerator programs; leveraging Des Moines’ reputation as one of the three big insurance cities in the US, to host the program.

Surprisingly, Des Moines is actually a pretty nice city, except for the bitter cold winters (at least from an Australian’s point of view). My brother arrived a few days ahead of me to set things up, and on my first day in Iowa it was -20 degrees Celsius (that’s around 0 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite the awful cold weather, we survived the winter but I vowed never to spend another winter in Iowa.

As part of the accelerator I had the chance to speak with a licensing lawyer who told me if I “solicited, sold and negotiated” insurance then I needed to be licensed. But what did that really mean?

THE FIRST OF MANY TESTS

I came to the simple conclusion that I would have to sit for the property and casualty insurance exams and after that our business would be compliant in no time at all. So I bought some study material online and thought how hard can these exams be? After three days of study I went to the exams and failed both with a 68%, needing to reach a 70% to pass. Doh! Not deterred, I purchased more online training material including practice exams and studied this time for more than 70 hours in a single week and passed with flying colors, averaging 84%.

After passing both exams on May 30th I called the Iowa Insurance Division to find out how to register my exam results and was told that I needed a social security number (SSN), which of course I didn’t have yet. This was a serious problem because you only have 90 days to submit exam results and get the license, and failure to do so on time means you have to do the exam again. I had until August 27th to solve this problem and get my license.

A LOT OF WORK FOR A NINE-DIGIT NUMBER

First, I tried to apply for a SSN at the Social Security office in Des Moines, but they told me that unless I was a refugee, I’d need a valid work visa. Luckily we had already incorporated a company and received some funding, which was going to be essential given our company needed to sponsor my American work visa.

To obtain a work visa I hired an immigration lawyer who helped me put the application together – which was a massive effort, requiring employment contract, education record, several rounds of application documents and finally a trip to Mexico for my visa interview.

Why Mexico? Well you can’t apply for the visa while actually in the US, so I needed to go to another country. I first tried to schedule an appointment in Canada, but the next available appoint was in mid-October and I only had until August 27th to submit my exam results. Another option was going back to Australia, but that would have meant flying 20 hours each way. After a little research, I found out that I could go to Mexico City instead and do the interview there. I also used the trip as an opportunity to brush up on my Spanish skills.

I scheduled my interview for August 19th, which gave me eight days to pass the interview, obtain my visa, return to the US, obtain a SSN, and turn in my exam scores. Needless to say I needed everything to run in a smooth manner. Luckily the interview went well and I got the verbal approval, as all my documents were very well prepared.

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A photo of the pyramids I took while visiting Mexico to obtain my visa

Normally you have to wait about a week before you can pick up the visa, though I was able to apply for the fast track process and was told to come back in two days time. I went back to the US Embassy on August 21st and without any problems had the visa nicely stamped in my Australian passport just in time for my departing flight.

On the plane back to Iowa I began to worry about how long would the SSN application take. First thing August 24th I went to the social security office where a lovely lady helped me complete the application. Even though the SSN normally would be issued and posted within a week, after telling her my predicament about the deadline just three days from now, she assured me I would be able to pick it up ahead of time. On the August 26th with just a day to spare before I would have had to redo the insurance exams, I brought my license exam results, the application and my SSN into the Iowa Insurance Division and that afternoon I was the proud owner of a property and casualty Iowa insurance license. Just in the nick of time! Shortly thereafter I applied and was approved to become the designated responsible person for our company’s Iowa entity insurance license.

IT ONLY GETS HARDER

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My first of many insurance licenses I received in 2015

As it turned out obtaining a visa, SSN, and license in Iowa was the easy part! In order to sell insurance to all US citizens and residents I had to apply to the other 49 states and Washington DC for non-resident licenses, for both our company and myself.

I began the application process online, but there were around 30 states that also needed a travel insurance certification that Iowa did not require. For all of these states I had to submit paper applications, passport copies, my new SSN, and checks totaling thousands of dollars. Luckily a letter from Iowa Insurance Division stating that I was qualified to sell travel insurance via my property and casualty license, was included in all applications, which made the process easier for a majority of the states.

For a number of states I needed to establish a business in their states before I could get a license. This required me hiring a registered agent in those states and applying for a Certificate of Authority for our company to operate there.

The states that were the most difficult to work with included New York, California, and Virginia. In New York they rejected my application because I had included a comma in the business name. I used Pablow, Inc. and they said I should have used Pablow Inc. Hence they rejected my application twice for really minor problems. Additionally to sell in New York (but also Hawaii and California) our company also needed to be licensed in accident and health insurance. Once again I hit the books for about 2 straight weeks of preparation and passed the accident and health insurance test with 88% accuracy.

California was challenging not just because of the accident and health insurance requirement, but also because their travel agent license cost over $4,000, whereas the other states were generally between $100 and $300. Similarly, in Virginia your business registration costs $25 for every 10,000 shares your corporation is eligible to issue. Pablow, Inc. had only issues around 170k shares, but it was eligible to issue 1M shares and therefore had to pay over $2,000 just to register as a business, whereas in the neighboring state of North Carolina this cost just $180.

THE HARD WORK PAID OFF

As of March 2016, Pablow, Inc. is finally fully licensed and appointed by three insurance carriers to sell insurance in the United States! While I certainly couldn’t have expected the challenges that an insurance entrepreneur would face when trying to get their business off the ground, it makes our business model stronger and shows our commitment to alleviating the industry’s technology problems. In the scheme of things, what we’ve achieved with licensing is really only a warm up, our ‘license to thrill’ if you like. Now the genuinely difficult part begins of building and scaling a value added business that brings the travel insurance supply chain into the age of data and machine-based personalization.

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Delivering one of Pablow’s pitches for the Global Insurance Accelerator

If you are looking to go through this same process I’d suggest you take a look at these resources: the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ website, the online National Insurance Producer Registry, Sircon Solutions, Pearson Veu, State Based System and A.D. Banker. Oh, and a good therapist! Also be sure to remember that this is a journey and not an event, so you will need to be patient and roll with the punches!