Many people let their properties via platforms like Airbnb without proper insurance. Louise Birritteri, founder and chief executive at Pikl, explains how she got the insurance industry to move with the times.

East Anglian Daily Times: Pikl has come up with new insurance packages aimed at people putting their homes on Airbnb. Pic: contributedPikl has come up with new insurance packages aimed at people putting their homes on Airbnb. Pic: contributed (Image: Archant)

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Tell us about Pikl.

Pikl was the first in the UK to market insurance products specifically designed for hosts who let their properties over the short-term. We have a range of products designed to run alongside standard home, holiday home and landlord policies from any insurance provider. Many of these products are industry firsts, and people can buy the cover they need ‘on-demand’, from a broker or direct, at a fixed daily price, for pretty-much any period they like.

What was the opportunity you spotted that led to launching Pikl?

I saw a significant gap in a new and fast-growing market – the sharing economy – specifically, people letting their properties on a short-term basis through Airbnb-style online platforms.

In most cases, these hosts are not covered by their standard home insurance policies or the online platforms’ guarantees. So if there’s property damage or loss such as theft or fire caused by a guest, or injury to a guest staying at the property, the host isn’t covered. It means that many people engaged in short-term letting are unknowingly, and through no real fault of their own, exposed to financial loss, legal battles and the possibility of their standard home insurance being voided, when all they are trying to do is earn extra income.

How did you disrupt the market?

By being quick to market, we were able to show that people renting their properties on a short-term basis weren’t covered by standard home insurance policies, and be the first to develop products to fill the gap. We’re now working collaboratively with the insurance market to make the products available throughout the standard insurance buying journey.

What were the challenges you faced and how did you learn from them?

Many of the biggest challenges have been raising funding and capacity. When you’re running an insurance business you have to raise what’s called capacity to cover the costs of claims for the insurance products. As a startup, you also need to raise funding in the usual way to help scale your business, pay for new staff, marketing, premises and technology. So, we have had to manage both of these processes at the same time.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

There have been several. Obviously, once you have concept tested a product and it works that gives you the confidence to proceed. Selling our first product, doing our first deal with a distributor, attracting investors and winning awards have all been highlights. But I guess looking back over the last three years the thing that makes me most proud is the quality of the team we have created. I am so fortunate to work with a group of professionals whose enthusiasm for Pikl matches mine.

If you were starting again, what would you do differently?

I’m not sure I could do anything differently. Part of the journey of setting up and running a new business from scratch is that you have to learn from what you do. That’s what gives you the experience. I have learned that you cannot plan everything. Sometimes chance plays a hand. You have to recognise the opportunities that present themselves and grab them before they disappear.

What would be your advice to someone launching a disruptive startup?

If you’ve got a good idea, give it a try but make sure you test its viability. If you have a simple prototype product that you can take to market to test with customers, you will be able get a good indication of whether or not you can build a business around it.

An important lesson I learned was to use your network as much as you can. From former colleagues to people you’ve met from other companies, friends and even customers – there is a heck of a lot of goodwill out there. You never know who might be able to open some doors for you. Be prepared to collaborate with people in your chosen industry or other companies operating in your space. Just don’t try and do everything on your own!

What are your plans for the future?

Growth is our main focus for the next 12 months. We have some new products we want to bring to market and some new partnerships and distribution channels to build, as well as embarking on another round of funding. We also know we will need to flex as market conditions change.

www.pikl.comThe Disruptors is a video series highlighting the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge businesses shaking up their respective industries. Read more and follow the series here.