“It’s all about the users”: an interview with award winning startup Pabbl’s co-founder Bas Gerritsen

“It’s all about the users”: an interview with award winning startup Pabbl’s co-founder Bas Gerritsen

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Pabbl has had difficult times, but in the last couple of months, the lock-screen advertising app from Amsterdam is flourishing. The startup has recently raised €500.000, increasing the total amount to almost €1M. More than 50.000 Android users have already downloaded the app. Last but not least, Pabbl won the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017 in the Social Voting category, legitimising the company even further. We talked to Bas Gerritsen, co-founder at Pabbl, about the startup’s latest achievements and their plans for the upcoming future.

Getting rewards with your personalized lock screen

Did you know that every smartphone user unlocks his or her phone at least 150 times per day? Pabbl utilizes mobile lock screens to bring customized advertisements to users in a fun way. Every time they open their lock screens, a new ad, weather update, article or wallpaper will appear. These are tailored to the user’s interests, making sure that the mobile lock screen remains as personal as ever. Eventually, users will be able to get free discounts and products in Pabbl’s online shop. It creates an incentive to keep using Pabbl’s application.

Personal touch

Gerritsen: “We think the lock screen is important because it has a personal touch to it. For instance, people can have pictures of their loved ones as their lock screen image. Because of this, we provide customized, fullscreen advertisements without any banners. Every time the user looks at his or her lock screen, they should be able to react with a wow.”

Winning the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017

Last October, Pabbl won the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017 in the Social Voting category. The Accenture Innovation Awards is a year-round program with the goal to create an extensive ecosystem to connect all innovators and to drive innovation together.

You won the latest edition of the Accenture Innovation Awards. What were the most significant problems and obstacles to get to this point?

Gerritsen: “We started the development of our product in Serbia. We learned a lot here and made the first version of our product. After a couple of months, however, we realized that the product wasn’t accomplishing what we wanted it to.  We used a big part of our first investment during the development in Servia. Since the costs were getting too high, we decided to move back to the Netherlands. We hired a CTO with 40 years of experience and built a team around him. At another point, we focused too much on the product itself, while the users are equally important. Therefore we started inviting users to interviews and tests. As a result, we ultimately learned what’s important to our target audience.”

Bringing advertisers and users back together

So what’s essential to Pabbl’s target audience? As Gerritsen stated it, Pabbl’s goal is to bring advertisers and users back together. “We listen to both parties, but users tend to be our main priority. Based on our interviews, we learned that they want good looking, relevant advertisements that also pay off in the end. That means that we have to listen to their wishes and translate these into new features on our application. As a result, the user experience gets better, which in turn leads to more users. It is all about the users. When they are happy, everybody is happy.”

The early beginnings

Pabbl hasn’t always been hitting it off as it is nowadays. “At first, we started with a small amount of 1000 users. At that point, we provided advertisements and wallpapers based on small, local companies. But to be able to grow, we had to team up with the really big brands. Eventually, we partnered with Telegraaf Media Groep, enabling us to reach more people. The publisher wanted to test our service with Metro, and subsequently, we also closed Buienradar.”

You have been away for a while. How has this time off influenced the company?

“Because of an unfortunate incident on March 17th, I got a serious concussion, and subsequently I was unable to work for at least three months. At the time, our team consisted of 12 people, so my time off had a serious impact. Because the sales department nearly stopped for some time, the costs increased rapidly. But fortunately, we just raised an investment. We are thriving now.”

How does Pabbl differentiate itself from other companies in its sector? How does Pabbl deal with competition?

“We are focusing on two factors: our online shop and the mobile lock screen advertising. Still, these are features that are provided by every competitor. The most competitive companies come from South Korea and Australia, Cashslide and Unlockd. Cashslide has been around for almost four years now and had a total revenue of 60 million dollars in 2016. The company has also expanded to China and Japan recently. Cashslide has a very cool webshop, but their target audience is different from ours. On the other hand, Unlockd has recently raised 23 million dollars during their series B funding round. This company lets you save for a discount on your phone subscription. However, Pabbl is the only company in Europe that uses lock-screen advertising. To distinguish ourselves from the competition, we are trying to listen to the users and implement their feedback as best as we can. This leads to providing the best online shop and a lockscreen that will surprise you everytime.”

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