Brisbane insurance startup ROOBYX expands into London to protect gig economy workers

Noel Nosworthy

ROOBYX co-founder Noel Nosworthy. Source: Supplied.

Brisbane-founded insurance startup ROOBYX will open its first international office in London as it looks to capitalise on the UK’s one-million strong gig economy workforce.

ROOBYX currently offers gig economy workers across Australia the option to insure between 25-85% of their income, as well as offering permanent disability and death coverage of up to $500,000. It will be launching these services in the UK in December this year.

Underwritten by London-based insurance market Lloyds, what differentiates ROOBYX’s offerings is its flexible model, which tracks a worker’s earnings and charges them premiums each week based on these earnings. If a worker doesn’t earn anything in a particular week, depending on their cover, they can remain insured for as little as $1.50 plus GST for that week.

Read more: What rights do workers have to getting paid in the gig economy?

Coming from a career in the insurance industry, ROOBYX co-founder Noel Nosworthy was inspired to found the startup after witnessing the rise of the gig economy and the resulting controversy over the lack of employee rights for on-demand workers.

“When ride-sharing started it was obvious that those people didn’t have the benefits and protections they needed, and I didn’t think [their insurance] would ever be regulated,” he tells StartupSmart. 

“For gig economy workers to have their own portable benefit system tailored to their own needs that works around how they work, someone needed to do it. It might as well have been me.” 

The company was founded in early 2016, and is already expanding internationally after launching in August to coincide with a partnership with on-demand task marketplace Airtasker.

Since launching two months ago, Nosworthy says he is “very happy with the growth so far” and is now looking to raise $US5 millionn ($6.4 million) to first facilitate the startup’s launch in the UK and then establish offices in the US.

Nosworthy was drawn to the UK because of its familiar legal system and its “very fast growing gig economy”. ROOBYX points to research that estimates there are more than 1 million workers in Britain’s gig economy.

We saw the demand there and like any startup it’s about speed to market. If you’ve got a good idea and a good product the sooner we get it out there [the better],” he says. 

The startup is now actively recruiting new staff members for its London office, which is set to open at the end of the year, and Nosworthy wants to grow its UK operations to 20 staff within its first year, in step with expanding its current Brisbane and Sydney teams from seven to 35 employees within the next year.

While ROOBYX may have bold growth ambitions for a startup that only launched two months ago, Nosworthy says founders should always do their homework and research the viability of new markets before jumping in to international expansion.

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew — the learning curve is even hard in jurisdictions you do know,” he advises. 

“This wasn’t a rushed decision, and we spent a lot of time getting to this stage.” 

Rather than “going in radical”, Nosworthy advises startups launch in a jurisdiction they know and understand, and then prepare themselves for the high costs of expansion.

“Don’t underestimate the cost!” Nosworthy warns. 

“Everything costs more and takes longer than you’d expect.” 

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4 years ago

Sounds like a brilliant idea for a startup. Well done getting this off the ground and running.

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