The entrepreneurs behind a group of insurance and technology businesses based near Pontypool have told Insider about their successes to date and the growth ambitions they have for their current ventures.

David Harlow and Stephen Peck own PH Innovate, which is behind a group that includes Quote Detective, Quotethemarket and Next Venture Broker Technologies; as well as Three Castles Cover, a business that launched in July.

Harlow started in 2000 with a staff of four and grew the business to a staff of 130 before it was sold to private equity. Harlow and business computing pioneer Peck set up Cwmbran-based Quote Exchange in 2005, in response to what they saw as changing consumer tastes for price comparison in personal insurance. That company was bought up in 2011.

“People seem very surprised when they see what we have achieved, because we don’t necessarily sell ourselves very well,” said David Harlow about himself and business partner Stephen Peck. “Most people tend to think we are a pair of idiots, and then when you say: ‘We’ve got this, this and this’, they’re like: ‘Well, OK…'”

Their achievements include the creation, expansion and sale of numerous companies. And their latest venture, PH Innovate, could be the biggest yet. It’s a group of insurance and technology group with a combined turnover of about £7.5m, employing 85 staff. Harlow expects the workforce at Mamhilad Park near Pontypool to grow to about 250 in a couple of years, with turnover heading for about £20m in 2020/21.

He said: “We know what needs to be done. As we get bigger, the renewal book gets bigger, and with renewals you don’t have to pay a comparison site for the acquisition fee.

“Our biggest cost by far is wages. Our second biggest cost is marketing, about 30 per cent. With a mature business, we’d probably get the marketing budget down to about 15 per cent.”

The group’s largest business is motor insurer Quote Detective, set up by Harlow and Peck in 2016 and now generating turnover of £5m. It uses machine learning and human understanding to get insurance cover for non-standard risks. The group also includes Quotethemarket, a comparison technology developer; and Next Venture Broker Technologies, which supplies connected technologies to the insurance intermediary market.

Their latest venture is Three Castles Cover, which provides combined insurance cover for homes, including investment properties, cars, worldwide travel and pets under one policy. The brand should get a boost in late August when it emerges as sponsor of the Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament in Norfolk.