Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale
Concept: Boatyard delivers boater happiness on-demand. Boat owners can now order fuel delivery, boat washing and any other service they need with a few clicks on their mobile device.
Story: Boatyard was incubated as a peer-to-peer boat rental platform as part of the inaugural accelerator class at Venture Hive. While building out the platform, Nathan Heber heard over and over again about the pains that boat owners had to endure. It wasn’t until months after demo day, right before taking final delivery of the Boatyard platform, that Heber had his “aha moment” and Boatyard changed course.
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“We set our sights on a giant white space in the boat services market. The reason Boatyard exists is to deliver happiness to the boating community,” said Heber, who continued to grow the company at Thesis Ventures’ Fort Lauderdale studios.
“We knew so many people who weren’t using their boats because they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of maintenance, cleaning or taking the ride to the fuel dock,” Heber said. Some couldn’t find a good mechanic or enough free time to keep their boats seaworthy, while others shared horror stories about their experiences with unqualified and unreliable service providers. Said Heber: “We knew there had to be a better way, so we built one.”
Launched: Dec. 1, 2014
Management team: Nathan Heber, CEO, founder; Matias Penela, chief technology officer; Christian Romer, chief creative officer; Richard Smith, director of operations; John Robinson, community manager.
Financing: $25,000 grant from Miami-Dade County/Venture Hive. Raised a $250,000 seed round in September 2014 funded by Thesis Ventures. Currently raising a seed round of $500,000.
Recent milestones: Over the company’s first six months, gross revenues have increased at a compound monthly growth rate of 56 percent, with month-over-month growth of 89 percent in May. Recently partnered with the fast-growing boat-sharing marketplace Boatbound to provide its boat owners with Boatyard services, including refueling and cleaning. Named “Top Product of 2015” by Boating Industry Magazine. Featured on TechCrunch Radio Pitch-Off on May 26 and on ProductHunt on June 9.
Biggest startup challenge: Finding employee talent that is passionate about delivering the highest levels of customer service.
Next steps: Crafting new strategic partnerships, scaling the business to additional boating markets and adding new product offerings.
Strategy for next steps: Building out new features for users and vendor partners and expanding business development efforts in key markets. Features include geo-targeting and advanced customer service capabilities for servicing its vendors, Heber said. “Like we are doing with Boatbound, we are working on partnerships with broker-dealers and technology companies in the marine industry to expand our user base and scale the business.”
Advisor’s view: “Nathan Heber has a killer blend of deep passion for the domain, big vision, in the weeds tenacity, operational know-how, and a great sensibility for customer service. He understands his brand’s voice very, very well,” said Jon Vanhala of Crossfade Partners and a board member, investor and advisor for Boatyard.
He has advised Heber that great partnerships drive mutual value. “Put your empathy hat on and identify real ways to add true value to your target partners before you can expect them to do business with you or care about your needs. Look to turn your perceived competition into collaborators where it makes sense,” Vanhala said.
“We are also constantly white-boarding and brainstorming expanded product offerings in software and hardware that fit the criteria of 1) make boater's lives better … and 2) help “all boats rise” in the industry — sorry, couldn't help that one,” Vanhala said. “Boatyard turns the age old boating joke on its head such that now the two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy it, and the day they join Boatyard.”