Crew With Me set to become the Airbnb of the boating industry

- December 17, 2013 4 MIN READ

The tale somewhat resembles ancient mythology, but in 21st century context. It starts with two men, both with aspirations and a keen interest in technology. One day their lives intertwine – not because of their lifeworks or business dealings, but because they share a love of boating. This story has led to an innovative collaboration between two Australian high-tech startup founders. Together they had a common goal – they wanted to create a better way for boating enthusiasts to meet, through what could be described as a new twist on current crowdsharing technology.This collaboration gave birth to a new rideshare web application, under the moniker CrewWithMe.

Tony Plunkett is the Founder of CrewWithMe and its Sydney-based parent company, Sciox Technologies Pty Ltd. He is a committed entrepreneur who had a clear vision for how boating enthusiasts could meet and greet. He describes his application as “the dating site for boaties” minus the romance.

The rideshare web application allows local boating enthusiasts, potential crew members and boat owners to network and find one another online. It works in principle, much like online dating and matchmaking websites in its format. Users sign up, create a profile and can share their boating needs. For instance, a local boat owner may be in need of a crew to go sailing with on a specified date. The boat owner can share information with potential crew members and decide on the best suited choices. After arrangements are set, everyone has a day of fun on the waters and split the costs evenly.

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Tony Plunkett, Founder of CrewWithMe

It is Mr Plunkett’s lifelong interest in local boating that inspired the project. As a boat owner, he found himself troubled by many disappointing experiences trying to assemble a reliable crew. After numerous canceled sailing dates and bad experiences trying to coordinate a decent sized crew, he was left with frustration. Mr Plunkett’s high seas dreams were being crushed as his boat sat docked for months at a time.

Having tried posting local ads and inviting friends, and finding that many would cancel in the last minute or didn’t show at all, Mr Plunkett was almost ready to give up on boating. That’s when he realised that his experiences as a boat owner, must be more common than he thought. Perhaps, there were others with sailing vessels unable to find a convenient way to coordinate with other boating enthusiasts.

Owning and maintaining a boat incurs a considerable investment, especially if it doesn’t get used. Like many other startup founders, the frustration became a question: Can we create a better way?  In this case, a better way for boat owners to network and find others with common interests, so everyone can enjoy more days on the waves.

At this point in the story, Mr Plunkett met Andrew Sterling. The two gentlemen were at a technical conference, where Mr Plunkett was discussing boating with Sterling and found they had much in common. Sterling was the founder and creator of Note.is, an online map annotation startup. Note.is is a flexible annotation system that allows users to add markers while traveling globally. Users can search and map by hashtags to find locations, people near you, and anything posted by added markers.

Mr Plunkett found what he was looking for and immediately asked Andrew Sterling to collaborate with him, using the Note.is platform for CrewWithMe.

Note.is is a bit like Google Maps, but arguably better. CrewWithMe is making history, as the first Australian app of its kind. Users can drop pins, add comments and hashtags to provide updates on weather conditions, schedule changes, and other details – all thanks to a twist on the crowdsharing platform which allows users to contribute information collectively.

Mr Plunkett is enthuiastic about the functionality of CrewWithMe: “Basically you get the wisdom of the masses.”

He sees CrewWithMe becoming a widely-used database among boating enthusiasts: “People can contribute their local knowledge. For instance, I can add in a coffee shop that’s right next to the water and I can make a note about the fact that you can tie your boat up out front.”

All points capture

CrewWithMe has generated 2000 tagged locations. It is the only Australian app marking boat ramps, fishing spots, along with jetty’s, yacht clubs and other similar points of interest.

CrewWithMe’s business model, however, is loosely defined, which is common with early-stage technology startups. Mr Plunkett has a website for registration and promotion, but he remains focused on spreading the word across Australia’s boating community first. CrewWithMe has no advertisements running on it, nor does Plunkett seem too eager at this point in direct monetisation to support his startup, though there is some advertising running on the Note.is part of the network.

When an event is posted on CrewWithMe, all responders must authorise a contribution for their share in boating costs as a crew member or otherwise.

According to Mr Plunkett, “When you look at an event posted on the website, it shows how much contribution is required. The introductory fee is already embedded in that.”

When asked how much the introductory fee was, Mr Plunkett communicated uncertainty: “I am not sure if at this stage we want to go into that, because it is still in flux. Suffice it to say it is going to be in the single digit dollars for anyone that’s going online.”

Fair enough, allowing for some wiggle room as a new startup is never a bad thing. Prepared to go full-speed ahead, Mr Plunkett has already started making contact with the Boating Industry of Australia, Australian insurance companies, and unnamed national executives. All have expressed interest in CrewWithMe, so things are starting to look like blue skies ahead.

For information, visit www.crewwith.me.

Featured image retrieved from www.sailsmagazine.com.au