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Quickboats is building a $40 million business using nothing but a local team of three and an army of online workers

- October 3, 2014 3 MIN READ

Australia’s Quickboats is one of the world’s most advanced folding boats. It can be assembled in just 60 seconds and folds down into two portable bags that are storable anywhere in the house.

Launched officially on the 1st of August, 2013 at the Sydney International Boat Show, Quickboats has left people awe-struck at the simple ‘five-piece click-together-in-one-minute’ assembly process.

How did the idea come about? It began with one man with one toolbox in one shed. In 2001, Gavin Ager had a ‘Thomas Edison’ moment when the concept of a sturdy foldable boat popped into his mind. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that he fully realised his idea when he patented the design.

In 2006, Quickboats was purchased by aerospace company Quickstep Holdings, founded by Deryck Graham. In April 2012, Graham left Quickstep and purchased the rights to the boat design, and began working towards building and commercialising the technology.

There are two main things that compelled Graham to pursue Quickboats. He says, “for the first time ever, you can flat-pack a boat, ship 100 of them across the world in a 40 foot container for as little expense as AUD$30 per unit, and deliver it straight to someone’s front door. It’s never been done before for an item such as a boat.”

He adds that there is also the benefit of producing a technology that appeals to a global market, given boating enthusiasts can be found in all corners of the world.

In 2012, the boats were redesigned with the help of industrial designers and composite specialists. The company also established a major production house in Asia to manufacture the boats, and launched their first prototype at the Sydney International Boat Show.


Interesting, the Perth-based company initially only had three full-time employees – Deryck Graham, Managing Director, James Graham, General Manager, and Danielle Smith, Office Administrator. The remainder of the team consists of online workers from all over the world – including Thailand, Ireland, Germany and Australia.

How does that work? By leveraging ‘cloud computing’. Graham says it’s important to start with a philosophy, and once you get your philosophy right everything else will fall into place.

“Our philosophy is to [use online workers] for everything. We operate out of the cloud and we leverage whatever opportunity we can find to get the best expertise [online]” says Graham.

“We made sure all of our systems – accounting, CRM, payment, social media and email – operate out of the cloud so they can talk to each other. We don’t do it like traditional companies because we don’t need to and it’s too expensive.”

According to Kyri Theos, Country Manager of Elance-oDesk, the company has seen a rapid increase in companies like Quickboats using online workers out of the Australian market, with the demand for these online workers growing by 230% over the last 3 years.

Clearly this is a business model which is being adopted more and more amongst startups and small businesses alike.

Graham stresses that Quickboats is a recreational product much the same as kayaks and canoes, making it more a part of the lifestyle industry and less a part of the boating industry.

“So the market for us is huge. To narrow it down, you have to ask how many young families with a storage problem can afford to buy one of these boats? Worldwide, there are hundreds of thousands of families,” says Graham.

“The company is aiming for a minimum turnover of $40 million within a fairly short period of time, which not only means selling boats in volume, but also selling accessories – like engines, safety gear and rods – that people would want to buy with their boats.”

Graham is particularly proud of the look of the product, and that they’re not far from their deliverable time and budget.

“In the realm of startups, if you can totally redesign a prototype and put production facilities in place all in 12 months, that’s a pretty good achievement,” says Graham.

“I’ve founded a number of startups over the years, and the single biggest killer for startups is the attrition of time – because with time, competition appears and the longer it takes, the greater the costs.”

As Kyri Theos explains, “a key reason that startups turn to online freelancers is the massive time saving they’re able to achieve. You can often hire talent in 3 hours, instead of 3 weeks. This is a true game-changer for those aiming to outmanoeuvre the competition”

Graham says “the pure nature of startups is that they’re very hard to [predict], because it’s not day-to-day business. You’re starting up something that not only have you not done before, but perhaps has never been done before by anybody.”

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