Though Australia is surrounded by water and Australians love nothing more than being out on the water, entrepreneur Mike McKiernan believes that the boating industry has often been left behind by technology.
McKiernan, a former designer, said that after five years working in the boating industry where he helped solve the same problems day after day, he began wondering why there was no definitive online resource that compiled all of this information for the community’s benefit. So he decided to make one himself, Deckee.
“A wave of consumer internet services have completely changed so many established industries over the past decade, so it was interesting to observe that one of the most popular leisure activities in the country dropped anchor some time in the early 2000s and hadn’t budged since,” McKiernan said.
“I began to wonder why boating had been left behind, why the process of planning travel and making decisions involving the servicing, storage and repair of boats remained much the same as it was over a decade ago?”
Launched this month, Deckee is essentially TripAdvisor for boating: users can find reviews from consumers and ‘Decksperts’ for all kinds of businesses in the boating industry, like boat hire companies, mechanics, and marina maintenance. The platform also provides detailed location guides for many popular waterways.
With over a million recreational vessels registered in Australia and over 4000 marine businesses serving them, McKiernan believes there is a huge market for a service like Deckee.
“Recreational boating accounts for 7.5 percent – $8 billion – of total tourism spending. The size, demographic and culture of boating in Australia makes for an ideal proving ground for Deckee as a concept and a product,” he said.
After taking part in the Slingshot accelerator program last year, McKiernan raised $140,000 from industry investors, signed on d’Albora Marinas as a partner for the site’s launch, and saw businesses like Enviropacific Services, Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay, and Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club become paying customers.
Though free on a basic plan, businesses can upgrade to either a $69/month or $149/month plan, which allows access to bonus features like enhanced exposure in search results, the ability to respond directly to reviews, add professional photography to profiles, and hiding competitor profiles.
“Deckee will always be free for boat owners and we are focused on making the site as useful and enjoyable as possible and not overrun with commercial noise. This guiding principle will determine how we experiment with other revenue streams and ideas in the future,” McKiernan said.
Thanks to McKiernan’s design skills, Deckee is an attractive platform, with a clean and engaging UI. Given both the fact that there’s a review site for almost everything you could possibly think of and the size of the boating industry, Deckee should be able to attract users and grow steadily as word gets out.
“There are a number of existing websites out there that function primarily as marine business directories, like a niche Yellow Pages. None of them have developed defensibility in the market because there is no focus around community – there are no hooks or features to get people coming back regularly,” McKiernan said.
“Our primary goal right now is growing an active community of passionate yachties, skippers, fisherman, sailors and industry experts and creating a place online that they can call their own.”