Back in August 2017 we profiled Adrian Walker and Natalya Zubova (both Full-time MBA 2014) who set up Boataffair – a sharing economy for boats. The Business School recently caught up with them again to see how they have taken their start-up to the next level and their international expansion plans.
Boataffair aims to capitalise on the potential of renting boats, a typically under-utilised asset given they are often sitting in port. Initially the idea was to allow non-boat owners to rent boats, but this quickly evolved to enable boat owners to create ‘experiences’ for boat renters. So far these include island cruises, sunset cruises, wining and dining, learning to sail and yoga.
“We were convinced that our boat renters wanted more than simply to rent a boat”, said Natalya. “Our clients also wanted to invest in experiences. They want to feel new emotions, they want to explore! To this end, the new experience page allows boat owners to showcase what more they have to offer.”
The business has already enabled boat renting in four countries and as it continues to grow from strength to strength, Adrian and Natalya turned their focus to international expansion. They are currently extending their reach to 15 countries and recently completed a seed round with three private investors to facilitate this. The funds will be used to further expand Boataffair’s presence internationally and fund marketing activities.
Seed funding, how does it work?
“We contacted our immediate network in the fields of venture capital, business development and finance early on. We were aware of the fact that it takes a significant amount of time to get the right investors on board. Also, we wanted to start an open conversation with them, without any pressure,” said Natalya.
“The process of finding the right investors was intensive and required a lot conversations and patience. We felt it was important to find investors who share our values of enabling boat and water aficionados to share quality experiences on or around the water”, said Adrian. So, while the investors ran a thorough due diligence on the company, Adrian and Natalya also looked closely into the vision, background and values the new investors would bring on board.
The advantage to a crowdfunding campaign is that our new investors will actively play a role in developing our company, by bringing on board extensive networks in various countries along with their business development skill set. Our new investors are not only business development advisors, but act as sounding boards for new ideas.
How to get the right people to invest
“From our experience you need to start searching early. Be aware that it will most likely take longer than you expect. Ask yourself early on, what investors you want. Do you only want the money? Then crowdfunding is for you. But if you want to add a significant network and substantial knowledge in various areas (like business development, a market or a specific industry), then put in the extra work and start reaching out in your network. You will be surprised who might be interested.
“Our top do’s and don’ts would be: Don’t think that one meeting will do and a person will agree to jump on board. If you think that, then you will most likely end up putting too much pressure on them in the very first conversation and the lead will probably go cold.
“Do tell the prospect about your passion. Convince them with your dream by telling them why you are the best to solve a certain problem. Also, prepare for the fact that you will have around a dozen conversation with a person until the deal is sorted.”
With driven founders and new committed investors on board the future of Boataffair looks buoyant. “We go the extra mile to identify boat owners who want to list with us for the right reasons like quality and the personal, authentic approach. This is a major differentiator. Experiences created by boat owners are being added almost on a daily basis in various countries. Our supply of adventures on the water, which are not in any guidebook, is constantly growing”, said Adrian.