Where were you raised and what influenced your career?
I grew up in the blue water paradise of Port Stephens, NSW. We weren't a boating family, which is surprising to a lot of people. We never owned a boat. We were definitely an "ocean" family though and when you live in a place like Port Stephens it's hard not to be. I was at the beach most days after school and on the weekends. I took up surfing and bodyboarding as hobbies, which then flowed into a passion for surf photography as well. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that I would end up working on something deeply connected to the water.
What was your path after high school?
I started a design and communications degree at the University of Newcastle, and I also got a job at the local marina as a Dockmaster, which is like a concierge role in the boating world. This unexpectedly led to me working in the industry for over a decade, helping thousands of boaters with just about every problem under the sun.
Why did you found the boating app Deckee?
I've always been interested in the creative process and solving problems, and over time I began to realise there were opportunities to apply my interests to help the boating community. This progressed naturally to an interest in entrepreneurship and business and in 2015 the first Deckee website was launched. The mobile app arrived a few years later, after many learnings and challenges.
Why was there a need for it?
Being out on the water can be very confusing and dangerous without access to the right information and guidance. Since the inception of the iPhone, marine apps and navigation companies have attempted to digitise traditional nautical charts and put them on your phone. This serves the experienced navigators well, but the reality is that reading marine charts confidently and making the right waterway decisions requires the frequent application of knowledge, and many people don't have the time to build up this experience and fluency. We set out to reimagine what a boating app can be, helping the everyday boater stay safe and informed on the water with tools and information that can improve their situational awareness. The result is a product that can be used freely by anyone, at any skill level, on any craft - a product that helps the vast majority of boaters operating small craft, often with no onboard systems.
We set out to reimagine what a boating app can be, helping the everyday boater stay safe- Mike McKiernan
How has the platform developed?
Deckee started as a directory website which provided a place for boaters to share reviews and recommendations with one another. After many experiments and iterations, we evolved to the map-based mobile experience in 2018. I remember one advisor telling me early on that what we end up doing in a few years would be completely different to the original idea - it turns out that was pretty accurate.
What is its business model now, and how does it drive revenue if it is free?
We have a guiding belief at Deckee that your safety on the water shouldn't be a subscription. Just like Google Maps on land, Deckee is completely free to use and constantly being improved which makes it a no-brainer for every boater to have.
Our business model has three core pillars, enabled by the free Deckee app. Businesses and brands can attract and engage customers through embedded experiences we create for them in the app. Soon we are launching a marketplace which will enable boaters to buy products and services they need through Deckee. We have also pioneered data analytics products that help governments and companies understand how the waterways are being used by leveraging our anonymised activity data.
Who uses it?
We've had great success activating our embedded experiences with government agencies and industry organisations. Deckee has been commercially adopted as the official boating app by three state governments in Australia along with the Boating Industry Association. We are now expanding this internationally. Soon we will be launching our innovative marketplace to help boaters connect with the right products and services for their needs at the right time, creating a new customer acquisition channel for businesses and brands on Deckee.
You have launched an equity crowdfunding raise - why this model?
The safety of the public on the water is at the heart of everything we do at Deckee, so it's beyond exciting and fitting that the boating community we aim to help now has the opportunity to share in our commercial success and become a co-owner of the business through our equity crowdfund capital raise.
A notable investor in the crowdfund raise is Mike Ford, co-founder of Siteminder (ASX:SDR), the world's leading customer acquisition platform for the hotel industry. Prior to this raise, Deckee has been supported by an incredible group of private investors that have helped us get to where we are today.
What is in the pipeline?
Deckee's success in Australia so far is only scratching the surface of our market opportunity globally. We are primed to grow our presence overseas with a particular focus on the US.
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