“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” – T.S. Eliot
You may have heard of Beepi.com, which is a new way to buy and sell cars. They will get your car sold in 30 days or less, or they will buy it from you themselves for the same price. See this article about Beepi for details about how they work. I want to create a Beepi for boats at BoatDeals.com. They recently raised $300 million to expand, and are valued at $2 billion. This is amazing, as they just launched only 2 years ago are only in 7 cities so far. They do not own the cars; they sell them on behalf of the owner (kind of like how a real estate agent sells houses) . This makes it easy for them to expand to new cities because they don’t need to have the money to buy the cars, and they don’t need a car lot to store them. They just need to deal with taking the order and delivering the car to buyer. Two other companies also do something similar: Carvana.com and Carlypso.com. But, both of these get their inventory from wholesale sources (like auto auctions), not individuals. The main innovation with all 3 sites is the entire sales process is handled online, and the customer does not get to test drive the car. It is delivered to them, but if they don’t like it, they can return it with no fees. eBay Motors also does something similar like this, with the eBay Motors Advantage Program.
As far as I know, nobody does anything like this on a nationwide basis for boats. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about boats. I am sure there is good money to be made wholesaling/brokering boats, but what interests me is the potential to create a billion dollar company like Beepi. The key is making it an Internet company (like Beepi), not a boat company. I did something similar in 2002 when I bought a flower shop in California (I am on the East Coast) to set up my CheapFlowers.com website, even though I knew nothing about flowers and had never owned or worked in any type of store before (if you want, you can read that story in my blog posting about it) .
The reason I am taking a look at the used boat business is that a friend of mine and her husband recently bought a boat, but they hate it. The husband spends a lot of time dealing with it, and the whole thing turned into a bad situation for them. They never use the boat at all because they hate it so much. Plus, every month they are paying fees at the marina for a boat they never use. They want to get rid of the boat ASAP for any price. They contacted a local boat broker, but he is taking a long time to come and take photos and even when he does, there is no guarantee it will sell. They also are trying Craigslist, but they have no idea how long it will take to sell a boat there or what price they will get.
I told my friend that there must be a better way to sell the boat fast, as there are lots of “we buy houses” and “we buy cars” type places that pay cash on the spot for real estate and cars, so somebody must do that for boats. I checked into it for her and although there are of course many local boat brokers, there are not any local places that advertise they pay cash for boats. I found a few in other states, like webuyboats.org and yachtauctions.com. Interestingly, I did find out about an entire new industry where boat owners can make money by renting out their boat through peer-to-peer boat rentals, because according to a recent U.S. Coast Guard survey, the average recreational boat gets used only 17 days per year. Some of these “Airbnb for boats” companies include getmyboat.com, boatbound.co, and boatsetter.com.
I created a demo site for the project at BoatDeals.com. What I wrote on the site though is just one of several ways it could be set up. I don’t really care how exactly it is done; the key is doing something in one location and then replicating it nationally. Something different than how things are currently done.
Because I was just creating a demo site, I actually started off using the domain BoatSave.com, which I was able to hand register after around half an hour of searching for boat domains. I was really very happy with this name, but at the same time I had sent out some emails to owners of premium boat domains that were for sale, one of which was BoatDeals.com. I didn’t need to buy a premium domain for this project, since I already had a decent one (BoatSave.com) and there was a good chance I might never even launch the business. On the other hand, I figured having a killer domain would give me instant credibility, so it couldn’t hurt for me to make a low offer. After several hours of intense negotiations, I ended up buying BoatDeals.com for $5,500.
All this happened right at the end of last summer. I was very happy with my industry leading domain and my great demo site, but a year has now passed and I have somewhat lost interest in this project. I like all my ideas for it, I just really feel uncomfortable being in the boat business when I am not a “boat person.” So for now my BoatDeals.com business is on hold, but at some point in the future I might try something with it.