Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Slipping into Boating Fun

April 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

slipping into boating fun 1

Technology has long been a part of boating; vessel designs have evolved to make them more efficient and safer, utilizing advanced motors that go faster. Communication devices bring boaters knowledge and assist in emergencies. So it made sense for Keith Cooper to turn to technology to help solve what he saw as a problem: a hassle-free way to book a last-minute transient docking slip.

slipfinder“Boaters are able to make instant purchases in so many other areas of our life, why not marinas?” asked Cooper. He and co-founder Todd Brice created SlipFinder, a mobile app that allows boaters to book slips and moorings.

The two men grew up together with boating in their blood. Cooper explored the Great South Bay as a child with his father and now has a boat that he and his family use to explore all of Long Island.  Brice is a multi-generational marina owner and boater. He also races sailboats in his spare time. Both grasped how appealing a matching app for boaters and marinas would be, and their plan evolved.

“We collaborated on the idea, and hired a developer to help us get off the ground,” says Cooper. Between self-funding and some seed investors, we’ve managed to introduce instant real time bookings into the marine industry.”

Boaters and marinas both create profiles on the SlipFinder app (available for both iPhones and Androids).  Boaters share their boat type and dimensions, marinas advise as to the size of vessels their slips and moorings can accommodate. A boater looking for a berth reviews the app’s map or searches based on town or marina name for open slips or moorings. If the map shows green in the area there is something available — if nothing suitable is open, it shows red. Once the boater books a slip via credit card, SlipFinder notifies the marina to avoid double-booking and shares the boater’s info with the dockmaster (the boater also receives the dockmaster’s contact information).

Since SlipFinder’s launch in April, 2015 they have over 180 marinas on the app and just under 10,000 registered boaters. They expect both numbers to swell as they market their app. “We’ve had multiple salespeople helping us make phone calls, we’ve made trips to visit marinas, and more recently we’ve exhibited in several boat shows,” explains Cooper.  “We’ve done digital and print advertising as well. Social media has been a very big help for us; our social media outlets are growing daily.”

Signing up marinas is crucial, notes Cooper, as even established, well-known marinas must recognize that older boaters leave the market and new boaters join. Those newer boaters, especially first-generation boaters, may not use traditional methods to find marinas. They gravitate towards digital methods and mobile apps, and that’s why SlipFinder is invaluable to marinas.

intro-registration-sign-in-1@2x“We are offering a marina a free way to market their business on our app, which is great. Since SlipFinder is using a boater’s boat info as it searches, boaters can tell if a marina has an open slip or mooring without having to make a phone call. Not only is this good for the boater, but it frees up marina staff with countless phone calls for same day reservations.”

While they have some marinas in the Great Lakes, much of SlipFinder’s concentration to date has been on the East Coast from Maine to the Bahamas. Cooper says the plans are to expand: “We envision a network of marinas all around the country that offers boaters an easy way to explore new marinas, and adventures. We want to promote more active boating and break boaters away from visiting the same places over and over again.”

As boaters, Cooper and Brice live the vision of the app they sell. “This past summer Todd and I took boat trips with our families and visited marinas that were new to us,” says Cooper. “Even though we grew up on Long Island, we found new marinas that we didn’t know about before launching SlipFinder. We want lots of other boaters to share in these same types of experiences.”

Cooper stresses that the app isn’t meant for those making docking reservations in advance; marinas have their own websites to facilitate reservations. “We aren’t trying to disrupt that, but rather offer same day instant bookings — it’s Saturday morning, and you didn’t make plans. ‘Where will my next adventure be?’”

Thanks to technology, a boating adventure can now start in the palm of your hand.

By Michael Griffin

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is a native New Yorker who has many fond memories of going deep-sea fishing in his youth. He lives near Long Island with his wife, son, and cat (who is sitting in his lap as he types this).

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