First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Patrick Curley: Thank God all of my family, friends, and employees are holding up just fine throughout this pandemic. It’s been a rollercoaster year, and everyone has had to remain flexible and fluid.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded YachtLife.
Patrick Curley: I went to NYU and studied international economics and ended up working in finance for 10 years in New York. I started by helping 2 different European hedge funds launch and grow their US presence by raising money from US institutions and high net worth individuals. I later joined Citigroup’s alternative investment group helping them raise money from their clients in their proprietary hedge, private equity and real estate funds. I later moved to the banking side in their financial sponsors’ group.
One day, a good friend and I had the idea to start a travel-related company helping people source and share travel recommendations all around the world. TripAdvisor and Yelp were filled with recommendations from people you didn’t know, so we launched a mobile app that was a private membership club where users could share their favorite restaurants, hotels and nightlife venues with their close friends.
We raised capital, hired a team, and moved to Miami to help cut down on the burn rate and really scale the business. It was after moving to Miami that folks in my network that were visiting Miami would call/text/email me telling that they wanted to charter a yacht while in Miami and to see if I could help. After realizing how convoluted and tedious the process was and how opaque the pricing was, I teamed up with a friend of mine in Miami to start working on an app that would turn the complicated process of chartering a yacht into something as simple as booking a hotel room.
We put together a business plan over the weekend and got to work. We ended up launching YachtLife on the AppStore a few months later with 15 yachts for charter in Miami and booked our first charter within the first month. We’ve since scaled the business to where we have over 1,000 yachts for charter in over 15 countries and have a sales platform that has over 5,000 yachts listed for sale all around the world.
How does YachtLife innovate?
Patrick Curley: We’ve gone around the world and aggregated some of the best boats available for charter and added them onto one consolidated online platform. This means people know where to go if they are looking to charter a yacht. We’ve also made pricing transparent, so clients don’t need to search countless websites and call dozens of brokers trying to find the best price for a particular vessel.
We’ve also simplified the booking process – if you’ve booked a hotel room before, you can book a yacht charter. All of these innovations make chartering a yacht more accessible to a larger client base, this growing the TAM.
On the sales side, we have aggregated over 5,000 yachts all around the world that are actively being marketed for sale. Our clients are able to search by location, price, size, or builder and it’s the best starting point for a buyer to start their buying process since we’ve made the platform intuitive and our overall inventory to search means you will be able to get a good sense of the market quickly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Patrick Curley: Like many businesses, we were shut down for a period of time due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of March and April this year marinas and shipyards were closed, which meant we were not able to sell or charter yachts during this period.
However, once marinas started opening back up, we saw unprecedented charter demand, and we logged record months for charter in June, July, August and September.
We have seen similar pent up demand on the sales side. Since May, we represented a buyer that took delivery of a 2020 Sunreef 80′ catamaran. This was the buyer’s first large boat purchase and our largest sale-to-date. The second sales transaction since the pandemic was a 2014 Azimut 55S that was just delivered last month and is the owner’s first boat purchase ever.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Patrick Curley: Once we saw the impact of the pandemic in Europe (strict quarantines, businesses shutting down, etc.) our investors and advisors started to tell us that we needed to really batten down the hatches and plan for an Armageddon-like scenario where we should expect to see 0 revenue for the second half of 2020. This meant that we needed to cut all expenses wherever possible (fire full-time non-essential staff, cut marketing spend down to $0, etc.).
Fortunately, we did not see things playing out quite that way. Our hypothesis was that as things remained shut down, people would still want to go out and have fun safely and responsibly, and chartering a yacht or being out on the water on your own yacht was one of the safest options out there: you are with a small group of friends/family on a vessel that was being disinfected by a crew that was being tested for COVID-19.
We didn’t fire one person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we took the opportunity to upgrade our sales team and hired 4 new salespeople and culling the bottom 2 performers. We came out of the pandemic with a much stronger sales team with a better team dynamic in place, and we were able to meet the demand we thought would hit once the world started opening back up again.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and YachtLife in the future?
Patrick Curley: During the week:
– I wake up at the same time every morning
– I work out a few times a week
– I go for a 1-2 hr. bike ride a couple of times a week
– I do a 10-minute mindfulness practice each morning
– I try and cook as many meals as possible and try and eat as healthy as possible
On the weekend
– I wake up when I want and eat what I want
For stress and anxiety (which are givens if you are running any size organization), you need to have a routine at the start of the day and the end of the day. Having a mindfulness practice helps you frame the rest of the day and allows you to step back and look at the big picture when things are getting really stressful, and you feel like the walls are closing in on you. Eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep are just things all human beings should be doing regardless if you are running a company or dealing with stress.
As a company, we are on track for a record year in 2020, and we are looking at eclipsing our 2020 with an even stronger 2021 as we anticipate many of the same supply/demand trends we saw in 2020 should play out again in 2021. We will look to continue to expand into new markets, grow our current fleet and hire new sales folks as needed to make sure we never sacrifice customer service as we expand.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Patrick Curley: Our competitors are the hundreds of yacht brokerages that charter or sell yachts in any of the markets that we operate in.
We try and win by offering better service and giving clients one platform that they are able to use anywhere around the world whether they are searching for a boat to charter for a day in Cabo or looking to buy their first boat in The Hamptons. We plan to stay innovative in our product offering and are always looking for ways to help make our customer’s lives even easier and better than before.
Your final thoughts?
Patrick Curley: If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
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