The fresh air, warm sun, relaxing rocking of the waves. Who doesn’t love boating?
But it’s not just a fun weekend activity with friends. In South Florida, it’s a multibillion dollar business. And the recreational boat industry is growing at a rate of 6.2% a year, with sales of new powerboats up 34% in February 2021 compared to the same time last year.
The problem is that buying a boat is far from a seamless experience. Spending hours in dealerships or trawling classifieds websites can be stressful, and takes time away from enjoying the activity itself.
One Broward startup is on a mission to change that. Hallandale Beach-based Boatzon, which launched in early November, has developed a one-stop-shopping platform for boaters to find, finance, and insure boats and related equipment.
At the helm of Boatzon are co-founders Bryan Lenett and Michael Muchnick, CEO and COO respectively. The longtime business partners are serial entrepreneurs, having worked in everything from music to media to healthcare tech. Avid boaters themselves, the duo saw the opportunity to infuse digital innovation into the boat buying experience.
“Nobody has really applied a technology play to the marine industry,” like Carvana or CarGurus has done in the automobile industry, Lenett told Refresh Miami. Boatzon has created “a new shopping experience,” he asserted.
This experience includes financing quotes. When a user is interested in purchasing a boat, they can compare their purchasing options and get pre-qualified for a loan for up to $10 million. Lenett said that unlike many online providers, these lenders do not pull a damaging ‘hard’ pull of a customer’s credit report, but rather a ‘soft’ pull. Boatzon has integrated financing providers like their partner Trident Funding right into the platform, while also offering in-house financing options. The same goes for insurance: users are presented with a range of options right through the platform.
While boats are front and center on Boatzon, the startup also sells related equipment like trailers and electronics, which can also be bought through financing. Additionally, Boatzon sells upwards of 30,000 products such as fenders, life vests, and buoys through a partnership with a dropshipper.
Boatzon’s inventory of boats comes from a mixture of dealers and individual sellers, all of whom can sell on Boatzon for free. “That’s what makes us unique,” said Lenett. Instead, the startup makes money from the products and services it sells alongside the boats themselves.
At 11 employees, Lenett said that he and Muchnick “run a tight ship.” While Boatzon’s maiden voyage has been mostly smooth, Lenett called the startup’s launch “exciting but also stressful,” since the startup has been in the works for two years. Nevertheless, he has kept an even keel.
Lenett, a South Florida native, is bullish on the South Florida tech scene. Years ago, a VC investor told him that he would have to leave Miami because, according to the investor, Miami “is not a real tech setting.” Lenett would go on to take the advice and operate his company from Boston. But it’s a different story today: “The tide has changed. It feels good that we have momentum” in the South Florida tech movement, he said.
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