Jonathan Bouzanquet knows a thing or two about business, especially the pros and the cons.
He’s been in roles ranging from vacuum cleaner salesman to luxury boat broker, and most recently a real estate agent on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either.
“It just didn’t take off,” he said. “While Sydney prices have doubled since 2009, the Sunshine Coast has only just got back to 2009 prices last year. So, we decided to close it.”
Over Christmas, Bouzanquet had thinking time to consider his next move.
“I think there is a real happiness in not being successful, just being average. But for me I don’t have a choice, I have these ideas, I want to see those ideas realised. I get excited.”
That spark ignited the idea for Flote, an “Uber for boats”.
Leveraging the booming sharing economy, currently being dominated by players such as Airbnb and Uber, Bouzanquet teamed up with co-founder John Kavanagh to start discussing a business model for water vessels.
“On average most boat users only use their boat on an estimated 16 days a year, while people who own a boat, dream of going boating everyday,” Bouzanquet says.
“Flote brings the two groups together giving boat owners the opportunity to use their boat more and offset their costs… [with] wannabe sailors.
“We want to allow people who can’t own their own boat full-time to enjoy boating.”
The nascent business has launched its website and is now signing up boat owners, or as Flote like to call them, captains.
“At the moment there are very few boats up on the site. The captains we are talking to are getting photos done and getting their boats ready to put up,” Bouzanquet said.
“So far we’ve had 100 voyagers sign up – that’s been strange. It’s not what we expected at all. We thought the captains would be straight out of the gates.
“It’s a nice surprise to be involved in something that people actually want.”
There are currently 20 owners in talks with Flote, and they are going through the nitty gritty marine laws with Kavanagh to ensure their boats are seaworthy.
“Over the next weeks the site will start to populate with boats, and on the first of March we hope to go launch live with 300 boats,” said Bouzanquet.
The boats will range from kayaks and stand up paddle boards, tinnies and 15hp power outboard fishing boats, through to a $10 million Christensen.
“It will be the full spectrum, and what you want to get out of boating will be there,” he said.
Luck of the game
If he has learned anything from his failed venture in real estate, and the quick move into a new startup, Bouzanquet says that as an entrepreneur, you have to accept that “there’s a lot of luck involved in business”.
“Our real estate business was a winner, it was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time and we couldn’t get it quite right,” he said.
“It wasn’t failing in the sense that we were going broke, but it was zooming either.
“Sometimes you just have to draw a line and say you’re not going to continue because this isn’t going where it needs to go.
“Those experiences build up your gut intuition, to know when something feels right or feels wrong.”
As an entrepreneur you have to be “head down bum up” giving your startup everything you but “at some point you have to look up and say ‘well, how are we going’, and then make some decisions”.