Interview With Adrian Walker
Describe your product or service:
“Boataffair is a boutique yacht experience company we established in Switzerland in 2017. We offer bespoke yacht holidays in 60+ countries.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Having looked deeper into it, we realized that current luxury boat rental solutions do not satisfy affluent clientele: unreliable vessel and crew quality, poor UI and software, minimal transparency, flexibility, and geographic fragmentation. Competing platforms offer unreliable services and [are] low-quality at best with a luxury price tag at worst. We saw the exact niche and established Boataffair with a focus on quality yacht experiences by handpicking only professionally managed yachts and strictly vetting all our inventory. Quality vs. quantity became a USP for Boataffair. Competing platforms all go for the quantity of boats – we went after the quality of yachts and, crucially, the quality of the overall experience.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We invested our own capital at first and got a couple of angel investors on board during the journey.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We are a team of 10 around the globe. We are the two co-founders, we have a dedicated tech team, an outstanding Head of Experiences, and dedicated business development team members.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes, both of us (Natalya and I) always wanted to start our own business. This was always in our DNA. In both our families, we have successful startup stories, and we have always been inspired by our family members who had started and managed their own companies.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“After meeting at Imperial College London during our MBA, my wife and I found a shared passion for boats and authentic experiences. A few years after the MBA, we spent a day on our yacht in the South of France, and we both discussed how beautiful, enriching, and fun experiences on the water are and how wonderful it will be for more people to enjoy them. We realised, having chartered yachts ourselves, that high quality in the overall experience was missing: Lack of advice and poor consulting prior to the charter by the yacht broker, vessels that were old, poor itinerary building or an inexperienced crew — all items we wanted to fix and there you go, Boataffair was born.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We had of course considered other names. The name Boataffair was born during a brainstorm session in France. We wanted to combine the technical aspect with an emotional one: Boat and Affair. We are convinced that everyone who deals with a boat (chartering one, owning one, being a guest on one etc.) will develop a passion and a relationship to the yacht: A Boataffair.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“We have noted a very positive effect on our business with the coronavirus pandemic. We have lots of clients who now turn to us because they are looking for safe and socially distant holidays. On our yachts, you get precisely that. You only travel with people you know, you stay away from the crowds, and our crews are regularly tested and trained in strict hygiene procedures. We always pay great attention to how the yachts we offer are cleaned and maintained. Hence, the already strict cleaning standards were strengthened further due to COVID-19. The vessels are meticulously cleaned and sanitized after and during every charter. Crews have been trained in extended hygiene procedures and, of course, tested regularly. The staff has additional protocols on how to spot symptoms in guests and what course of action is needed if anyone onboard displays symptoms.
Private, socially distanced, away from people you don’t know, and with all the luxuries that come with chartering your private yacht with a professional crew — you will be experiencing such great comfort in your floating hotel.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Our target clients are families, a group of friends, couples, or small teams from a company — they all have one thing in common: they seek boating holidays which give you more than a different kind of trip. They give you a different perspective on life, a revitalising boat rental replenishing family time on a luxury yacht charter. They expect a superb experience along the entire process of a yacht charter: They expect more."
What's your marketing strategy?
“We work B2C [business to consumer] and B2B [business to business]. We work with media companies, social media, and in-person as well as virtual exhibitions.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We asked friends to test our product at the very beginning. Word mouth then helped us to get the first clients on board. The news spread fast, and media publications, as well as trade exhibitions, helped us get off the ground.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Monthly recurring revenue, qualitative customer feedback, [and] customer lifetime value.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘The Tim Ferriss Show.’”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“The resilience you learn over the years as you appreciate the roller coaster ride.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“We like to take defined time-outs by going outdoors and spending time with our families. Sometimes it is worth it to work less, and it is ok to do so. We’re in it for the long run, so there is no point in burning your energy too fast. Going outside and being in nature gives us new perspectives and for a lot to be thankful [for].”
How do you stay motivated?
“My wife and my two sons love to undertake various activities. As a family, we spend a lot of time together. We are very outdoorsy, and [we] love to go on hikes and spend a lot of time in nature. Being on one of our outdoor adventures, just the four of us, is where we genuinely recharge our batteries. This is where we realise that we are building a company for all of us, for everyone who cherishes a genuine experience.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Yes, we realised that true change comes from making many small decisions every day. And these small decisions will have a big compound effect. For example, a short workout every day, but for many years, will yield big changes that are only visible after some time.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“We are pleased and very proud that we can offer the perfect ‘post corona travel product’. Boataffair has proved to be COVID-19 resilient and we are so happy we can provide holiday solutions on the water that are so sought after in the new post-pandemic world.”
More on Boataffair
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Adrian Walker of Boataffair that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
We asked Adrian Walker, founder of Boataffair, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.