17 Mar Not all beginnings are easy…
Like with so many other start-ups, the beginning was not all smooth sailing for Kalle and me. When we bought Sailmon early 2014, Sailmon displays were installed in some 50 yachts worldwide, quite a few of them superyachts. The Sailmon displays proved especially appealing to the top-end of the market for leisure nautical equipment for sailboats. Superyacht owners usually want only one thing: the best of the best. And Sailmon was (and is) the best and most appealing set of nautical equipment available on the market: full-colour graphical screens, 100% waterproof and exceptionally well readabe in bright sunlight. The relatively high cost is less of -or even not at all- an issue in this segment of the market.
However, we were discovering that the quality of both the hardware and software was probably not as good as it should and could be. Yes, the products were good, the great majority of our customers were happy, but still. There were a couple of incidents and issues with several customers that made us somewhat doubtful wether the Sailmon quality was indeed and truly as good as it should be to successfully and sustainably address this top-end of the market. Not that the hardware and software were really bad, certainly not. Actually it was pretty good, and all in all we found it quite amazing how far this essentially one-man operation had come, but nevertheless.
Our technical conscience: Enno
During that same year, a good friend of mine, and incidentally also the owner of a Lemsteraak, Enno Romkema, was in the process of leaving Technolution as shareholder and CTO. Technolution, which Enno co-founded with two friends 30 years ago, was (and is) a leading Dutch company specialised in the development of high-tech and high-end hardware and software, employing now over 250 mostly very technical people.
Although Enno was very happy with his achievements and the position Technolution had reached, the kind of actual work he was doing had gradually, but over time significantly, changed. The job of running a 250+ employee company as CTO is dramatically different from the more in-depth technical work, challenges and adventures Enno experienced 30 years before, in the early days of Technolution.
So whilst talking to Enno during a Lemsteraak Regatta in the summer of 2014, I told Enno about the adventures, challenges and issues Kalle and I were dealing with at Sailmon. And then I saw this little spark in his eyes….
Enno told me my stories reminded him of the first years at Technolution. I learned that Enno, although he was in his late 50-ies and financially independent, was wide open to a new challenge. Some 2 or 3 (?) beers later we found ourselves discussing this new and bright future of Sailmon, in which Enno was to be involved.
A couple of months later, Kalle and I were extremely happy to be able to announce that Enno had joined Sailmon as CTO and co-shareholder. So now Kalle, Enno and I were each holding ⅓ of the shares in Sailmon.
A 100% redesign!!!
Enno of course, had taken a real good and close look at the Sailmon products, both at the hardware and the software. To put it mildly, he was not impressed. Although in most situations the products would work fine, he explained to us that at a deep down level, the quality level of the hardware, and especially the software, was seriously below par.
So in Enno’s view, there was only one option.
A 100% redesign of ALL the existing Sailmon hardware and software.
And yes, we realised that this was a difficult decision with a serious impact with respect to time and resources, but very much inevitable. All three of us firmly believe there is only one way to establish a growing and sustainable business. And that’s just to go for quality, quality and quality. Robust, idiot-proof and long-lasting hardware and software, products that once shipped never needs to be returned or repaired. Products so good we can offer a 3-year warranty at no cost for the customer.
The good thing here was that should our team prove to be able to actually make this complete redesign happen, it would prove our capacity to actually be able to design, produce and deliver a range of top top top quality hardware and software products ourselves. With top-quality products, Sailmon would be even better positioned at the very top of the superyacht market. But of course the market is much bigger than superyachts. The worldwide recreational market for nautical equipment is between € 300 and € 400 million. So, in addition to redesigning the screens, we decided to develop a whole new platform that would provide us with a unique competitive edge in this much bigger market. One same platform from superyacht to dinghy. More about this, in my next Blog #4