Around the docks in Annapolis, boaters Julianne Hemingway and Malcolm Patel often hear similar conversations.
Even as they talk about their voyages out on the water, boaters will be asking each other for recommendations on companies that can fix the problems that arise. After all boats have a lot of different systems. As Patel points out, a 30- to 40-foot boat can have air conditioning and kitchen needs, as well as the engine. And even if nothing goes wrong, there’s a lot of regular maintenance to tend to.
Over eight years for Hemingway, the process of finding maintenance became a frustration point. Boats frequently have problems, yet finding someone to fix it was a process that lacked transparency and consistency.
“Over the years I kept saying over and over again, ‘We’ve got to do something about this,'” she said.
Sitting at the marina one day, Patel and Hemingway began devising a solution. Now, they’re launching an app to bring it to the world: FirstMate Services is designed to facilitate that boat maintenance.
For boaters, there’s a way to find service providers in a given area based on location, and connect with them for a job. Inside the app, boaters can request quotes from companies, and manage projects. Hemingway said the goal is to make the interaction similar to the “real world, but make it easier and quicker for you to get access to who those people are that can help you.”
In a time when everything is contactless during the COVID-19 pandemic, it allows folks to exchange messages and photos, without having to meet face to face.
When the job is complete, boaters can leave a review for others to see, and have a record of the work that was done — data that’s then easily transferrable to any of the boat’s future owners.
Overall, the app is designed to provide validation about whether the company is effective through the reviews. Plus, it can offer an easier way of communicating.
It’s also designed with benefits for service providers, as the app offers a chance for free marketing. An integration with Stripe allows the companies to accept credit cards and handle payment within the app, a move that Patel said can help provide cashflow by getting payment completed faster.
“We think it’s an opportunity for the smaller shops to improve that part of the business process,” Patel said.
With the launch, the app is now live for Annapolis and the Eastern Shore, and there are plans to expand nationally from there.
FirstMate Services is working to build up a base of boaters. As they look to connect with more companies, the cofounders are also looking to the boating community to add service providers that they know and trust, and are offering a $25 credit for folks who sign up a service provider.-30-