Growing up in Annapolis and working at Fawcett Boat Repair, Alex Nicholson was familiar with the many details of boating.
While living in New York and looking to change jobs, he drifted back to the water. Nicholson walked up to boaters at marinas in Montauk and asked them about maintenance.
“The same story just kept coming up over and over about how much of a pain it was to find a reliable person to come and fix your boat,” he said.
He found that a big reason behind this is that the industry is fragmented, he said. One company may specialize in fixing engines, which requires certification. Another may do electrical work.
Returning to his hometown of Annapolis, Nicholson launched Mariner Exchange last summer. The app looks to help boaters vet and find marine service companies to do the work they need.
Nicholson compares it to Angie’s List. In addition to details about what’s offered by service providers within a 50-mile radius, the app has reviews, ratings and contact info. There’s also a capability to pay through the app, but that’s optional.
After launching for iOS, Nicholson set out to grow the user base. He recruited the first 200 service providers to be listed on the app by knocking on doors, and pounding the pavement. To get boaters’ attention he took to the water.
“I spent many a Sunday standing on paddleboard handing out ads for our app,” he said.
Backed by angel funding, the startup has since grown to six people and so has the area it covers. It’s since expanded to the whole Chesapeake Bay region, as well as Florida and New England. Nicholson said the app recently crossed the 10,000-user mark, with 3,000 service companies.
With the time to start getting the boat ready for summer upon us, the app also debuted in Android last week.
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