How would you start a new cruising cat company?

Discussion in 'Services & Employment' started by SailorSteve270, Oct 17, 2020 at 3:52 PM.

  1. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    Let's say you had a design for a new 44'9" offshore (not just coastal) cruising sail and/or power cat with better comfort than a Lagoon 450S, better performance than a Fountaine Pajot Elba 45, more sea-kindly than both, and at a similar cost.
    That it was backed by some IP so you had reasonable reassurance of a head start in the market.
    Would you:
    License the design and if so to who? Lagoon, Roberson & Caine, and/or FP?
    Contract it to one or more yards and if so, who?
    Start your own yard and if so where? France, South Africa, Asia?
    Start your own dealer network or use existing dealers like The Multihull Company et cetera?

    Some of the replies seem a bit judgmental with overtones of hostility and/or ridicule.
    However, I trust everyone has a good heart and intentions so let's check ourselves please.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020 at 10:45 AM
  2. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Welcome to the Forum Steve.

    First thing you have to do is to get others to agree with you that your design for a new 44'9" offshore (not just coastal) cruising sail and/or power cat does indeed have better comfort than a Lagoon 450S, it does have better performance than a Fountaine Pajot Elba 45, is more sea-kindly than both, and that you 'should' (hopefully) be able to sell it for a similar price.
    If you want to license the design and / or contract the build to a yard, you will have to absolutely convince them of your claim above - and provide a sound market research plan showing that there are indeed punters out there who might well be interested in your design.

    Maybe you should raise some money and build the first boat yourself - and then you have 'living proof' (hopefully) that all of your claims are true.

    But nobody is going to be interested in it unless you provide more details - if you post some drawings on here, then you will receive a lot of useful feedback..
    And if you don't want to do that, because you are worried that somebody might steal the idea from you, then you are in a classic Catch 22.
     
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  3. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    Thank you bajansailor.
    Salient points, thanks again.
    Good idea to raise money for a prototype.
    Agreed that convincing investors might require a plan.
    I think a plan might include whether to license or build, contract or build, where to build, and how to sell.
    Any thoughts on those would be appreciated.
    A designers isn't necessarily and entrepreneur but every journey begins with a single step.
    And every relationship begins with a simple conversation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020 at 5:14 PM
  4. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Steve, it is such a very competitive field out there - so much so that I very much doubt that you are going to get anybody to stump up a lot of $$'s based on an idea that you have, and perhaps some drawings - even if you employ somebody to do the finest 3-D CAD drawings / renderings possible, it will still be very difficult.

    You mention "I think a plan might include whether to license or build, contract or build, where to build, and how to sell"

    I think you are jumping ahead too much here - you need to build the boat first, by whatever means is most practical / logical / sensible.
    And then try to sell your idea once you have a functioning boat that you can take people out on demo sails / cruises with.

    At the very worst, if nobody is interested in it then you still end up with your dream boat for yourself.
    At the best - well, the sky could be the limit if it takes off.
    But bear in mind that you are not only up against the established builders knocking out new craft on production lines, you are also effectively in competition against the thousands of second hand cats being offered for sale on Yachtworld and other sites that are of similar size / type, yet may be purchased for a fraction of the cost of building your cat now.
    So your cat has got to be VERY special / unique / competitive / attractive in order to compete.
     
  5. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    The simple way is to propose the design to builders and hope someone wants it. Then cash in on the license fees and relax. That actually requires you to go to the builder and peddle your goods, wich means disclosing any and all IP that gives you an edge. Usually you would start with the biggest players around, that actually have the cash to build such a boat, but some start with smaller players. Realisticly it will depend how good your contacts in the industry are, first problem is finding someone actually willing to listen to you and assess your claims.

    If you can raise the money you can have a demonstrator buildt. I would do one without any interior furniture, just the basic hull and systems, to show you are better. You can simulate the payload with sandbags. This could be achieved pretty low cost (relatively speaking of course), you don't need production tooling for it. Plenty of small builders can do that, you could even manage it as a self (managed) build.

    Starting a new company is not different then any other start-up, you need to find the money for it first. Talent there is enough everywhere, just have to pay for it.
     
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  6. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    What is the actual basis for believing your design is superior ? Seemingly, it is not based on practical experience, as no boat exists so far to be able to demonstrate it. No-one is going to pour money into something without some kind of factual support first. A good start might be a computer simulation that can reasonably accurately compare various boats on different performance parameters, but that could cost a bomb too.
     
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  7. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    How one can claim that paper design is better than boats that already exist??
    I saw many designs with big claims, but once built they turned out much heavier than they were advertised, and never achieved their 'unique' specs.
    There are plenty of pictures and 'designs' in the Internet but only few of them will ever become real boats.
    The outcome: find investor and/or interested builder first. No need to start a company, just build one boat and see if there is more interest. For success, make small steps without big claims.

    Sometimes, we make some concepts for the shelf, without any Client. Advertise them in magazines, supporting them with experience of our previous designs (not with 'superiority' over other brands). Usually, in few years, 50% of such concepts would be sold and built...
     
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  8. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Build a scale RC model, and that of the competition, take both down to the lake on a breezy day, and compare the pair. You might end up thinking, "wow, my boat hobby-horses like all get-out" ! :eek:
     
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  9. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    I haven't asked anybody to stump up a lot of $$'s, nor do I doubt it'd be very difficult if I chose to, just fun.

    I appreciate your concern in emphasizing that it's a very competitive field.
    In fact, year after year I'm surprised at the advertising money paid for 'projects' that don't convey sufficient competitive advantage to me.

    I appreciate your belief that I need to build the boat first.
    However, I think developing a business plan is less risky, especially since I'm also considering licensing.

    Again, I appreciate your concern in emphasizing that I'd be up against established builders and second hand cats, tri's, and even mono's.
    After a few failures that I'm equally grateful for, I am a successful entrepreneur in another field.
    That's taught me to believe that all one needs to do is be better than the worst competitor in a field.
    I believe I could do that.
    And frankly, I'm as interested in providing more seaworthy alternative to the markets favorite Lagoon 45/450's than I am in money.

    Acknowledging "the sky could be the limit if it takes off" is kind, thanks.

    Again, I appreciate your concern in emphasizing that my cat's got to be competitive.
     
  10. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    Licensing does not work in boat building/design business, for recreational boats. The designer does not really have resources to control such licensing...
    Look at story of Laser dinghy, designed also by a Canadian ;)
     
  11. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I think where things fall apart is bells and whistles. Designing a slightly better vessel for seaworthiness or performance and forgetting about the amenities doesn't work. Okay, you say, I'll add the amenities. Flybridge! Results in more windage and a higher center-less seaworthy. Then you say, our fly will be ultralight! Translation-high cost. At the end of the day, your better moped will cost more and you'll battle for market share on price or give up margin.

    So many boat manufacturers go under; you'd think they'd require them all to wear a snorkel.
     
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  12. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    Sounds like sage advice Rumars, thanks.
    Another reason to license is that I don't know the industry.
    I imagine Lagoon, etc. or a cabal of French or international builders could cause a lot of grief with suppliers, sellers, and/or the press.
    (Anyone remember how Walker WingSail was pilloried in the boating press?)

    I've decided to prepare a business plan mainly because it would be a difficult but rewarding project.
    Agreed, I'd like to start with Lagoon or Roberson & Caine for a few reasons.
    And yes, I expect it will be difficult to find someone actually willing to listen.

    A 'basic hull' seems like a good idea but I hadn't thought of sandbag ballast, thanks.
     
  13. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    A computer simulation is a good idea Mr Efficiency.
    Did you know AutoShip has given out limited versions of their software to 'students'.
     
  14. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    Interesting point Alik, thank you.
    I didn't know Mr Kirby had a problem licensing until I looked it up just now.
    Looking forward to reading it but I'll guess it was the Invitation that was a ripoff.
    Oversight of a relatively easy to build, small, and inexpensive dinghy should be very different that trying to hide an extra Lagoon 450.
    And oversight mechanisms are usually built into licensing deals.
    Of course China could ripoff anybody with or without IP.

    Does anyone know how major builders deal with the threat of foreign ripoffs?

    However, they do seem to be managing.
     

  15. SailorSteve270
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    SailorSteve270 Junior Member

    I appreciate your concern in emphasizing that amenities are important, fallguy.
    Since the Lagoon 45 was the bestselling multi of it's time and the 450 will probably continue to be, I doubt anyone can forget about the importance of amenities/comfort to the market.
    Speaking of flybridges, it was gratifying to see buyers finally draw a line with the 45F and it's subsequent replacement by the 45 and 450 SportTops.
    FWIW Any version of my design could easily be built with a flybridge but I wouldn't want one or recommend it.
     
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