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Startup Spotlight: SALT

We sat down with Joe Dalton, founder of SALT, to talk about the journey to date and plans for the future of the business.

How did you come up with the idea for the business?

Having spent the best part of 5 years leading the leisure boat funding proposition at Lombard, part of the NatWest Group, I had become all too familiar with the frustrations experienced by all parties involved in boat finance – the customer, the boat retailer and us, the lender. Turn around times were slow, everything was rather old fashioned, too much paperwork, to much duplication of effort.

I’d had a keen interest in the financial technology revolution of the past decade and seen innovative startup companies making a real difference to the customer experience in all sorts of areas of finance, and it was obvious that the process didn’t need to be so painful.

It was during a sabbatical from NatWest in 2020 that the idea of Salt was born. I’d taken sometime off, which as it turned out was exactly the catalyst I needed to kick start my venture. I’d joined a couple of friends on a 31ft sailing boat heading from the UK, down to the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic. It was the most incredible experience and further cemented my love of being out on the water.

I wanted to help more people experience a love for the sea and, given my knowledge and skills in finance, the choice was obvious - I would tackle the lacklustre boat finance experience and drag boat buying into the 21st century. The first drafts of the Salt business plan were literally scribbled down on a note pad in the middle of the Atlantic.

Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?

Boat buying is a time consuming and complex process. There is much to think about. From what type of boat to buy, who to buy it from, how to sail it. There’s the insurance, maintenance, where to keep it. How to pay for it is just one of many complex choices. Helping would-be sailors and boat owners navigate any part of this will support the wider industry, from marinas to boat retailers.

Salt is simplifying the financing of leisure boats, but our purpose goes beyond this. In the future we plan to add additional services in partnership with other industry players, such as boat insurance, warranty and other related products. By removing some of the complexities and making things simple, boating enthusiasts can spend more time enjoying the oceans responsibly.

We are one of many companies currently working to simplify boating in one form or another and in doing so, drive growth in an industry we all love.

What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?

Every week brings successes and challenges. I thrive off both. The elation at solving one issue is quickly replaced with the pressure to solve the next. This gets me excited for every day and I love to look back at where we were a month ago, half year ago, a year ago, and take pride in the progress the Salt team are making.

What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?

The challenges have been endless and ongoing! From structuring the companies, to opening a bank account, raising our first ever investment to going through it all again in our second round. Little things like correctly documenting committee and board meetings, to more complex negotiations with banks on wholesale funding products I knew little about. The only thing that has got me this far has been the great people I’ve surrounded myself with!

Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?

You’ve got to love the industry you are working in, you’ve got to believe you can make a real difference and you’ve got to realise you won’t get there alone!

What's the plan for the future of the business? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?

We will be launching in the UK early next year when our lending license is approved by the regulator. Our initial goal will be to focus on perfecting our digital boat funding proposition. As time passes, working with our partners, we want to make adding other services such as insurance as easy as ticking a box.

When the time is right, I want to see Salt bringing its solutions to a wider audience globally. We plan to establish a Salt community through which we can spread our influence beyond the provision of professional services, simplifying boating so that more people can enjoy spending time on the water today and tomorrow.


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