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Startup Spotlight: YACHTLY

We sat down with Elena Christiansen, co-founder of YACHTLY, 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?

Yachtly started while my husband and I were chartering catamarans in the Virgin Islands and met Peter, a lawyer who advises Fintech startups on creating efficient money flows. Putting our combined knowledge of the luxury charter yacht industry and rapidly expanding financial service software, we quickly realised how much we could help our community.

Paying for a yacht charter takes manual, ungainly steps not found when buying anything else in today’s luxury markets. Hundreds of payment processors exist, but none answer the needs of the charter yacht industry. With the goal to simplify the system while providing more security and transparency to all parties involved in charter agreements, Yachtly was born on a yacht in the Caribbean.

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

Some people refer to booking a luxury yacht charter akin to going to a strip mall travel agent in the 1980’s. Because of its custom nature, charter agreement standards are hard to come by and when set are often bent. Current industry professionals do not trust technology and feel that electronic payments are riskier than paper checks. They find themselves overworked and reconciling everything in overly complex spreadsheets that their assistants do not even understand.

The words of industry professionals paint a better picture than we can:

“I wake up every morning at 3 o’clock to reconcile my three escrow accounts to make sure my system has not been hacked.”

“Many times I receive payments not knowing who sent them or for which boat they are supposed to go. So I sit and wait until someone calls me.”

“I have to fill a PDF by hand, then fax or email it to the bank, so my money can be stored in their escrow account. They charge me $25 per transaction.”

“When I called my clearinghouse to receive the deposit, they told me they didn’t know what had happened to it!”

A charter agreement may have more than 4 parties involved with multiple bank accounts that require deposits and withdrawals at specific times. With so many stress points and chances for mistakes, a clear need for technology exists.

What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?

The best part about starting your own company is forging the path to your own dreams. We love learning about clients’ difficulties, gathering information then creating a product that solves their pain-points and makes their lives better. It’s like a detective story with a happy ending.

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

In the beginning, we saw a problem, but didn’t know where to start. Luckily, one of our co-founders is a payments lawyer who, among many other notable fintech companies, advised Stripe as a startup. Since meeting him in the Virgin Islands, Peter’s guidance propelled the project forward and his connections keep us at the forefront of Stripe’s financial software innovations.

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

Some people will always have something negative to say, but what they see are their limitations, not yours. The people who make up this industry are resistant to change, but are all interested in making more money, more efficiently. So keep going, keep a positive attitude, keep working and helping others. The results will follow!

What's the plan for the future of the business?

We see Yachtly expanding our services both in the territories we serve. Right now we can only represent businesses with an entity in the United States, but we plan to soon expand our presence through the world, connecting everyone, reducing financial fees and bringing more security and transparency to the charter yacht industry finances globally.

Many requests pertain to integrations with other accounting platforms, such as Quickbooks. Yacht owners and managers sometimes want to see the charter fee sooner which we could offer as a factoring service. Directly linking yacht managers charter fee balances with a charge card through Yachtly will immensely simplify expenditures.

The ultimate goal is for Yachtly to become a trusted industry partner to assist our community’s leaders in making more efficient financial decisions. The possibilities are endless when you start to imagine a world with safe, simple and secure payments.


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