Huw Lloyd is an experienced finance technology leader, having grown a business supplying the world’s largest corporates with specialist finance planning software for over 16 years, working within the consultancy arm at PwC beforehand. Huw has a deep knowledge and experience in providing best of breed digital platforms, combined with industry leading levels of service.
- You are launching a new platform with a view to revolutionising the luxury yacht charter industry – how does it work?
Ahoy Club is new digital platform that brings unrivalled simplicity to the luxury yacht charter market. Our offering enables both yacht charterers and owners to charter or manage a yacht in a far more efficient, simple and cost-effective way than currently possible through traditional brokers.
Our aim is to provide a streamlined, agile end-to-end digital platform for charterers to find a vessel and for owners to manage their yacht’s schedule, with charter requests and schedules managed instantly through the Ahoy app or website.
Chartering or managing your yacht’s schedule through Ahoy will also be considerably cheaper in comparison to traditional brokers, potentially saving users tens of thousands of pounds. Everything – from selecting your yacht, dates and destination down to how much you tip the crew – can be organised through the platform.
- Why are you launching the platform?
The idea came around when our founder, Ian Malouf (himself a yacht owner) became increasingly aware that there were both the extortionate costs and lengthy processes involved in chartering or hiring out luxury yachts.
We have seen, in recent years, how peer-to-peer digitalisation has completely revolutionised industries that had barely changed in the decades prior. It was clear that the combination of technological developments, the growing popularity of the sharing economy and the need to streamline a frankly stodgy super yacht charter market meant a gap in the market had developed that we could fill.
- Is the platform primarily designed to benefit charterers or yacht owners?
The platform is designed to benefit both equally.
For charterers, we will initially offer around 2,000 superyachts ranging from the smallest (24m) right up to the largest (100m+). Through the digital platform, charterers can simply select the dates they wish to charter and the geographical region and their price range. A list of available yachts that match the criteria will then be displayed, and can be requested to charter in a couple of taps or clicks. The yacht owner will then have 48 hours to respond to the charter request. We will also be offering yachts under 24m for those who are looking for a more cost-effective solution to chartering.
For owners, our platform will enable them to fully manage their yacht’s schedule and charter requests. Uniquely, yacht owners will also be able to charter out their yacht for what would otherwise be an empty voyage in between charters.
- Are there any other benefits to Ahoy over a traditional broker fund?
The platform offers several innovative benefits for both owners and charterers.
Firstly, our platform enables the charter of return journeys – that is, the journey a vessel takes back to a port or harbour after a charter. These journeys are almost always empty and, therefore, essentially wasted. By affording the opportunity to charter these journeys, yacht owners can really maximise the revenue from their vessel.
Secondly, we are in the process of establishing formal partnerships with complementary platforms and services, such as private jet charter enabling us to offer the best, fully-integrated service to date. We are also planning to launch a loyalty scheme that will reward captains and charterers.
Furthermore, we are also developing a completely unique asset share platform – ‘Yotswapp’ – that will enable yacht owners on Ahoy to swap and share their boats and other assets. This will enable owners to unlock revenue on assets that may otherwise sit inactive, doing so in the reassurance they know exactly who they are leasing to.
- Do you require the yacht owners’ access to place their yachts onto your platform, and what if they are already operating with a broker?
Ahoy will essentially act as a broker. When a yacht charter is requested through the platform, Ahoy will then directly contact the yacht’s representatives – who are tasked with promoting and booking the yacht on behalf of the owner.
- How will you look to break the monopoly of the traditional broker houses?
Whereas it can take weeks to broker a charter with a traditional broker house who charges 20% commission, with Ahoy it can take minutes – charging just 4% on the net charter cost, which already includes the owner’s software fee. The charter market is ripe for improvement through technology; in this sense, we are not setting out on a specific mission to break up a traditional monopoly, but rather to demonstrate to the industry the benefits of technology – and how much more efficient a market that has a new perspective and embraces technology can be.
- How many yachts will you have on the platform?
We will have a large range of around 2,000 yachts on our platform, including sailing yachts and power yachts, and will continue to build the portfolio over time. Whilst a superyacht is traditionally a yacht over 24m in length that is managed by a crew, we will also be offering a wide range of smaller vessels under 24m.
We know that there are many professionals and HNWs who would like to charter a yacht but don’t believe they have the financial means to do so. In recent years this has led to the growth of the cabin charter – where charterers charter a berth on the yacht and pay for provisioning.
By offering vessels under 24m and much reduced commission rates, we are looking to not just make the market more efficient, but to also to partially democratise it. In this sense, we are looking to engage with both existing charterers and yacht owners, and those coming to the market for the first time.
- What geographical regions will Ahoy cover?
From launch we will cover all the key geographical yacht charter markets, including the Mediterranean, Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Asia.
By 2020 the yacht charter market is estimated to be valued at over £28b, with the Asian market in particular having considerably grown in recent years. The growth of the yacht charter industry affords plenty of opportunities to a new breed of broker, and we will look to capitalise upon this growth by operating across all international markets.
- Who is behind the business and what is your business model?
The business was founded by Ian Malouf, a leading international entrepreneur who is head of Dial A Dump, one of Australia’s leading waste management and recycling service providers. Ian owns Mischief, a $40m superyacht that he purchased in 2015, and has had first-hand experience of the charter market from both the owner and charterer perspective for over 25 years.
The other senior members of the team include myself, with over 20 years of experience in the finance & fintech industry, and Mike Hutton, our head of operations who is former Operations Director at Charter Index. Charter Index is the world’s expert in B2B and B2C luxury yacht charter data, so Mike has arrived with a wealth of knowledge and unique data-driven insights into the state of the market, which will prove invaluable.
We are also adding a number of other industry experts to our fast growing team in order to provide both a best of breed platform and accompanying end to end service.
Ahoy Club is based on a usage-based model, which charges a small amount of commission for each charter – there are no locked-in subscriptions.
- What are your future plans for the business?
Initially, we will be looking to establish ourselves and raise our profile within the yacht charter industry, coupled with growing the userbase and number of yachts available on the platform.
In the longer term we will be working to further develop both our partnership with complementary services and our Yotswapp facility, with the view of integrating Ahoy into a wider network of similar peer-to-peer based platforms that will enable owners to share their assets and charters to enjoy a fully integrated experience.
Thank you for your time today Huw and good luck with the new venture.