Jelte Liebrand
Written by
Jelte Liebrand

An amazing first year

Posted on Thursday, Dec 27, 2018 | reading time: 4 min

#firstyear #startup #highsandlows #lessonslearnt #startuplife

If you would have told me when I first dreamed of starting ‘savvy navvy’, that at the end of our first year we’d have more than 10,000 sailors signed up, plotting more than 40,000 routes all over the globe, I’d have probably asked the bartender if I could get whatever you’d been drinking!

More than 40,000
routes plotted

Not only did we beat our predictions and targets, but this year has also been a fantastic learning experience for me personally; building a startup from scratch was always going to be challenging, but I had not realised quite how rewarding it is as well. As I sit here digesting our Christmas Turkey, I thought I’d recap the highs (and the lows!) of this first year.

Before I dive into specifics, I want to thank everyone who’s helped us get to where we are today. That means every single one of our users, especially those who’ve signed up to our Founding Member programme to support us build the best navigation solution out there. But aside from all of you, some people deserve extra credit, without whom I’d have personally been lost and given up long ago. Kevin, Camilla, Tom, Tim, Sarah, Hannah, Ian, Linda, Rich, the other Ian, Raphael, Caroline, Simon, Danny, Antonio, Rune and the Xoogler network, Jeff, David, Andy, Olly, Peter, Kurt, the other Tom, Patrick, and the other Peter… thank you all!

What went well

Running a startup inevitably means you will have a lot of people telling you exactly what you should or should not be doing (see the next section on things that could have gone better). But one thing most people will agree on is that you ought to verify that your idea is something people want. Just because you think it’s a brilliant concept, doesn’t make it so. You want to validate your assumptions, and you want to do so fast, based on hard, objective data.

Planning features

Having launched our beta programme at the London Boat Show in January, we were amazed to see the responses.

“Love this functionality!”

“We are very excited for all that savvy navvy offers.”

“We are thrilled to be part of it from the beginning.”

Our decisions to include an in-app chat option from the start, and to measure every action our users take, have been invaluable. From day one we’ve been able to categorically see what works, where we require tweaks to our designs and (crucially) validate that sailors indeed do want an all-in-one navigation solution. Being able to identify correctly which parts of our users’ journeys work and which do not, has taken all the guesswork out of our roadmap prioritisation. Without this data, we would still be deciding if our login button should be blue or white!

What could have gone better

As I mentioned above, I have run into a lot of people with advice on what I should or (most commonly) should not be doing. Given the wealth of experience a lot of the people in my network have, this can be incredibly helpful. But while this advice was always given with the best intentions, it turns out not every experience is perhaps as relevant to savvy navvy as I might have initially thought.

Wrong way

More often than I’d like to admit, I took us down a path that ultimately was not beneficial to our overall success. Worst still, this often caused us a lot of wasted cycles and restarts which, with the benefit of hindsight, could have easily been avoided. I should have taken a step back and evaluated the specific advice rather than assuming it must be the “right thing”™ to do because so-and-so claimed it was the absolute most crucial thing for a startup.

Looking ahead

This year has all been about proving the concept of an all-in-one solution for better and safer navigation at sea. Now that we have the basics in place, our focus has already started to shift to finalising the core offering. Departure planning, ever-increasing global chart coverage, tidal calculations and mobile apps are all high on our list of things to get done in the new year. We’re expanding the team (interested in a fun job with full autonomy?), and will be flat out to get as many things done before you plan to put your boat back into the water.

What's next?

My predictions for 2019?? Considering how wildly off the mark I was last year, I won’t put any numbers on it. But one thing I know for sure: it will be another year full of curve balls and learning for all of us here at savvy navvy, and I for one welcome every challenge that lies ahead!

Fair winds,
Jelte