Tubber wants to make sailing and boating vacations accessible to everyone and seems to be succeeding in that mission. The booking platform is growing explosively and is the market leader in the Netherlands. Tubber is currently working hard to, with the support of Flinc and G-Force Capital, to conquer the rest of the world.
The ambition is big and realistic. 'Our goal is to become the biggest platform worldwide,' says Tessa de Vries. 'Anyone who wants to rent a boat for a vacation should immediately think of Tubber.' Tubber, based in Groningen and of which Tessa is CEO, is a booking platform for basically anything that sails. Or to be more precise: the company connects boat owners, mainly professional landlords, with people who want to rent a boat or sailing yacht. Clients do the booking themselves, of course; Tubber ensures secure payment transactions, handles all further administration and guarantees 24/7 service.
The idea arose when entrepreneur and avid sailor Anne de Vries, Tessa's husband, went on a sailing vacation in 2006. Only with great difficulty had he managed to rent a suitable boat. Arriving at the destination, in Croatia, he saw numerous attractive rental boats in the harbor. Yet he had not come across them on the Internet. Something is not going quite right there, he realized. Indeed, the boat rental market was not exactly transparent right now. There were offers everywhere, but no clear overview. So Tubber changed that. For the first few years, the transactions and other administrative processes were mainly done manually. But as the number of customers increased, that became too cumbersome and time-consuming. For that reason, a powerful booking platform was developed that handles transactions, where possible, in an automated fashion. A scalable platform, funded largely with its own money.
'The platform is up, running and running extremely well,' Tessa stresses. 'Our booking capacity, real-time inventory and sales have grown tremendously in recent years. Currently our database has more than 12,000 immediately available boats, spread over more than 600 destinations worldwide. We are the market leader in the Netherlands and a household name in the international market. But we want to take even bigger steps and create even more brand awareness. Because of the scalability of our platform, we can easily handle greater growth with virtually the same number of employees.'
To make the expected further growth possible, of course, money was needed. Hence Tubber started looking for funding opportunities. Thus an application was successfully submitted to a Pitch Event organized by G-Force Capital. G-Force Capital invests in promising companies with a digital heart from the province of Groningen. And so last June, in front of a professional and critical jury, Tessa was allowed to present Tubber's ambitious plans. The story made an impression. Tubber won the jury prize, after which Tessa signed a funding agreement on the spot. What was the deciding factor? 'The scalability of the platform and the fact that the company is led by a strong management team with a clear focus on the market,' says fund manager Marco de Jong of G-Force Capital. 'Moreover, Tubber already had a proven track record. In addition to financial support, the company can also use our knowledge, expertise and network. And there are regular consultations. That way we stay involved in important strategic decisions.
Currently, our database has more than 12,000 immediately available boats, spread over more than 600 destinations worldwide.
Tubber was also contacted by Flinc. Why really? 'We have been around for quite some time,' Tessa begins her explanation. 'All those years Anne has filled the role of CEO. We thought it was time for refreshment. That's why we decided last year that I would take on the management role so that Anne could concentrate fully on business development. So, partly with a view to funding, I took a thorough look at our business plan. We had not been very actively working on that so far. It just runs, it's always high season with us. In fact, there was virtually nothing on paper. It was all in my head.
So to create a solid business plan, I could use Flinc's support and critical eye. And that proved to be the case. For example, Ellen Ploeger, Flinc's project manager, helped me look at our company through the eyes of an investor. Of course, we can and want to grow considerably. After all, the platform was built from that perspective. We want more market share and to become even more profitable. But how do you make that tangible to investors? In other words, how do you realize that growth? What steps need to be taken to achieve it? And above all: how much funding do we need to achieve our goals? After much writing, deleting and rewriting, we now have a plan that is completely investor-ready. The result of valuable discussions and an intensive process.
At the same time, Tessa was assisted by Ellen in identifying the best suited funding structure. Based on that, a list of potentially interesting investors was compiled, which Flinc then put Tubber in touch with. Meanwhile, a large part of the funding has arrived. 'For the remaining part we have quite a few discussions underway,' says Tessa. 'We only deal with parties we feel 100% comfortable with. We are critical and find it important that we can stay on our own course. And should anyone have to join the shareholders' meeting, then preferably someone with marketing glasses on. Because marketing will be a major focus for Tubber in the coming period. As mentioned, we can handle a large crowd. Not for nothing is the platform already ready in several languages. But of course you have to reach that mass first.'