Adrian Gradinaru & Delphine Braas: Founders, Sailo
Spotlight no. 2:
(Cofounder & Marketing, Business Development, PR)
Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, BS in International Hospitality Management
Magda Marcu (Cofounder & Operations and Finance)
What's your story?
Sailo’s story actually begins in Greece when our CEO, Adrian Gradinaru, chartered a boat with his Columbia Business School sailing club friends for spring break. It was an experience that he never wanted to end. When he returned to New York, he saw how frustrating and difficult it was to charter a boat so he set out to use technology to make it simpler for everyone to get out on a boat. He joined forces with his best friend, Magda Marcu, who he previously met in Silicon Valley and tech buff, Bogdan Batog. While at Columbia Business School, I met Adrian at a “European Society” rooftop event (you never know where you’re going to meet your next business partner but business school is a pretty good bet!) and decided to join Sailo to round out our cofounder team with my expertise in marketing, business development, and public relations.
What is Sailo?
Sailo is an online boat rental marketplace that connects people who want to rent boats with boat owners and licensed captains. Our seamless platform uses technology to disrupt the archaic boat rental industry with the aim of making boating more accessible, affordable and enjoyable.
What problem is Sailo addressing?
In a nutshell, the boating industry in inefficient, and current options do not address both boat owner and consumer needs! We couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to rent a boat. For an industry that is worth over $20B, how could it be so marginally touched by technology? From the start, our goal was--and still is--to make boat rentals simple, personal and affordable for everyone (including our IVY league peers). Personally, a magical feeling takes over me when I’m on any boat anywhere that makes me both excited and relaxed. We want more people to be able to experience this, not just boat owners. At the same time, boat owners are able to offset the never-ending costs of boat ownership by renting their boat out on their own terms and sharing the joy of boating!
A lot of people want to spend time on boats! But for inexperienced boaters, finding one to rent can be daunting. The market is fragmented with limited options, offers no price transparency, and is mostly offline. The process can take several days as renters need to contact several charter companies, ask for quotes, and wait for responses. Manually comparing prices across companies and boat owners tends to be challenging and time consuming resulting in many people abandoning their search.
That's where Sailo comes in! We are taking the slow, cumbersome and antiquated boat rental process and turning it into a seamless five-minute experience. Today's consumers are tech savvy and want to be able to select and book in minutes. Users can browse and compare boats based on location, price, number of people, type of activity they want to do and user experiences, while being able to pair up with a trustworthy crew. For boat owners, it's the easiest and safest way to monetize their asset thanks to Sailo’s complete trip insurance and secure messaging and payment platform.
We have a fleet of over 300 boats in the New York metro area, Hamptons, Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida. We have a boat for everyone; Sailo’s boats range from $300 per day to mega yachts and include sailboats, pontoons, fishing boats, catamaran, speedboats, and luxury yachts.
Why should boating be limited to a few? We designed an interactive platform that makes boating easy, affordable and fun. The best part is that our clients can feel like boat owners but without the hassle. For $50 per person, you can now get out on the water with a group of your friends and family.
Tell us a little bit more about how you transformed your idea into a startup.
Since the idea was conceived during school, we decided to take advantage of all the resources that Columbia Business School has to offer for entrepreneurs. Adrian took a the class called “Launching New Ventures” where he developed our initial business plan, and I (Delphine) analysed the business from an investor’s perspective during “VC Seminar.” We also tapped into Columbia’s incredible network of mentors to get feedback and went to as many pitch events so we could learn how to improve from professors, serial entrepreneurs and renowned venture capitalists.
During this time, Magda Marcu (cofounder and operations & finance lead) was working a full-time job at Interbrand and balancing her job with Sailo, and Bogdan Batog (cofounder and engineering lead) was working full time on the product already. It was definitely stressful, but we were all so passionate about Sailo’s success that work had become play anyhow. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Where do you see Sailo in ten years?
In ten years (or three), we see Sailo having the same name clout as Airbnb or Uber. It will be hard to imagine life pre-Sailo when getting out on a boat was difficult and limited to those fortunate few who have access to expensive boats. When you hear Sailo, you’ll think “the number one destination for all things getting out on the water.” Sailo’s app is in development, and we aim to launch before the end of this year (2015). This will be an exciting feature for Sailo since it will make connecting renters, boat owners, and captains even more seamless…all done from the palm of their hands!
What role did your Ivy League education play in empowering you to launch your company?
Adrian and my Ivy League education was invaluable. It was during Columbia Business School that Adrian decided to join the sailing club and chartered a boat in Greece on spring break where he saw the opportunity to disrupt the stagnant marketplace. I was very proactive in working closely with the administration to help build the entrepreneurship curriculum. Upon graduating, Sailo spent a year at the Columbia Startup Lab in Soho. It was an encouraging and inspiring environment to work alongside Columbia peer startups with access to mentors and investors. Thanks to the Ivy alumni network, Adrian and I have met many movers and shakers this way. In addition, we met one of our advisors through the Columbia network, and we’ve been able to attract talent from Ivy League schools.
Any additional comments?
Sailo would like to offer 15% off to your readers. Promocode: IVY2015
Thank you Delphine and the rest of the Sailo team. We look forward to sailing with you soon!
.::Ivy Startup Mag::.