Steffen Bruenn, founder of Yachtico, which is a GrowFL 2017 Florida Companies to Watch honoree, is a serial entrepreneur whose first startups experienced both a successful IPO and acquisition before launching Yachtico.
"I started my first business in 1999 while still attending university in Berlin," he said. "We started a company that did IT refurbishing. We purchased used IT hardware, refurbished them and sold them for a good margin. We exited that company through an IPO in 2006 in Germany. I started another company in 2006 that developed a mobile video platform to convert video into all different video formats. A German media conglomerate acquired that company in 2008. I worked on a couple projects for some large companies until I knew it was time for me to start something again and that I wanted to pursue an untapped market."
Bruenn regularly chartered boats for his sailing vacation and felt that the experience of acquiring the boat left a lot to be desired.
"I've been a yacht charter customer since 1993 and I always felt like I got a bad deal," he explained. "You never got any prices, real pictures of the boat or availabilities from the travel agents. Then when you decide on a boat you always felt there was a better deal elsewhere so I saw this real need for an aggregator for yacht charters and yacht rentals around the world. The market is highly fragmented with charter operations only owning up to about eight yachts and the transactions are international. There was no global leader and the industry was totally underserved by technology."
Bruenn launched Yachtico in 2011 and the company is now the largest online rental site for yacht charters in the world with 16,000 boats available in a wide range of sailboats, catamarans or motor yachts in +2,000 destinations. Professional captains are an available option for all yachts on Yachtico.
As a German who moved his company to Florida, Bruenn feels doubly grateful for being recognized by GrowFL as a Florida Company To Watch.
"It’s a big honor for us," he said. "Especially as a German coming to the U.S., it is another honor for me that even the U.S. community realizes we create value. For our employees, it makes a difference also to see that we can move here and be recognized with such an honor."
Bruenn's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to listen to your customer and be prepared for a difficult path.
"It's hard," he said. "Most people don't think so because a lot of what they see is entrepreneurs on stage accepting awards. It’s a long way to that stage. It’s a marathon rather than sprint. You trade in a lot of personal time in exchange for the freedom to decide on your own what is the most valuable way to spend your time."
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