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Episode #78 with Mike McKiernan

13 Sep 2022 | 20 mins 35 secs

On this episode of the NTP podcast we chat with Mike McKiernan, about the idea behind starting Deckee, his experience growing a startup to an international and now global scale and the recent crowdfunding investment opportunities. Hope you enjoy the episode!

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Show Notes

Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the Newcastle tech scene.

Find all local Newcastle Technology Events

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • (04:17)

    Can you give us a quick overview of who you are individually and what you do at Deckee?

  • (03:52)

    What is the problem that Deckee solves?

  • (08:08)

    The growth at Deckee.

  • (10:42)

    Investing in Deckee. The process of equity crowdfunding capital raise.


James: 00:00:04:17 – 00:00:35:14
Who would? Welcome to our first new tech papal news bulletin. On today’s news bulletin, we’ve got Mark Mckiernan from Deckee. Welcome back. I meant before get into the sort of what’s going on in Turkey right now. For those that don’t know. Give me the background on who you are and the Deckee story today. Sure, I can do. So once upon a time, I.

00:00:35:14 – 00:01:01:19
Mike – Deckee
Newcastle. In Newcastle. Now. So, yeah. Look, the Deckee background story or origin story is when I left high school, I got a job at the local marina where I grew up. Yeah. And that unexpectedly led to basically ten years of working on marinas there. So I never had a plan to go and do that, but it just happened happen that way.

00:01:02:18 – 00:01:29:19
And over the course of that decade, quite literally helps thousands of boat owners with just about every problem under the sun. More or less. Yeah. And it was just through that time that I just accrued so much understanding about the challenges and and the positives of boat ownership. But just getting that sample size across so many different people just gave me this really, really interesting, I guess, market research in hindsight, right?

00:01:29:20 – 00:01:56:11
Mike – Deckee
Yeah. And it was around the same time that I was. During that time, I studied at Newcastle University, I was doing design become interested in product design and entrepreneurship and, and really the, the initial idea of Deckee was kind of the seed that that’s where it started. It was around then that I got accepted into the Slingshot Accelerator program, which which is a bit of the Newcastle Tech story as well there.

00:01:56:15 – 00:02:23:04
Yeah. And it was on the back of that that, that Deckee got its first investors. Yeah. And that actually they, those original investors come from Newcastle as well. So you know there’s lots in Newcastle that’s woven into the Deckee back story but and ever since then we’ve you know, we’ve just gradually, you know, grown the technology, we’ve grown our team, the majority which are based here in Newcastle as well, which NewyTechPeople has helped us out at different times.

00:02:23:04 – 00:02:43:05
Mike – Deckee
So. Didn’t pay me to say that but and you know, hitting that’s where we are. It brings us to where we are today. Yeah, definitely. Newcastle success story. You know, as you said, you part yourself and then the slingshot story and Slingshot had a lot of success, you know, helping Newcastle best startups grow and then you building and growing and keeping your team here in Newcastle.

00:02:43:05 – 00:03:04:20
And so yeah, a definite Newcastle success story and that’s why we’re here today as well, to try to. It’s an exciting period of growth for you guys and opportunity for other Newcastle people to actually get involved here, which is pretty cool. So boating is one of the world’s most popular recreational activities, right? So it’s statistically 200 million people get out on the water around the world in some shape or form every year.

00:03:04:23 – 00:03:31:11
Mike – Deckee
So, you know, it’s definitely one of the world’s most most popular pastimes. Essentially, the challenge is, is that it’s also can be very confusing and dangerous and stressful when you’re out there. And that’s compounded by the fact that the vast majority of people that get out on the water aren’t very experienced. Even the people that own boats, they’re getting out there actually statistically around ten times a year.

00:03:31:11 – 00:03:52:14
Yeah. So, you know, once a month. That’s a pretty easy process to get a boating license as well, right? Very easy process to get a license. It’s a, you know, half day theory, half day practical. It varies state to state. Country is country. But regardless of where you do that, it’s still there’s so many different challenges that the ocean or the, you know, the waterways will throw at you.

00:03:52:21 – 00:04:12:00
Mike – Deckee
And the majority of people just don’t have enough exposure hours out there on the water to really get get proficient at that. Yeah. And even for the really experienced boaters and navigators out there, even for them, what there’s no they say no two days on the water ever the same. Yeah. So it’s always going to throw something different at you.

00:04:12:12 – 00:04:35:06
Mike – Deckee
This is a get it getting to the what we do after this. But the other thing with that is that because we’ve got so many arguably inexperienced or undereducated people that’s making up this boating population, it’s it’s only natural in this day and age that people turn to their devices right to to get the answers, to get assistance.

00:04:35:16 – 00:04:59:02
Mike – Deckee
And that’s where Deckee comes in, right. So Deckee is, is three things, really. We’re a mobile app. Yeah. Moving forward, we’re also a marketplace. And we’ve also got this analytics platform that’s attached to what we do. But. But the, the core of what we do is the mobile app. Yeah. The, the easy way to describe it is we’ve built it to be a Swiss Army knife for anyone that’s spending time on the water.

00:04:59:02 – 00:05:19:08
Mike – Deckee
It’s a it’s a good analogy, but it’s basically an all in one app. So it’s got a variety of different capabilities that you’re going to need when you’re out there. That’s everything from weather and safety alerts being able to record all of your activity out on the water as a log book. We’ve got location sharing so you can share your live location out there with your friends and family.

00:05:19:10 – 00:05:39:24
Yeah, all the official points of interest, speed zones, etc., etc. and all of that’s rolled into one app. Yeah. And it’s free. So, you know, just like Google Maps. Yet when you’re on land, which everyone’s using, it’s a free utility. We’ve aimed to replicate that for for those that are out on the water, imagine you gather in a heap of data point to that.

00:05:40:14 – 00:06:06:08
Mike – Deckee
Yes. Which is which is the analytics platform component to watch what we do so as the users are the community that we have is is using the app, we generate lots of GPS activity data off the back of that. We’ve now amassed over 200 million activity data points on boating activity. Wow. All of that’s privacy approves anonymised aggregated information.

00:06:06:16 – 00:06:37:23
Mike – Deckee
But what it actually creates is we’ve got visibility on boating behaviour that has never really existed and that has so many different applications of what that can be useful from, whether it’s safety strategies, infrastructure planning, policy, this touches on almost every aspect of the industry. Yeah, both from a commercial and a government perspective. So that’s the analytics side is very much the longer term aspect of what deck is.

00:06:37:23 – 00:06:59:13
Mike – Deckee
But in that middle ground is the marketplace. So, you know, we’ve built up this this utility that’s free for the community, which has been received really well and is now sort of expanding globally. But the next step there is to also help the boating community with the transactions that they need to make as well. Yeah. So that might be initially for us it’s insurance.

00:06:59:13 – 00:07:21:01
So helping them with boat insurance, with training and education courses, with safety products, but then gradually we’ll start to expand those categories that we can assist with to the point where Darcie can help you with virtually every aspect of the boating community. If you are interested in boating. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So, that’s the long answer.

00:07:21:02 – 00:07:42:00
Yeah. How long it’s actually been rolling now? So we, we first launched our A website actually, which we weren’t a mobile app initially in 2015. Yeah. So we started actually as a desktop site and you know, just tough. It is a handful pretty handy when you’re out on the water off. Not quite nice. Right and obviously a lot of drive from a desktop.

00:07:42:09 – 00:08:08:15
Mike – Deckee
Yeah, that’s our website sort to the mobile app. Yeah. How many downloads have you got. Yeah. So we’ve had we’ve had over 300,000 boaters now use the Deckee. Yep. The majority that’s been in Australia. And at the end of 2021 we started our first expansion into the US, which has been pretty exciting. Just one quick data point is that the state of Florida alone is the same number of boats as the entire country of Australia.

00:08:08:23 – 00:08:44:16
So just in one state we’ve actually doubled our, our, our market size with that expansion. So and the other the other really probably key thing to point out is that what we’ve done is gained the endorsement of government agencies. Yeah. So Deckee is actually the official boating app in three states in Australia which is and to sort of explain what that means is that if you’re a, if you’re going out on the water in New South Wales, Western Australia or Tasmania, the maritime agency in that state is telling you to use Deckee.

00:08:44:16 – 00:09:02:00
So it’s pretty, sort of unprecedented because it would be like them telling you to use straw or if you’re going for a run like you never really going to see that kind of endorsement. But that’s that’s the the unique relationship that we have there with them. So we’ve obviously built up a lot of trust. Right.

00:09:02:07 – 00:09:26:10
Mike – Deckee
Right. And you know, hopefully some more states coming coming on board soon if things can continue going the way that they are. And until we get to a point where we actually have a private business, an independent business, which is actually a nationally endorsed application for anyone that’s doing that activity. So that’s a really good opportunity, pretty unique position that we’re in area and us that sort of brings us to where we’re at today.

00:09:26:10 – 00:09:55:05
And one of the reasons we’re having this conversation are I’ve got some inside understanding of what’s going on, but I think it’s a really cool opportunity for Newcastle and Newcastle tech community and Newcastle as a whole. There there is a thought process and a feeling around Newcastle supporting Newcastle’s people from Newcastle. I feel like there’s an opportunity right now with the growing Newcastle company that was born locally, who’s stayed local and it’s growing nationally and internationally that people to now get involved.

00:09:55:11 – 00:10:15:14
I’m quite interested in the startup space, both from an early investor perspective and also sort of later on. But this is an opportunity, I guess, that most people don’t normally get at investing in a company that’s actually got runs on the board at a later stage. Like most of the time, you get an opportunity to invest in a companies at a very early stage, very high risk.

00:10:16:05 – 00:10:42:17
This sounds like it’s an opportunity now that people from Newcastle could potentially get involved here at a later stage with companies actually already established. So give us an overview if you’ll let our audience know essentially where we’re at and what you’re going through at the moment. Yeah, yeah. So look, what we’re about to announce in the first week of September is, is our equity crowdfund capital rise, which is a pretty exciting step for a bunch of reasons.

00:10:42:23 – 00:11:04:05
Mike – Deckee
But it’s very unique because this time around, when we’ve gone to raise capital for the continued growth of the business, we looked at equity. We’ve always thought about equity crowdfunding as something that would be really aligned to everything that we do. We’ve chosen not to do it at different times for different reasons, but this time around it just felt right.

00:11:04:05 – 00:11:30:06
Mike – Deckee
And the reason why it’s so fitting really comes back to the mission behind what we do like our company mission is to keep the world safe and informed on the water. That’s kind of why we do what we do. And it just makes so much sense that all of the people that we’re aiming to help with the product, the industry, the users actually now have an option to have a vested interest in the company’s success and growth.

00:11:30:06 – 00:11:52:23
Yeah. So, you know, that is the for anyone that doesn’t know about equity crowdfunding, it means you actually get shares and ownership in the business. It’s not like a Kickstarter style situation. So, you know, we are inviting actually people to come on board as as co-owners in the company, which is really cool. So that’s starting very soon and looking forward to seeing how it goes.

00:11:52:23 – 00:12:13:02
Mike – Deckee
I mean, we’re in the the expression of interest phase right now. Yeah, we’ve received over 900 people that have registered their interest to invest. So seems like finally getting around to making this decision was the right thing. But we’ll see how we go. And us now is there a limit to the amount of people you can take on board?

00:12:13:14 – 00:12:34:05
No, there’s not. And, you know, that’s the there’s some unique regulation that was passed a couple of years ago around equity crowdfunding, which enables you to have a large shareholder register without needing to meet the requirements of a publicly listed company, not so there’s this there’s this approved middle ground, if you will, that we sort of fall into.

00:12:34:05 – 00:12:57:15
So and is what are we talking about from an investment perspective? Can I invest $0.20 on a $20,000? What’s it look like there? Yeah. At our community where the opportunities are. How does this come to life? Is that do I need to be a seasoned investor? And so the spectrum is as little as a few hundred bucks.

00:12:57:19 – 00:13:20:15
Mike – Deckee
Yeah. Is the minimum to as much as you want to invest, right. Yeah. We do have a maximum amount that we’re looking to raise which is one and a half million. Yeah. And it is a first person in best dressed policy. Right. So, you know, we do have investors that are considering larger amounts. So it really just comes down to, you know, how that plays out in the first first couple of weeks.

00:13:20:15 – 00:13:37:02
So but yeah, it is, it is set up in a way that the average person, whether they’re user of the app or a you know, Newcastle local or whatever it might be, they can they can take part us I mean for decades when this is successful in your eyes a million and a half. What does that mean for Darcie.

00:13:37:02 – 00:14:05:01
Does that how are you guys going to use that? What does that mean for the future, potential growth for the decade thing? Yeah. So there’s a couple of key things that we’re really looking to do with the funds. So we’re really starting to now expand internationally. So we’ve taken the first couple of steps into the US, but the US is such a huge market, so there’s just so much room for growth now and we’ve built our platform and everything that we do in a way that is globally applicable and scalable.

00:14:05:01 – 00:14:35:12
Mike – Deckee
So we’re really looking to now start to expand on the success that we’ve had here locally in Australia and replicate that we need to grow our team as a result of that. You know, we’re particularly looking to start scaling up marketing and business development to support the commercial growth of the business too. Yeah. And I suppose what that means for, for anyone thinking about investing and getting involved is that, you know, where we’re seeing the company going over time, it could be a number of different scenarios.

00:14:35:18 – 00:15:10:15
Mike – Deckee
You know, there’s the potential exit to buy or an acquisition for a larger company in the in the maritime industry that sees a lot of strategic value in what we’re doing. Obviously, there’s the possibility of an IPO, although nothing’s guaranteed, of course, but probably the third and most interesting or exciting thing to think about is that if we continue to to grow the community, the utility of the app, we get to this point where techie is a ubiquitous tool used by people out on the water.

00:15:10:22 – 00:15:37:07
We’re seeing this trend moving towards everything, being software driven. Right. And we have this thesis, I suppose, is that if that continues to play out over time, we’ll get to a point where a software company doing what we do may become more valuable than the hardware companies in this industry. And when I say that, I mean companies like Garmin, for example, Navic.

00:15:37:08 – 00:16:01:11
So there’s a there’s a few that are the leading global manufacturers of marine electronics and these are multibillion dollar companies, right? So that’s where we also see the sort of third possibility there is of what Deckee ends up becoming in that situation. You know, there will be liquidity opportunities there for all shareholders. Yeah, it means that we’re looking to obviously increase the value of the company between now and that point in time.

00:16:01:15 – 00:16:21:21
Yeah. So that’s that’s ultimately why you would look to give it a because a lot of really successful companies that are built out there on building a community first and then monetize in that community secondly. Right, right. So it sounds like the journey going on is really been community focused. Build that actual vehicle for the community and then yeah, my blood vessel may be the vessel.

00:16:21:21 – 00:16:49:23
Mike – Deckee
Hey, okay, you guys, you’ve done this before, and then you have monetization opportunities for that community as well. Yeah, it sounds like there’s plenty of opportunity there and that’s not even touching on that analytics side. So Right Daughter’s valuable, as we all know by this sounds like a really exciting opportunity for those of the Newcastle Tech community. Our NewyTechPeople, podcast listeners, how do they get involved is that you mentioned expressions of interest is is on the website.

00:16:50:01 – 00:17:11:08
Yep. And information so like this app as well on our show notes show, the way to actually do it is through a platform called equities. So it’s, it’s equities.com. I’m not going to try and spell that word because I’ll probably stuff it up. But Equities is an officially approved equity crowdfunding platform that we’ve partnered with to facilitate the round.

00:17:12:03 – 00:17:32:07
Mike – Deckee
So all of the process starts, the information is all hosted there on equities. If you jump on their website, you’ll see it’s there somewhere on the home page. It shouldn’t be too hard to find, but well in a newspaper dot com, you will put it on a podcast page and will send link straight to the show and it also shows as well.

00:17:32:07 – 00:17:53:04
So try and make it easy. The NewyTechPeople podcast and our company has been sort of establishing especially the podcasts to help support the local community. And I feel like this is as good a time as ever. You know, I’ve known each other since I started recruiting in Newcastle.

00:17:53:04 – 00:18:12:18
Mike – Deckee
I don’t know, five or six years ago, that’s where you guys were born and same time. So we’ve been on similar growth journey, so I feel like it’s a really good opportunity for us to try to share this message with the community and see if we get some local tech people involved or, you know, don’t have to be tech people, just like Newcastle, people involved in this option.

00:18:12:24 – 00:18:43:23
Yeah, probably one thing I’d add to that is it’ll be interesting. You know, I’m personally interested to see the outcome of this almost like if I step out of my own body for a moment to see what the results are for a company started in Newcastle, a tech company that goes down the route of an equity crowdfunding process and and what maybe benchmark that might said or you know if it’s it inspires other companies locally to follow a similar path that are community driven.

00:18:44:02 – 00:19:06:17
Yeah. You know community driven products and companies. So now I love it because especially like Newcastle, especially in the tech media, we talk a lot about, hey, for our community to continue to grow, we need to, you know, both build tech companies here and let them have success to create job opportunities for other people or, you know, ship a big company in here is going to launch a, you know, a satellite office or something here.

00:19:07:09 – 00:19:26:01
But everyone talks about the growth of the technology community and helping support that and build that as I feel like this a real opportunity for people to get involved, even if it’s as small as a couple hundred dollars. But as you know, my ticket in, hey, I’m supporting Newcastle Tech community and supporting opportunities for others. That’s the other part that I’m super excited about.

00:19:26:01 – 00:19:49:00
Like if you guys have success with this locally, like I’m sure you have success in total you’ll get the one half mil, but to get a portion of it from Newcastle Tech community and see how that you know, that success that we could say other smaller businesses for Newcastle Tech community use that vehicle to also raise and again an opportunity for the local community to get involved in supporting the growth.

00:19:49:16 – 00:20:18:23
Mike – Deckee
It’s a look because there’s just no examples out there right now. Right. It’s a pretty small sample set of like companies that have done this successfully that have gone on to do even bigger things. Hopefully we can we can be that. Yeah. So I will say now I love it. Appreciate your time today, mate. I’ll definitely be supporting it individually myself and I hope, you know, a few of Alison’s came up that this is not financial advice, but disclaimers.

00:20:18:23 – 00:20:29:06
This time is that. No, I’m super, super keen to see how this plays out. Thanks for the presentation. Success. Thanks for having me, cheers.

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