January 5, 2022

Reaching Massive Scale With Customer Feedback with Matt Fradette

This week Matt Fradette, Co-Founder and CRO of Dockwa and The Wanderlust Group joins Ned and Hilmon on the Scale Academy Podcast to talk about the birth and evolution of Dockwa, the formation of The Wanderlust Group, how they are scaling both, and what’s next for them.

The Birth of Dockwa

In 2014 Matt launched Dockwa as a slip-booking app after experiencing how frustrating it was to book a reservation at a marina. He and his team realized this was happening at marinas across the board as the booking processes were basically the same. So Dockwa was born in order to streamline and personalize this process. They took the same concept as OpenTable and built an ERB that was focused on transient marina reservations and allowed a connection to a whole network of boaters, as well as modern, convenient, cashless reservations to be made. Learn more at 00:02.

Selling the Idea

Matt explains that their first step was to sell marinas the concept of the marketplace and the network. They then began to build the unique feature that no marinas really had, which was a true online booking, rather than having the customer fill out a form that then just gets sent to an email. This is where the idea of modeling Dockwa similarly to OpenTable came into play and really started to catch the attention of investors. Learn more at 03:42.

Understanding the Marketplace

While it seems as though Matt and his team grew up as boaters, they actually do not have a lot of boating experience. They did, however, grow up around the water and were familiar with the process of marina reservations. They then went out and did their homework and spoke to different boaters and marinas and were able to identify the problem and connect the dots to figure out how they could solve the problem. Learn more at 05:48.

Evolving the Marketplace

At 06:49 Matt explains that the TAM was a bit hard to measure at first because there had never been any data to measure it before. They estimated 12,000-15,000 domestic marinas. However, while Dockwa was first focused on transient reservations, they have now evolved to so much more. They were able to get their foot in the door and learn what the marinas still needed, what they still wanted, and what other pain points were still present. This allowed them to evolve both the marketplace and the business side, and this has turned their value proposition more into being an all-in-one marina management solution. So over the last 6-7 years of being in this market and evolving Dockwa, they have seen that the TAM is actually very large and the GMV is bigger than anyone ever thought. Continue listening to learn more. 

Staying Connected is Key

Matt explains that early on before they even had a product, they had PowerPoints. They would take them to boat shows and go door-to-door. They got their concept out there and made connections to get people to believe in the concept early on in the process. They accepted as much feedback as they could get. They focused on the supply first and built a product that they could sell the pain point on and used that as their go-to-market strategy. 

He further explains that in 2017 they acquired and needed to build something that could get more people onto the water. They needed a parent company that could house many brands under one umbrella, and so The Wanderlust Group was born. 

From here they have been pulled in another direction to build a sort of Dockwa analog for campgrounds called CampSpot. There is such a need for it that people have tried to hack Dockwa to try to make it work for campgrounds, and because of how connected they are to their marketplace Matt and his team were approached to create this new platform. Learn more at 10:19.

Attack the Supply

Matt is focused on all go-to-market- sales and success. If they continue to attack the supply, the demand will come in. The B2B side fuels the B2C side, and Matt explains that nobody has that B2C side figured out the way they do. Matt goes on to say that this strategy depends on the product- in offer-enabled marketplaces it is all about the supply first, but if you don’t have the business highly engaged then it is really hard to do that. Regardless of the product, start with just one market first. Learn more at 16:33.

Location Acquisition

At 20:07 Matt says that as far as location acquisition goes, they always target the big guys first because they help them acquire the most boaters. If they are unable to get the big guys right away, then they go after the smaller ones and seed those first, and once they have acquired more and built credibility they take that data to the bigger areas to show them what they have done and why they need them. Continue listening to learn more.

Land and Expand

Matt explains that when landing new marinas, they do not require an all-in approach. Instead, they offer various on-ramps with a spectrum of usage. This strategy allows them to offer the marina a glimpse at the value to be offered, and over time, when their value is realized, they work up the spectrum of usage until they are fully utilizing the platform. Learn more at 23:49. 

Gates of Adoption

At 26:35 Matt tells us that deciding how to stair-step the businesses into the platform is a balance of listening to the marinas’ feedback, innovation, and iterative learning. They have had to examine the use cases and determine what the triggers were that were activating the customers to want to use them in a more integrated way. Continue listening to learn more.

Whom to Hire and When

Matt explains that the company started with just himself and Dan as the sales team for at least the first couple of years just trying to find the repeatable process and removing any barriers to entry. Their primary focus was not on revenue but was on getting the supply so the demand would come. They did not even go fully SaaS until the last two and a half years, and when they got to that point is when they started to expand the sales team. Listen at 31:58 to learn more.

The Pandemic Hits

Matt explains that when the pandemic hit they were unsure about what was going to happen; however, after a few months they realized that boating actually really took off as a safe, socially distanced activity during the pandemic and they were almost unable to handle the demand. There were several transformational shifts that forced a change that Dockwa really benefitted from. Listen at 39:30 to learn more. 

Best Advice

At 44:58 Matt explains that the best piece of advice he ever received was to talk to everyone he could about his idea. Don’t be afraid to put it out there and receive the feedback. Take risks with the people you talk to and don’t be afraid to sell the idea. 

Matt Fradette can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter, and by email.

Key Snippets

00:02 The Birth of Dockwa

03:42 Selling the Idea

05:48 Understanding the Marketplace

06:49 Evolving the Marketplace

10:19 Staying Connected is Key

16:33 Attack the Supply

20:07 Location Acquisition

23:49 Land and Expand

26:35 Gates of Adoption

31:58 Whom to Hire and When

39:30 The Pandemic Hits

44:58 Best Advice

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