New service from Dockwa will make it simpler for boaters to reserve slips

Dockwa co-founders Mike Melillo, John Nagro, and Matt Fradette.
Dockwa co-founders Mike Melillo, John Nagro, and Matt Fradette.

The founders of a Newport-based startup want to address one of the myriad headaches involved in boat ownership: reserving a slip or mooring for that weekend jaunt to Block Island or Provincetown.

Dockwa is planning a splashy launch this weekend at the annual Hyannis-to-Nantucket Figawi Race Weekend, announcing the availability of its iPhone app, along with $1.1 million in funding. The money comes from the Cambridge venture capital firm Matrix Partners and several angel investors, including HubSpot chief executive Brian Halligan and Elias Torres, a founder of Drifft.

Dockwaproduct3When the weather looks nice and boaters start thinking about their weekend plans, they start to send e-mails or make calls to marinas, to see about reserving a slip or mooring. “We found the average response time was eight to 12 hours for the best marinas, but more like 12 to 48 hours for the typical response,” says Dockwa co-founder Mike Melillo. “You’d leave a voice mail or fill out a web form, you’d get a call back, put down a partial credit card deposit — it was a hassle for both boaters and the marinas.”

Over the past year, Dockwa has signed up more than 70 marinas around New England that will use the app to take reservations and handle payment. (Dockwa tacks on a 5 percent fee, paid by the boater.) When boaters use the app, they enter information about the size of the boat, how long they’ll stay, and whether they need an electrical hookup. Marina managers get a Web-based dashboard that lets them see reservation requests and confirmed reservations.

Co-founder Matt Fradette says that “it helps to be in Newport, since we can talk to and get feedback from a lot of marina owners, managers, and dockmasters. And marinas in general are a very small business community, which has been working to our benefit.”

Initially, Dockwa’s focus has been on Newport, Boston Harbor, the Cape and Islands, and Block Island, but the company also hopes to move into Long Island Sound soon. “We’re working to identify those top marinas that everyone wants to visit, but are difficult to contact,” says Melillo.

The company also has plans to open a small engineering office in Boston this summer, though it hasn’t yet figured out where it will, um, drop anchor.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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