Automatic launcher set to ease the strain of boat ownership, writes Jayne Atherton – Sunday Star Times
A remote-controlled boat-launching device, invented in a Tauranga garage, is getting ready to hit the market next month following a second round of fundraising.
The Automatic Boat Launcher (ANL) has been developed to take the stress out of the boat ramp experience.
Its inventor, Lex Bacon, set up the Balex Marine company in 2013 with the help of its now chief executive, Paul Symes.
Paul Symes (left) and Lex Bacon of Tauranga company Balex Marine.
Boaties can use a the remote control to either launch or retrieve their boat, and start, stop or pause the process at the touch of a button.
Balex received co-funding earlier this year for a $240,000 grant from the government’s Callaghan Innovation business support organisation, which was used to tap the expertise of marine hydraulic systems specialists Orion Marine, and Russian rocket scientist Yuri Ivanov of the Auckland engineering firm, Sophistech.
Now, a production prototype is ready to be rolled out, said chief executive, Symes. Sales will begin in New Zealand, with Australia and North America to follow, he said.
Balex also raised $700,000 in its first investment-raising drive, including $250,000 from individual start-up group, Enterprise Angel members, and $250,000 from the group’s EA1 Fund, with matching funding from the government’s Seed Capital Investment Investment Fund (SCIF).
But now needs more cash to be able to investigate international markets.
The ABL has already received endorsement from leading trailer companies and marine retailers.
“We believe the ABL is a category killer that has a vast potential market amongst trailer boat owners in Australasia, North America and Europe,” said chief executive Paul Symes.
The company plans to issue 20 per cent new equity based on a pre-money valuation of $3.25 million, with a 25 per cent up-lift in share value to $1.25. To date Balex has received indicative commitments of up $230,000 from Enterprise Angels members. Balex tested the market with the first ABL prototype at the Hutchwilco Boat Show in 2014 and won the Innovation Award, picking up significant registrations of interest and pre‐orders.
“The response from investors has been very positive,” said Mr Symes. “One reason for their confidence in what we are doing is that we have been subject to thorough due diligence from our investors.”
Symes is an experienced entrepreneur who spent almost two decades building his previous CAD design firm 4D into a global company before selling his stake and relocating to Tauranga. Product development specialists Locus Research have been core stakeholders from the outset
“The ABL is a classic disruptive product,” said Locus managing director Timothy Allan.
Balex sales director Paul Yarrall said the ABL had a massive potential global market. “We plan to scale up revenues through licensing and distribution to major global trailer boat markets,” he said.
Ross Christensen, managing director of Fish City, Hamilton and Albany, and brand developer for FC Boats, said: “A lot of people have downsized their boat because of handling issues. As they get older they don’t want as big a boat to handle at the boat ramp.”
The total global recreational boat park is estimated at $29 million, with 60 per cent of the market in five to nine metre boats. Balex said its global market was around 17.4 million boats.