- February 26, 2016
Anchor Technologies has opened for business in Tampa.
One part Uber, one part driver’s education, the St. Louis-headquartered company operates on the waterways instead of the roadways, and is gearing up for an April official launch date.
Anchor specializes in what it calls “peer-to-pier” boat charters. Its first market was Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, and now it's targeting one of the busiest boating regions in Florida.
“Just like your favorite ride-sharing app, a boat can swing by any dock to pick you up right now,” the company boasts on its website. Additionally, users who already have access to a boat but need a captain to pilot it can make use of Anchor’s online database of qualified local skippers.
The company needs to grow that database, however, so it has formed an educational arm, dubbed Anchor Academy, which offers free training for aspiring captains. Participants who have enough prior boating experience can take an online, U.S. Coast Guard-approved course that will help get them on their way to making a living on the water.
"We are not using Anchor Academy as a revenue stream," says Carl Turza, the company's COO. "That’s one of the things that differentiate us. We don’t want to make money educating people; we want more educated people."
That focus on education and safety, Turza explains, comes directly from Anchor Technologies founder and CEO Zach Hatraf, who was inspired to start the company by the death of his best friend in a boating accident on Lake of the Ozarks. Hatraf, Turza adds, became well acquainted with the Tampa Bay area — and even brought on some local investors — after spending time in Tampa Bay Wave's business accelerator programs last year.
In a press release, Hatraf states that he wants to disrupt boating education in the same way TurboTax disrupted tax preparation.
“This is the same license you would get if you went direct to the Coast Guard, but at a fraction of the upfront cost,” Hatraf says in the release. "Our tuition reimbursement bonus at the end of the process is the icing on the cake. Think of it as a graduation present ... a gift that will keep on giving.”
He adds, “The experience requirements are not easy, so first-year boaters need not apply. But once the requirements are met, Anchor provides all the online tools needed to go from boater to captain to charter operator.”
Anchor provides posting of captain profiles, scheduling and booking capabilities, payment processing and free charter insurance, which can otherwise cost charter captains up to $8,000 per year. Anchor can also connect boatless captains to a boat that is not being used, like a boat-sharing program for private boat owners, the release states.
Hatraf says Anchor Academy hopes to create many jobs in the Tampa Bay area, adding that the program can function as a retirement supplement for some people, or even an entirely new career path.