Market selection: Inland navigation

Let's pass another market through The Foundation's Market Selection process:

EDIT December 2015: I still had this post in Draft mode, just pushing it out now although it's not a completed post. Maybe you'll benefit from this, maybe not!

As with my previous market selection, I will first focus on this market in The Netherlands (which I know/see best as being local), then other European countries (Germany, Belgium, France?), then only possibly the US (not sure how big the market is there, and not focusing on the US in this market selection process for now).

Criteria Number 1 - The business currently pays for software of some kind.

YES - The ships have to be connected to various (inter)national communication systems such as River information services, however for example using BICS is free (as in cost) for users. This needs more investigation.

Criteria Number 2 - Lucrative industries are preferred

Criteria Number 3 - Profit driven business mindset

YES - Inland navigation is a for-profit market, not a charity.

Criteria Number 4 - Roughly 5,000 to 10,000 businesses (or more) in the market industry

YES - Data from the Dutch Bureau Voorlichting Binnenvaart cited on the Dutch Wikipedia article about Inland navigation (Binnenvaart) in 2013 there were 7.547 inland ships, and the IVR (Internationale Vereniging het Rijnschepenregister, International Association for the representation of the mutual interests of the inland shippingand the insurance and for keeping the register of inland vessels in Europe) registered in 2006 about 13.000 ships.

The Wikipedia page mentions that in almost 90% of cases, the captain is the owner of the ship and that in 2004 he was about 243 days of the year on the water. The page also says that captains are "floating businessmen". So there we go, about 5k to 10k businesses.

Some more numbers: the data from the IVR shows that The Netherlands has the largest number of ships, followed by Germany, Belgium and France. Copied from that Wikipedia article again ("vrachtschepen" being cargo ships, and "duw- en sleepboten" being push and tow boats):

West-Europe: 11.594 vrachtschepen en 1796 duw- en sleepboten:

  • In Nederland geregistreerd: 5226 vrachtschepen en 1064 duw- en sleepboten
  • In Duitsland geregistreerd: 2925 vrachtschepen en 386 duw- en sleepboten.
  • In België geregistreerd: 1795 vrachtschepen en 164 duw- en sleepboten
  • In Frankrijk geregistreerd: 1553 vrachtschepen 157 duw- en sleepboten.

Criteria Number 5 - Reachable by phone, e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or message boards.

YES - Ships are owned by businesses, that are registered at the Chamber of Commerce. It is thus possible to get their phone numbers and reach out to them (similar to how I approached the Goat milk farmers)

Criteria Number 6 - Can get person with pain point on the phone

EDIT December 2015: Yes, no problem getting in touch with business owners.

As a side note, I think the way I did it was actually a problem: I generated a list of businesses, and starting cold calling them. Almost none of them refused to have an IE call with me, but the calls I had were not that productive. A couple of folks literally told me they weren't looking for growth in their business... I decided for my next approach to try the suggested approach of first contacting via email, with the idea that the response to the email would serve as a first filtering out of candidates. We'll see!

Criteria Number 7 -The average successful business earns at least $100k per year in revenue, and ideally profit (guestimate this).

GYESTIMATE - The ships are not cheap, I cannot suppose such amounts of money would be invested in the ships if there was not at least that level of revenue per year.