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Building the Airbnb for boaters

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PierShare

A customer story from Makerpad

Building the Airbnb for boaters

Hi my name is Jonathan Timianko and I’m currently the founder and CEO of PierShare. I formerly worked for five years in technology consulting and accounting for Capgemini and Ernst and Young. PierShare is the first ever secure online platform for renting boat docks, boat lifts, and mooring buoys. It’s similar to AirBnB but for docks. I have extended family who own boats but I am not an active boater myself, and PierShare started by chance.

I am originally from NJ but my parents moved to Florida and bought a house on the water with a dock but it was empty because we never owned a boat. A friend of our cousin happened to rent our dock space a few years ago because the marina in which he was keeping his boat was undergoing repairs, and I saw the transaction happen. After doing a little research I found out that there are thousands of boaters in South Florida who use unsecure methods of renting dock space such as Craigslist and Classified ads because the marinas are either full or too expensive, and I noticed no one else had attempted to create a platform for this type of transaction, so I wanted to be the first one to do so!

At the outset I knew that in the long run PierShare needed similar functionality to AirBnb and could not simply rely upon WordPress since we needed user authentication, robust database functionality, as well as automated payment processing. After experimenting with different tools, I found that the only tool that would allow me to not only build a robust MVP of PierShare but develop beyond the MVP for the foreseeable future was Bubble, which I had stumbled upon through reading articles about comparisons of no code tools online. After taking a look at Bubble’s product page and seeing their detailed feature description, I realized that it was pretty much the only way to move forward.

Initially learning how to develop on Bubble was a hobby and part-time activity for me on nights and weekends since I was still working full-time. It took me a few weeks to get proficient at Bubble and then approximately 2.5 to 3 months to get to a level where I was pretty much able to develop any piece of functionality I wanted. Obviously as these platforms evolve you learn certain things on the spot and adapt, but when you’re building anything in tech whether it’s code or no code you’re always going to be learning new things endlessly. The key thing to always keep in mind is that if you can learn a core language and have a very solid base level of understanding, you can use that base to branch off into any direction you want. With Bubble and no code getting to that base level happens in weeks - with regular coding its many months and years.

After quitting my full-time job and having proficiency in Bubble, I as the sole founder of PierShare was able to not only get a product to market with active users, but I was able to do it faster than a team of engineers would by custom coding it. Most importantly, as the customer base grew and more transactions happened on the platform, I was able to make fundamental systematic changes that would have taken engineers months or possibly a year to rewrite with custom code. With Bubble and no code the customer feedback loop couldn’t be any more efficient; since I as the founder am the one who is doing customer service and engineering the technology at the same time, whenever a customer has an issue and I learn about it, I know exactly which part of the application to dig into to make changes because I built the application myself.

The ability to do this at the earliest stages of a tech company when the product hasn’t yet been fully refined is a truly indispensable advantage. In fact, PierShare’s booking platform is unique in that we process a mixture of long-term and short-term dock rentals and have people visiting dock spaces before bringing their boats there, and this requires a very unique user experience that doesn’t follow any type of template or booking process that has been previously developed. Bubble and no code tools allowed us to test our interpretation of how the booking process should work with different tranches of customers in order to arrive at a more refined and robust product. If we custom coded PierShare at the beginning, we wouldn’t have the ability to easily go into the application and change something quickly based on feedback, and re-testing new functionality would have taken more time and more money. This could have spelled the end of the platform right at the beginning if we had tons of engineering bottlenecks that would have been difficult to overcome.

We launched our platform in early 2018 and after iterating our product over the last two years , we’ve been able to dock approximately 150 boats so far and have achieved 1300 user signups at an extremely low cost. We are really excited to take all of this initial learning and our refined product and expand much more broadly in 2020.

I may be a little biased here, but I believe based on PierShare’s early success that the no code movement could have a greater impact on technology than the invention of the smartphone. While some of the tools in the no code space have not yet reached maturity, the gap is narrowing and I only expect it to get better in the coming years. Those existing present limitations though are dwarfed by the fact that getting your product in the hands of customers early and having them testing and giving feedback is what keeps tech companies alive in the very beginning, and I fear that too many companies have to close their doors not because of a lack of great ideas, but rather due to the complications of traditional engineering preventing them from moving their products to where they need to be early and fast.

But the benefits of no-code do not stop in the earliest stages. Since you can extend your MVP and scale on no code, when your company reaches greater maturity the lower operating costs from having fewer engineers as well as the more efficient development process allows you to shift your resources towards the areas of your business that have a greater impact. For PierShare, we envision that at scale since we won’t have as many technology-oriented people as other tech companies, we can instead hire great customer service personnel that can provide a higher level of service to our users. And because anyone can learn to use no-code, we can hire anyone to work on our tech stack and they can learn on the job just like I did when I started the company. This next comparison may seem laughable, but could you imagine if a law office had to hire a document preparation engineer so that the attorneys could have their work drafted? That may seem weird to read since we live in a world where Microsoft Word exists, but unfortunately this comparison applies to how most tech companies run today; a niche group of certified professionals need to be relied on to create software, and the process of doing so is expensive, timely, and fraught with challenges. There is no way that model is sustainable going into this new decade, and the time is past due to open up the process of software creation to everyone.

I cannot tell you how excited I am to watch the no code movement grow over the next few years! If you’d like to learn more about PierShare you can visit our home page and our blog as well. Also feel free to shoot me a message on Linkedin and I’d be happy to tell you more about our journey!

Blog: https://piershare.com/blog
Home Page: https://piershare.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-timianko-80a03333/

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