founder

Founder Profile: Bringing Farm-To-Table to Sea With John Richards Of Blue World Voyages

Summary

As many readers may already know Blue World Voyages has been rated by KingsCrowd as a Top Deal, which is reserved for the top 10% of all deals analyzed across the equity crowdfunding market.

Often we hear from potential investors that anyone with experience founding or running companies would just pursue a traditional round of capital rather than from the crowd. That could not be less true for John Richards and his team that all come to this raise with years of experience running major premium consumer brands. Think Starbucks, Four Seasons, Lifetime, Dean & Deluca and more.

Blue World Voyages is on a mission to provide a uniquely new cruise experience for the fitness and health conscious individual. The $60M valuation price tag may seem intimidating at first, but once you start to dig in, you realize that the opportunity to invest in an upstart new premium cruise line has many unique upside benefits.

I sat down with John to learn more, and I think you will find his answers thoughtful and informative in thinking about this very different investment opportunity.
Chris Lustrino

John, you have an extensive background working with major name brand organizations like The Four Seasons and Starbucks. How have these experiences prepared you for building Blue World Voyages?

John Richards

I was fortunate to join both Four Seasons and Starbucks during their formative stages when the elements of each brand was being created and their full promise still under development .

A brand is a promise and the greatest lesson I took from each experience is to be true to that promise across everything you do –the physical aspects of the product how it is delivered and how it feels  to people.It is that consistency that wins the day and what we expect to carry forward with Blue World Voyages .

Chris Lustrino

The cruise ship industry is so crowded with many players. How does Blue World Voyages differentiate itself from the crowd?

John Richards

If this was just another nice large cruise ship or for that matter another nice small cruise ship we wouldn’t bother. Blue World is intending to offer a distinctive product to a very particular audience -those who are committed to athletic, active healthy lifestyles and aren’t willing to accept compromise in that lifestyle when they go on vacation.

It is this single minded uncompromising  commitment to onboard activities , menu and shoreside excursions that will breakthrough the clutter. This is not a part time amenity it is a full time commitment.

Chris Lustrino

Most individuals used to investing in startup deals might not be used to seeing $60M valuations up front. Can you help people to understand the valuation and how you plan to drive a sizeable return nonetheless?

John Richards

The valuation is largely driven by the asset value of the first ship which is roughly a $50-60 million asset when the cost of the vessel and the refurbishment is taken into account . So the investor is being asked to support a sizeable asset even before it starts operating.

The real commitment is not in the asset it is in the belief that this is a meaningful venture that will achieve attractive occupancies at competitive rates throughout its life . We believe this is a distinctive attractive proposition that will attract customers and succeed –it simply starts at a higher initial value because of the value of the hard assets ( the ship )

Chris Lustrino

The plan is to raise $5M in equity, and then utilize sales of $2 and $3M units on the vessel to subsidize the cost of getting the first vessel to market. Is there a standard model for taking this approach?

John Richards

Some readers may recall the launching of the World at Residensea –a fully condominiumized vessel launched a dozen years ago and in operation today . That vessel is in successful operation today and is in part the model for our venture which is only commiting 26 units to sale ( essentially one deck ) so a relatively small commitment vs the entire vessel.

In addition most luxury land resorts are a combination of rentals ( hotel rooms ) condominiums and resort homes. The resort is supported by a number of revenue streams with different investment profiles. We intend to follow a combination of these two proven models on our ship.

Chris Lustrino

In the event of a recession in the next year or two, how do you plan to navigate this as an organization since this a premium travel offering?

John Richards

Our management is an experienced management that has worked through numerous recessions in the past both in and out of the cruise industry so we are familiar with the tactics needed to manage should this occur.

Of critical importance is the conservative asset strategy of the venture. Our ship will be in the water at roughly ⅓-½  the cost of its competitors.This means that our breakeven is lower putting less pressure on occupancies and rates should the market soften. This means we will have more room to maneuver should the market soften and we need to work harder to protect our bottom line .

Chris Lustrino

Who is your core consumer and what is the go-to-market strategy to acquire these customers to frequent your ship?

John Richards

Our core customer is the committed active consumer who is capable of spending in excess of $400/day on a vacation and who devotes an important part of their daily lives in athletic activity.

These consumers spending patterns reflect routine  commitments to athletic gear , sporting activities, and competitive events. It is because they already have identified themselves through these purchase patterns and activities that they are also easier to reach through identified verticals such as sporting magazines, apparel companies, fitness and athletic clubs, all of whom have identified membership/subscribership operations and are eager to partner with us to further cultivate and engage their members.

The key to our marketing strategy is the development of marketing partnerships with these organizations which allows us to efficiently and quickly tap into these relevant customer populations .

Chris Lustrino

The plan is to buy an older ship and retro-fit it to your specifications. How is this process coming along in terms of identifying a vessel, and what is the timeline for launch from day of purchase?

John Richards

We have identified several vessels that are available for purchase today and fit the cost and size configurations we require. These are both capable of producing a vessel of ~350 passengers with generous cabin size and on board space arrangements.

Once fundraising is complete in mid Fall of 2018 the ship will be placed in dry dock for  renovation for approximately 6 months with first sailing expected late May to early June 2019.

Chris Lustrino

Are there certain locations the ship will sail and have you done any market research to understand where your core consumer would most like to cruise?

John Richards

Recall that our management is experienced in international hotel, resort and cruise operations and intimately familiar with most destination operations already. The key is to redesign shoreside operations in particular to offer more active variety in each port.

This would include: walking, running, cycling, yoga sites, golfing and tennis. The key difference is variety and commitment to active athletic lifestyles when in port. Our port selection will take into account this activity profile and insure it can be delivered. Early deployment will be in the Mediterranean, and Baltic on a seasonal basis .

Chris Lustrino

In your pitch deck, you talk about an exit in the next five years. Is the plan to be acquired, and if so what are some examples of past acquisitions in this space?

John Richards

The company expects to pursue a liquidity event to provide returns for our investors over a five year time horizon. One option could be a public offering, acquisition by a  private investment firm, or acquisition by another line to fill an underserved niche they don’t offer as the market continues to segment itself by a combination of price, activity profile, accommodation and destination.

There are numerous examples of this .Most recently the acquisition of Silversea  by RCL ( a luxury offering by a large mass operator ) earlier NCL was taken public by its private investment backers. Carnival over the years has acquired several lines in other segments including Holland America and Seabourn.

Thank you John for your time and thoughtful answers. If you like what you have heard, be sure to invest and become a part of the next premium luxury cruise

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About: Chris Lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

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