You know what they say, it takes one to know one, and that's precisely the philosophy behind Seahub developed by Hunter Oceanic. Built by engineers for engineers, Seahub is an intuitive cloud-based yacht maintenance software conceived by Matt Hyde and Sam Wheaton, old school friends and ex-superyacht engineers who spotted a gap in the market. We met up to find out more.
OnboardOnline: What are your respective backgrounds and where did you grow up?
Matthew Hyde: I grew up in a large country town, Tamworth in regional Australia. After completing High School, I moved to Newcastle, NSW where I completed a four year degree in Civil Engineering. I spent the next two years as a structural engineer in Sydney working on some of the most iconic Australian buildings.
Sam Wheaton: Similar to Matt, I also grew up on a farm in Tamworth which gave me the chance to tinker with machinery throughout my teenage years. I studied a Bachelor of Business at the University of Newcastle and University of Wisconsin. After graduating, I took on a business development role at a mobile IT company in Sydney, working with productivity and security applications for the telecommunications industry.
OO: How did you both end up in the yachting industry?
Matt: After completing a two year stint diagnosing corrosion issues in Sydney for the construction industry, I felt it was time for a change. I had a growing travel bug so working overseas in the yachting industry was an attractive option. I flew to Antibes in France and kicked off what became an incredible journey.
Sam: I was asked to present a mobility solution for a marina in Sydney’s northern beaches. The CEO was a previous yacht captain and we got onto the history of his yachting career and the experiences and people he had met along the way. I was young and thirsty to see it all so I called my boss some time later and found myself in Ft Lauderdale, in a crew house and knocking on crew agents’ doors. The best decision I’ve made.
Sam Wheaton & Matthew Hyde
OO: When did you decide it was time for a new challenge and what’s the vision behind Hunter Oceanic?
Matt: About two years ago we both began to look at ways we could continue to work closely with engineers while also trying to implement more technology into the way they manage their day-to-day processes. Hunter Oceanic’s vision from day one was to drive innovation and, at the same time, improve the lives of the people who make up the superyacht industry, whether that meant improved safety onboard or less break-downs for engineers to handle, that was our focus.
OO: How did the idea for Seahub come about?
Sam: The concept of Seahub was born out of the two of us getting together for a chat at the end of each working week while we were docked in the same port for a number of months. We are good friends so our conversations were very frank and we began to identify some common frustrations with the sharing and storing of information onboard. At the time we were both managing engineering programs working with complex pieces of equipment, trying to stay on top of it all.
OO: How long did you spend researching the market and what did you find?
Matt: We didn’t know it at the time but for as long as we have been working as engineers we have effectively been researching the market for yacht maintenance programs. Moving onto a new yacht and inheriting a piece of software gave us the chance to get to know it, know its strengths and know its weaknesses. We soon figured out that the market lacked a truly user-friendly programme so that’s what we set out to build.
OO: How did you go about finding the right developer and how long did it take to build and test the software?
Sam: Development was 12 months and testing was performed at each milestone with another three months beta testing of the entire program before we went live. We searched high and low for developers. We looked in all corners of the world from India, to the US, Europe and even Pakistan. In the end, we thought the investment in working with a local Australian developer would pay dividends.
We were lucky to find an amazing project manager who had just come off a long-term project and was very close to our house at the time. He specialised in front end development with a creative background. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time on his couch!
OO: What does Seahub cover and how does it work in practice?
Matt: Seahub was born out of the engine room and as a result primarily serves as an engineering tool. That said, we see a number of captains and chief officers contacting us and finding ways to make subtle changes to terms to suit their own departments.
Seahub covers maintenance scheduling for all onboard equipment, notifying users when and what maintenance is due. It gives engineers a platform to create an equipment database for all onboard equipment and attach notes, manuals and images to each piece of equipment. It’s a tool to analyse fluid sampling results and perform trend analysis as well as track real-time inventory levels.
OO: Which types and size of vessel is Seahub aimed at and how have you priced it?
Sam: We realised very early in the piece that a yacht 100ft in size and a yacht 300ft in size are fundamentally very similar. They both have two main engineers, generators, air conditioning systems, water makers, hydraulics etc. For that reason, Seahub can be rolled on any sized vessel but, the larger the yacht, the more data we typically see added. The pricing structure reflects this and is based on a rate per foot.
OO: You describe Seahub as ‘built by engineers, for engineers’ but which was most difficult to get right – the functionality or the user experience?
Matt: Hand down the user experience. It’s a real science why some pieces of software are easy to learn and navigate and others are more difficult. We spent days and days working with usability experts who worked their tails off to improve every aspect of the program. We wanted to give users the information they wanted in three clicks instead of seven. We see Seahub in a very strong position but we still have a full-time team working on the backend to support our clients and make improvements every day.
OO: Were there any surprises along the way?
Sam: Constantly. Software development is a complex language in itself so understanding it is quite a process. What we created on paper or on a whiteboard appeared to be simple in our minds but when presented to our development team, in some cases what appeared to be a simple design change turned out to be a very complex challenge. It’s about recognizing these challenges and discovering the most appropriate and best fit solution that maintains software integrity.
OO: How does Seahub sit alongside other software and Apps on the market?
Matt: We have separated Seahub from other software and apps through several key design features. Most importantly, Seahub is unique in its ability to provide large quantities of relevant information in less time and less clicks than its competitors. These factors contribute greatly to the usability of any software; we have invested heavily in working with the best usability experts in Australia. Secondly, we’ve adopted an affordable pricing structure designed to adapt to differing sized yachts.
OO: What do you offer in the way of tech and customer support?
Sam: We offer round the clock assistance to our customers, included with every subscription plan. Superyachts operate on the weekend too, and so do we. We have made ourselves available for tech support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using multiple platforms including a live chat service, which provides fast and easy communication between the customer and our tech support team, which is spread between Australia and Fort Lauderdale.
OO: How do you manage access and data security?
Matt: Safe and secure access is provided to all customers. We take data security and protection very seriously, especially considering the technical environment we live in these days. We haven’t settled for second best when it comes to protecting customers’ data and vessel information. Using a comprehensive failsafe protection system, we back up data on multiple servers so we can all sleep at night without a worry. All servers are located in secure data centers managed by IT specialists.
OO: What reaction have you had from other yacht engineers?
Sam: We have a direct connection with yacht engineers. We’ve been there ourselves and experienced the pressures felt by engineers in fast paced and challenging yacht programs. Overall this has contributed to a very positive reaction from engineers, especially when they know the platform was designed by people who understand an engine room.
OO: How receptive are captains and yacht management?
Matt: Captains have been very receptive, particularly on the safety management that can be organized through Seahub, also management companies looking for a competitive advantage and wanting to be on the forefront of technology and provide recommendations to vessels under their management. This was surprising and extremely welcome. The acceptance at that level has forced us to quickly diversify and adapt to what the market demands.
OO: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned during the project so far?
Sam: Patience and planning. We have learnt that our platform will be constantly evolving and therefore, so will our methods and processes. This doesn’t happen overnight though so, with feedback directly from our development team and clients, we need to effectively plan ahead in time. We incorporate short, medium and long term strategies and development plans so we can effectively manage the evolving platform.
Matt: We’ve also learnt that the best approach to letting our clients know what Seahub can do for them is to listen. We find it’s the quickest and most efficient way of discovering if Seahub can improve the operation of the vessel. 90% of the people we speak too are experiencing the exact same issues or looking for the exact same solution.