The Natural State now has a social network for the recreational boating community called RaftUp, a web and mobile app developed by local entrepreneur and company CEO and founder Corey Boelkens. RaftUp helps users stay connected on and off the water.
Boelkens, an avid boater and professional scuba diver, will be speaking about his new venture at this week’s 1 Million Cups.
1 Million Cups is the weekly programming event held each week at 9 a.m. at the Arkansas Venture Center, located downtown at 107 E. Markham, catty-corner from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Participants hear from entrepreneurs and have the opportunity to network and engage with like-minded business people. It’s easy to participate: just show up, drink coffee, ask questions and talk business for an hour.
Talk Business & Politics startup/tech reporter Todd Jones recently caught up with Boelkens to learn how this new app will help outdoorsy types stay up-to-date on what’s happening at their favorite Arkansas boating locations in real-time.
TB&P: What prompted you to start RaftUp?
Boelkens: I have always had an affinity for the water. Growing up, my grandparents owned a houseboat and we spent every summer weekend on the lake. I started scuba diving at the age of 12 and am now a PADI Divemaster. My first job in junior high school was working at a marina, Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock, in northern Arkansas. I was parking 60-foot houseboats at the age of 14. But I didn’t fully understand the joy and the challenges of owning a boat until I bought my own in the spring of 2011. As a boat owner, I became part of a tight-knit community, and discovered that there was not a mobile or web platform specifically geared toward promoting community, convenience, and safety for recreational boaters.
I decided to pursue a business idea in early 2015 when I received a scholarship from the City of Little Rock to attend a Kauffman Foundation New Venture program taught by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC). Through the program and a last-second decision to attend a Startup Weekend sponsored by the Startup Junkies in Northwest Arkansas (at which our venture won second place), my wife and I developed the idea of a web and mobile platform aimed at the recreational boating community.
TB&P: What are the immediate and long term goals for RaftUp?
Boelkens: Our near term goals include: 1) releasing our beta iOS mobile app as soon as possible to test our location-aware and SOS features, 2) iterating and adding enhancements based on customer feedback to our mobile app, while expanding our website to onboard business partners so we may have a full release by March 2016, and 3) promoting RaftUp at upcoming boating events such as fishing tournaments and boat shows.
Our long term goals are to be the #1 social community for recreational boaters, and to become the OnStar app for boat manufacturers and owners.
TB&P: What is the goal for your presentation at 1 Million Cups?
Boelkens: I have two goals for my RaftUp presentation: First, to promote awareness about RaftUp’s location-aware platform and how we want to bring 21st century community, safety and convenience to recreational boating, and secondly to acquire customer and business beta testers.