Tracking itineraries (photo courtesy of Shipmateapp.com)
The app was first created by the two brothers for their large family’s personal use. “Every two years we go on a big family cruise vacation, and there are over fifty of us” said Mike, “Jan started putting together the app just so we could keep track of everybody”. Thinking that other cruisers may find it useful, they made it available in the app store for free. Soon enough, they observed a large amount of downloads, and users started emailing them requesting more and more features. It has currently been downloaded by almost 400,000 users between the Android and Apple platforms. Ship Mate is used on average between 15,000 and 70,000 times a day, and Apple rated it as one of the top25 travel apps.
Ship Mate lets users check their itineraries, it provides information about the ships and tracks their location, provides deck maps, information on upcoming port visits, cruise tips and budgeting tools. It also includes ratings and user reviews for the ports and ships, a gallery of user submitted travel pictures, and a chat feature for users travelling on the same cruise to meet each other.
Unlike any other cruise apps, Ship Mate does more than just offer practical information for a single trip. The app addresses the cruise goer’s lifestyle beyond the individual vacation. Ship Mate allows users to save all of their past cruises and ports visited. It also aims to actively bring together the cruise going community, creating a social network specifically for cruisers.
Cruise Picture Galleries (photo courtesy of Shipmateapp.com)
Michael, an alum of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, brings entrepreneurial experience from his work on several other projects. Jan possesses a graduate degree in computer science and is responsible for the technical development of the app. Ship Mate is the first program that Jan has made and released on the mobile platform, and he’s called the transition to programming for the mobile platform a “learning process.”
Besides some technical difficulties due to lack of experience in server development, the Jirout brothers say that their biggest obstacle is dealing with an enormous amount of information with only two people on the team. “We have so many cruise-ships, we have over 27.000 itineraries” said Michael, “People are expecting us to have all the information correct, but it’s hard to test everything, there’s no way we can possibly check everything on our own”.
Tracking Your Cruise (photo courtesy of Shipmateapp.com)
So far, they have been resorting to user feedback as a solution to this problem. “What we’ll generally do is get the app working and up to date as good as we can” he said, “Then our users are also our consultants and will tell us where we’ve messed things up”. For this reason, the company is currently looking to hire more developers. Self-funded up to this point, they are also looking to potentially raise money to scale quicker.
Future plans also include expanding from mobile to web. They are currently building an online platform to include additional functionalities and to attract cruisers who might not have a smartphone.
Both founders agree that this is better than “doing the job they thought they were supposed to do according to their education track.” Michael said that even though he made five times as much at his former investment banking job, every day felt like work. Now they are strategically placing their life around what they love most, instead of working on other people’s projects all the time. They said “There would be no better job than this for any young brilliant developers who want to center their life around the vacation industry”.
Tracking things online has become the way businesses are carried forward today. Just like in shipping, the stock market had traders pouring over charts and analyzing the market movement with a number of calculations. But today, software like Millionaire Blueprint, do all the work and removes the need for a person to do all that physically. The trade decisions are taken for you.