Michael Goddaert is the founder of Domani Yachts in Belgium. Together with a group of like minded friends he is charging ahead to build truely special sailboats and electric boats.
From the ground up they are designed with electric drives which implies different thinking from past boat building. As the company is growing they are also thinking beyond the boat and look into services and complimentary business models around electrification in watersports – see the elegant boats Domani Yachts is building yourself.
This episode was recorded on February 25th, 2020
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This is an automatic transcript made with Otter.ai. It is slightly edited and deviates in part from the original conversation. For an exact quote listen to the recording first.
Klaus Reichert 0:06
This is the 2.5 conversations connecting innovators. My name is Klaus. I’m an innovation coach from Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. This podcast’s mission is to help other innovators grow with meaningful conversations with innovators from around the world about their motivations, visions and ideas. The 2pt5 originates from the 2.5% innovators of Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation theory, which I find is truly fun to work with. Head on over to the2pt5.net/about to find out more.
My guest today is Michael Goddard. He’s a yacht builder from the Antwerp region in Belgium. Our conversation is about forward thinking in yachting. It’s about charging ahead together with friends, and impatience in the innovation process. It is also about designing a new yacht, starting a yachting company, building a brand and electrify the lot. Michael is designing and building his Domani yachts together with a group of friends with complementing skills. I became aware of his company via the boat Dusseldorf trade fair in January. I was stunned by the beauty and the simplicity of their creations. That’s why I suggest you go to Michael’s website before you listen to the show. The link is in the show notes. Have a look at the boats Michael and his friends are building at Domani yachts that gives you an idea of what we’re talking about. Please make sure to come back to listen to the podcast.
Hello, Michael, welcome to the podcast. I’m really thankful that you took your time for this conversation. And I was wondering, since we we had an even may conversation in these past days, how did you sea trials go?
Michael Goddaert 2:17
Stormy, stormy, we’re still not on the new electric boat. We’re still not in the moving phase. It’s static testing to see if all the systems are working the cooling pumps, etc. So we’re still waiting, a little bit better weather. And the forecast is not fantastic for the next two days. So we’ll see. We’ll see where we’re excited. And in the meantime, the advantages there’s different things to do and gives us the opportunity to fine tune the boat and we’re not sitting still we have enough work. Okay.
Klaus Reichert 2:57
So is this one of these bad things of building a yacht that you have to be outside, even when the weather is really terrible, or is it a good part of your job?
Michael Goddaert 3:11
Sometimes it’s a good part. Sometimes it’s, it’s a bit rougher. Yeah. And, you know, one of the challenges is it’s, it’s a product we make it in, in Belgium and the Netherlands. We are based there and we have sea trials sometimes with certainly with we have the S 30. The sailboat people come from a long way and it’s, it’s difficult sometimes to schedule. We’re not in control of the weather and, and the conditions and, but okay, sometimes it’s most people when they come over, they like to have more wings to see if a boat is capable of handling rougher weather or waves when so that’s the advantage. Recently, nice day.
Klaus Reichert 3:57
Okay, and and you’re done. The North Sea offers lots of these windy days I suppose.
Michael Goddaert 4:04
Yeah it’s a it’s a challenge because the the the boats are mostly sold in on the lakes Austria Germany Switzerland and the windy conditions are much higher in, in Zealand where we are close to the North Sea. So we have in in in sea terms we have about on average 12 to 15 knots of wind which is pretty normal. I once had the German client coming over to test the boat and it was 12 knots of wind and for him. For them it was a storm on the on the DMZ for instance. So that it’s it’s extreme but for testing it’s it’s nice. It’s it’s better to have worse wind conditions than where most boats would be sailing in the end. So the good thing.
Klaus Reichert 4:53
I came across you since I’m a sailor also mostly on Lake Constance, the potency in the south of Germany. Near the Swiss Alps and Swiss border, and I came across you at boats in in Dusseldorf when I researched the exhibitors your name stuck out right away. I was really impressed by the presentation you had bought. And and I thought, wow, this is cool to start in a new yard a new product for the water. And since I mostly work with digital stuff and other products, I would have thought that was great to talk to somebody who is doing something really different, which is hands on. So I was wondering how is your day?
Michael Goddaert 5:39
Normally as a yacht builder it’s it’s exciting. It’s very, it’s a let’s say it’s the one of the most exciting things in the boat building. Is there a low income together? Yeah, it’s it’s it’s a complex business because you do A lot of different things from from design over to building which is partly composite which is partly electric, which is partly plumbing which is partly painting the challenges that we need a lot of different skills for for this boat building experience from from composite workers to electricity to plumbing to painting, carpentry all in a very small product and in very low production numbers. So, so yeah, everybody’s everybody’s involved to be hands on because it’s, it’s it’s a complex product and and we don’t have a lot of time like in a car business where they will take two years to develop a car with a lot of teams and a lot of a lot of people. So that’s that’s kind of the challenge in the boat building.
Klaus Reichert 6:57
So you never have a boring day?
Michael Goddaert 7:00
No, no, not exactly. Not exactly. So part of my job part of your job right? So So never a boring day in the life of a yacht off a boat builder No, it’s it’s, it’s it’s really challenging. You’re doing a lot of development for a product which is not easy to sell because it’s a it’s it’s, it’s not a good you use everyday like a car or a computer or something. It’s a pleasure craft. It’s for the moment what we do at least with S 30 and 32 it’s leisure crafts so it’s for people it’s their free time. And a lot of part of the of the of the leisure of the hobby, let’s say is more chose visiting the shipyard trial sailing, it’s all big part. It’s a it’s a multi step. purchasing a boat, it can take a year for somebody can take we have customer buying on the spot we have customers where it takes two years three years five years they have to sell the boat they already own a boat etc. But I had an interesting meeting at at diesel Dorf which was the lead designer of pole star from Volvo very nice fellow and he was really amazed he has a motorboat himself in Sweden and it was it was really amazed he says how do you do this as all these boat builders every year you are launching new products while for Volvo or other brands it takes takes millions and billions of euros or dollars and and a lot of communication all the legal struggles etc. So that’s maybe maybe an advantage in the in the yachting and boat building is we don’t have so much regulations. So regarding safety and engines and emission norms, etc. So for the moment, we are pretty Free on that site to do development. But it’s it’s, you need a small team and the budgets are limited because you have to sell the boats in the end and make money. So it’s not about making 10,000 boats, which would be a dream. But the market has changed considerably over the last. Let’s say when the the leisure market of boating started in the Navy in the 1950s 60s, you had big shipyards doing big number of votes. And these days, it’s all it’s very fragmented with a lot of different yards and very different models and different use. But small production numbers in the end, the market leader in our segment of day selling for instance, is making maybe 60 votes per year. So it’s of five or six models, which is a Indian 1010 volts per model range. So it’s it’s it’s really limited in production numbers.
Klaus Reichert 10:01
So the brand becomes very important for you. And that was one of the first things that popped into into my eyes. I was really impressed when I saw the domani name your domain name, which seemed to be very useful. It had such an urgency. It was domani which is Italian for tomorrow domani dot today.
Michael Goddaert 10:25
Yeah, that was the we use it less than less. The monitor today. We came up. We really when we put the brand in the market, we were thinking about nice weather and the Mediterranean style and bouncing and enjoying sun and water and came up with the Aqua and and the money. And then we were looking for websites and the money.com really came was I think it’s owned by a big consulting firm or something. They were also thinking about tomorrow and we got a suggestion of the money that today, which we said like This is completely what we do because we’d like to work on tomorrow and we do it today so that was basically it but we don’t use it so much because on the emails, it kind of went in a lot of spam filters the bot today extension is not so easy. So we have the money also to comment.
Klaus Reichert 11:16
on today. But but but still, the notion of using tomorrow today suggests that you might be very impatient.
Michael Goddaert 11:27
Yeah, I would like to be I would like to be a bit quicker in the in the in innovation and and developing models and extending the range etc. But I also learned in the in the in the offing, it’s more about evolution than a revolution. It’s it’s quite a conservative market and you need to take the steps very, very patiently and step by step and what we now see The it’s maybe a bit the same with the electrical cars for instance with electrical boats is what we see is it’s it’s also driven by by change in legislation and you have noise constraints in the Lake Lucerne you have by 2025 in Amsterdam the boats will be obliged to be electrical or at least non non non combustion engine. So, I think the auction will probably in the first place be electrical or hydrogen made. But, but so, we are driven there by a by a change in towns and cities and legislation which is which is pushing the which is good because we we are innovating but we need to sell the boat in the end so, but I yeah, I would like to progress much faster but it’s it’s it’s about the teamwork. It’s about the resources which are available. I think now a big constraint for the electrical boat is a batteries where there’s a lot more progress for the for the mass car builders certainly the successful ones today. But they are talking for instance in terms of icing weight of course which is also awesome. They are talking prices let’s say they are speaking of 200 to $300 for instance per kilowatt hour. While we as in the maritime we are still at 900 or something 800 to 900 at least per kilowatt hour. So, it’s it’s and they are that’s a challenge I think is the range certainly on a boat it gives a lot of resistance on the water what makes us limit the boat also to the size of 9.5 meters. Because of the batteries, we need more efficient batteries, the price needs to go down the weight preferably. But this is really what we did with the E 32. was also really think about the usage and the charging of course, which is now a big in Amsterdam for instance they decide okay, all the combustion engine Have to go out of the city and the lakes and the rivers in small, small waters. But then there is no charging infrastructure. So and it will I think the battery technology hopefully will progress faster than the we will see a big increase in charging infrastructure costs for cars it’s used all day and night but for a boat which harbour or which keys gonna invest in charger we’re only one boat can be lying for a full day or 24 hours. So with a 32 it’s it was really about how much do you use and how can you use a conventional charging device on a 220 volt in Europe 220 volts 16 amps which is the standard in most harbors. Most harbors have old infrastructure. So that was kind of the limit for the moment the way we say you could charge at two to 3000 watts continuous they ignite and in a nice day with us on This kind of goes around 30 kilowatt hours and you have been having a lot of fun and building a boat is a very complex thing.
Klaus Reichert 15:15
It takes a lot of teamwork. It takes a lot of resources friends so what started Do you into yachts? I mean, you grew up close to the North Sea and to happen is basically a naval city. But what started you into yachts? I read that you started to train as a pilot as a commercial pilot.
Michael Goddaert 15:41
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Also in the the wind and the navigation, etc. But it all started out. Nobody was really involved in water sports or anything in the family. And then my father was working when I was 10 years old to learn more time ago was was working in this Belgian chocolate firm and they participate. It was a very the owners time a family business were much into really involved into sailing and competition. So they participated in the Woodbridge time which is now the Volvo Ocean Race at the time was the Whitbread race around the world. And so they participated with this big mac car which was built in in Antwerp. Really high tech was a full sandwich boat with a honeycomb it’s still what’s being used now in Formula One, vacuum infusion and prepreg composites and all those things. So it was really a advanced in in the building process. And and we had the opportunity after the race as my father was working there to do some some sailing on the North Sea. The boat was there it was used for the race and was used for promotional meats. And then I on that boat I was it was my first experience. Of course on a Very high tech racing your that in those days and I was really impressed by the speed it went through the water and the healing and the big mass of more than 35 meters and and these guys and they had the big winches and captive winches and etc. And it was really I was really impressed and was was also the start of for my parents to start sailing on small boats. And then we had in Belgium or near or close to my hometown in kilda which is just northeast of Antwerp. We had to eat up yachts, which was known for it unbelievable to see them still today but farmers so isn’t in Europe and so we visited the factory there and we started out on a 23 foot or six seven meter meet up and then later on nine meter but it was very, was a very family. Yours. It was I think on each object. They were very innovative on use of materials the unsustainability. They they made A lot of innovation in the shipyards using a lot of aluminium which was quite new in the, in the in the 60s and 70s. And was it visited the factory there on the open, open? Open the art days. And yeah, it was really was really amazed and I always had when even when I was 10 years old, I said like one day I want to do something like this. But of course in Belgium, what do you do? I didn’t realize maybe to do something like product development or was like I had this. This, let’s say bipolar fight between the sailing and the boat building, of course. And I never thought of building boats and I started sailing a lot to competition as well. And then I wanted to make a professional career out of the sailing. But then in Belgium, it’s really hard in France. It’s a it’s a national sport. But in Belgium, it’s not so easy there is not. But they had the big project on the Maxi art on the Whitbread. But after that, felt quite. And then I went looking and I fell into the same when I was looking for studies. And I was, I met people who were flying and I was like, that’s interesting. It’s also about the wind and the navigation and the weather. And technology wise, it’s, it’s, it’s full about composite at that time, at least, we’re still flying around when I fly on an Airbus today. Not full time only 50% of my time, but it’s it’s really nice and the similarities are impressive. And the organization is what impresses me most and this is the biggest challenge I think towards a smaller company is innovation. We are really well organized and in communication, incident reporting, training. We learn a lot from mistakes and that’s that’s what I try to integrate into the boat building.
It’s nice to from a very professional environment which is in the boat building I my personal opinion in general even for bigger boats yachts Yeah, there’s no room for for improvement on production techniques long term taking efficiency commercially I’m still flying as an airline pilot and something I just had my last week that’s that’s why every the schedule last week was turned upside down because I have my yearly simulator sessions of course, but it’s a it’s a very challenging job and it requires a lot of discipline and and it’s it’s it’s what’s the advantage for me is that certainly on the longer flight, I fly on the European sector and on the longer flights and stuff Sometimes you are abroad in a hotel and you really get the bird’s eye perspective once you’re flying overhead the countries in Europe longer flights for for us or tannery for Tel Aviv or Moscow but you get a different view and it gives me time to reflect nobody can reach you until today for the fleet we have there is no Wi Fi on board and no emails coming in. So it gives me time to catch up on some reading and and and just thinking about what we are doing and seeing it free every time. My my partners and my associates they see when I have been flying because I started sending mails and WhatsApp said like this and I thought about that we should cancel that we should start this and so they they know me by now, but it’s a nice time to reflect and it’s a it’s an it’s a nice job but part time it’s it’s my best combination with your previous question. Why did I went to the flying partly because I already in physics. Okay if I fly at that time pilots from former Sabena in Belgium and nationally, they’re like, they had a lot of free time which maybe was also they made good money and they had a lot of free time which was for me as in boat building and I said naval architecture I discovered that time naval architect course. And I always was like, that’s maybe interesting I have a lot of free time I make money and in that time I I build up the naval architecture career which takes a long time. We have a few young guys interested Belgian Dutch guys, and it’s it’s the Peter Bosgraaf off which we work which, in Amsterdam, it’s it’s, it’s really a job about experience. It’s very limited in database they much of these guys are working on themselves. So it’s really bold by both you have to build up the experience in balance for sailboats, or the hill shape for efficiency and, and it’s really model by model there is some databases of tank testing etc. But it’s a very specific job and there’s not many people around who have the skills certainly sailboats, motor boats or a little bit certainly planing boats. There’s a lot of officers doing big boats now for the big ship boats. But for efficiency, it’s more about sailboat hull on an electrical boat these days, so it’s very specific, so not easy to build a career in. As a successful naval architect, I think you got in touch with sailing quite early in your life.
Klaus Reichert 23:39
Michael, you started a yachting company, on a scale of one to 10 how crazy are you?
Michael Goddaert 23:47
That’s a good question. I think I’d rather say I am different than than crazy but it’s certainly an adventure but How’d you how’d you start in such a thing and it’s it’s exciting and it brings us from one thing to another. We started with a sailing boat. Now with with the electrical boat and we’re looking at drive systems and batteries and charging and grid, grid charging, etc. So it’s crazy what it takes us, that’s for sure.
Klaus Reichert 24:21
Well, you didn’t really start by yourself or alone. There was people around like that Dutch naval architect Peter bushcraft or the Flemish designer Yona tan and Tetons and probably many other people. You were not alone. Were these people, your friends? Did you know them before? Or was that something that you discovered people that you discovered in the process?
Absolutely. I really, really started it out I was working in. At the time I was talking to you about the piloting. We had the bankruptcy of Sabena around 2001 and I just saw in the, in the, in the nautical business in Belgium and I was working as a as a sales assistant and then on the other shipyard I was working in production. And it was one where I was working in production and I had learned in five, six years times from developing from a first drawing to production molds and the first production boat, and that’s what I started with the idea to do something for myself or at least for my category of sailors of doing a nice day sailing boat, with some interior, a nice sunbathing area. An exciting design. And this is how I met from a previous project. I met Patrick Ostroff was really friendly guy is living on his barge in in Amsterdam and we had these open discussions and thinking about what what to do next and and if we want to devote to be comfortable or fast or standing height or or rather a sexy design instead of standing height etc. And then the other time I was also working at the time on the previous shipyard I worked but I never met him there. He came in there when I left. But then I we were looking for a design of this pilothouse we call it the culture of the boat, and that’s when I met Jonathan was also very forward thinking and what’s nice about you’re not and patriots, they, they are multidisciplinary. So they do sell boats. They can work on motor boats they can tomorrow it’s a rowing boat or it’s a it’s a it’s a taxi boat for the city of Amsterdam motion. So the that’s the nice thing. They are influenced by a lot of things. And certainly you’re not on who’s coming more from a car design background so is a general design so we can we be working on I think he’s now is working on this be the bee nest some some kind of new way of building bee nest I don’t know the exact name in English but but they’re they bring in a lot of different inputs in the project.
Basically you’re friends now you’re on one level of thinking and and you probably understand each other very well because the product at least is quite impressive and I was really impressed by when I saw the S 30 which is the sable that you’re that you’re building. It is such an elegant boat. It is very practical yet. It has an electric drive it has a sun deck or a beach club or whatever you would like to do that you call it. It’s a combination of so many things into one that you normally would think that the result would be terrible, but this the S30 is Just perfect i think but I understand that you started this with having your own dream boat in mind.
Michael Goddaert 28:08
Absolutely, absolutely. It’s it’s, it’s at that time really looking at the markets what what was available and I there were a lot of sporty boats which was really interesting like g18 or or even older g 24 very successful. One design, faster racing boats etc. And then on the other hand you had the very comfortable cruisers, mostly by bigger shipyards or in mostly Polish producers, where you had a standing height and and very much comfort on board but you didn’t end up with a very fast or nice looking boat. And my and then I was looking at the bigger yachts at that time you had the big upcoming of Wally yachts in Italy by Luca bassani. Which was a big inspiration design wise because they are making these boats although it’s easier on a very big boat to make it clean and minimalist than on smaller boats because they have more space under the deck and then we have eight nine meter boat but but a lot of inspiration there and I was wondering why is that not available on the market? So it just didn’t exist otherwise would have just bought maybe would have been easier I just would have bought the book and be selling but it didn’t exist and and that was the basic motivation like okay, it doesn’t exist. Why don’t we build it ourselves? That was the primary motivation and we just started designing and I started building purely by myself there I had no help from from Pietro yonathan. But just in a garage, a bigger garage I started to build on the whole and and the deck and basically a lot of the things at that time were really shaped In the workshop there was some basic drawings but we didn’t have a milling machine or something so it was really about yeah for instance the seating area How does it How does it feel and just go like ergonomic studies but then in real life and just leaning back and saying okay, this is a good angle and that’s the advantage of hand building. It’s still what happening in the automotive they until today they have a lot of software and but still they’re making clay models to see in real life How does it look how does it feel? And that says basically how the 30 year started really, why is it not on the market and just let’s do it. And but today, it’s appealing apparently, and a lot of people are amazed also by the by the interior, which is nice. It’s most people if you see the lines on the side, it’s very flat. Certainly, when it’s on the water in the boat shows it’s always looks higher even then in the in the water. It’s really Low and then they come on the boat show on the interior and it’s no standing high but nevertheless in a car you cannot stand up either. So how important is it and, and certainly on a small boat, it’s a compromise between looks. But it’s nice. It’s like I said before it’s a leisure thing. It’s a it’s a luxury product. And when you approach it in the harbor, I think you should feel like excited about it. When you see it. When you go on it, you have to be proud as an owner and it’s a big investment and it’s and that’s what we hear from the clients. We were we had a really fast start as a new brand and that’s what we hear from from the suppliers and competitors. And that’s it’s it’s a big club of, of friends almost. It’s a demonic clock that’s starting to to establish and they are all very happy about it. Than we have people coming from Switzerland from Germany from the south. just visiting. Understand Standing meeting us again there and looking at the electrical boat and just catching up and it’s it’s it’s a big club. That’s nice.
Klaus Reichert 32:10
It is a very elegant boat and the interior is very elegant but yet it is also very practical at the same time you can use it as a day sailor but it’s easy to spend a weekend on the boat also. So I like that a lot it’s very very close to life to normal life I think but you still look at the boat and you’re proud of it of the looks of the the elegance of it, and probably also have the speed and and the usability on the water. You just said that you built the first prototype in your garage. When was that approximately?
Michael Goddaert 32:50
I think it’s it’s, it’s already the first drawing stalled. I think I’m flying for around 15 years and it’s it’s it really started at That time I think the boat was first boat was sailing with, we always started out already on this prototype with an electrical engine from Turkey to which was really nice, but they didn’t have a folding propeller, etc. So with a lot of experimental so really sailing with the correct engine and everything was I think around 2009 or something we were sailing on, on that boat, we call it s 28. And the nice thing on having that boat before we started on the S 30 was we we had all these dimensions and the performance of the boat and the handling and we could use all these parameters into the production boat. So it was kind of a test, test base we had as a was built as a one off that one not into molds or anything. That’s basically how it started and the electrical was really something in the beginning. And I can admit that it’s as a as a I had the experience in composite building. And doing some hardware installation, etc. But an engine was for me that belongs to a garage or petrol specialist or something. So the electrical drive was really first for a sailboat it’s it’s supplementary just for the maneuvers in and out of harbor because the boat sails in as 30 sails in very light winds. So it’s really if you fall without wind or just for the maneuvers, but the it was just easy for installation as well. What we still see today, it doesn’t take a lot of of room it doesn’t need an exhaust, it doesn’t need to start battery so it’s much lighter. Of course, on the boat, it’s different because we need a lot of batteries. But for the sailboat it was practically one of the main motivations was the ease of installation. And this is how we started out with the first electrical. I think we used to first Tokido as a as a drive system on a sailboat.
Klaus Reichert 35:01
I like these electric drives. Even many people still don’t understand that it’s just the perfect thing for such a boat. And if you’re, if you’re living on a lake, or if you’re sailing on a lake like potency or kimsey, or salt lake in Austria, in Switzerland, you will always have these questions of comfortability with the regulations and noise problems and stuff like that. So it’s just a no brainer to have that Tokido or similar sale drive. In So, in a way, it sounds like you follow that startup rulebook perfectly. You took your time, but it’s a different market. It’s a different product. It’s a hands on product, you build that prototype, and it took a long time. Until you launch that chase boat, the E 32. Just just basically now, did you expect that it take such a long time? Or did you think that it’s going to go be a faster success in the market?
Michael Goddaert 36:14
No, but there’s a there’s a time lapse between between being active kind of on the side. nonprofessional it was the prototype, there was no domani domani is is something that started out around the end of 2018. So that’s quite recently when we decided to go for a production boat, which is really some passionate partners these days, they are full time partners and we went sailing together. Now we are clever for let’s say, full time investors or partners on the on the business side of the on the establishment of domani acts as a brand. That’s only two and a half years old. is it doing that? And then it went very fast because we, we took that decision in September 2018. We took the decision like okay, let’s let’s perfectly yes 28th to the first production vote and the mold making, and we did the whole process and in four months, in January 2019, we were presenting the 30th decider as a world premiere then. So in four months, we did the whole development from from 3d drawings, which we didn’t have to milling the models in scale one on one and then taking off the molds and then making the first production boat as well. And it’s this this this operation that led to the 32 because it was a also naval engineering in olanta. Yup. The owner which is now a partner on the production side of the money and he approached us in session. Ember 2019. About the 32 and this is where we are today launching it again. So, so again, it went very fast into development. So we did what we do in design and, and development is on a very short time we have a sailing boat. So it’s it’s, but it’s based on ideas, a lot of the things are already in the mind and it’s about executing them. This is where we have a very small team, certainly 32 with Patria yonathan, and the offer together it’s all in the mind and it’s just about like, okay, finding, finding this, this common common idea, common design, common performance, which and it goes all very quickly. We don’t need too many meetings or, and a lot. This is the advantage of course, it’s the social media on WhatsApp, for instance. We don’t need a lot of meetings, we just get a screenshot and it’s in shared in a group and it’s decision making is made a lot easier by by a tool like WhatsApp for instance, much easier than emailing. So as a small team, we’re very, very close to each other at moments when there is design or decisions to be made. And now that’s the so it’s basically in two years time now, we have the S 30. And now the E 32. So it’s, it’s gone very fast. Absolutely.
Klaus Reichert 39:33
I’m impressed. I’m really impressed. It’s, it’s such a it sounds like such a great journey that you that you’re on right now. And the product is just such or the products are such special boats. They the F 30 is like a it’s a real yard. You look at it, and it’s a yachtie that’s what the impression even it’s only in parentheses or 30 feet. Long, but it’s elegant. It reminds you of drinking sipping champagne or cocktails. There’s passion, but it’s still there’s some place for relaxation and stuff like that. So I like that it has a balance of racing in lifestyle which is also something of a yacht yacht lifestyle. Perfect. I’m it’s like maybe a bit like a mini car. It’s cool, it’s sporty, it’s elegant. Smaller, right? But yeah, that’s perfect product I think and I’m really looking forward to the math 32 because you build it in a way that is also in like a day. What’s the you call it chase boat but it’s like a day cruise or something on
Michael Goddaert 40:49
the S30. It’s the S is kind of sailing but it’s also what we use this felt sport sport. Yes. Where we we found together like the sportiness of the sailing which is I was coming from sailing small boats and small catamarans and all this is really sporty sailing thingies. And I just want to have the same feeling on the on the steering and on the lightness of the ropes and everything and and the actor it’s really the term of luxury of enjoying the day of of sipping cocktails like you mentioned that’s that’s kind of the acting part so as far as the Act was really nice term for the for the 32 we’re still looking for the perfect wording but I think we need to be selling on it because for me the the experience of of sailing on this eat 32 is completely different. I don’t think that’s why we call it a chase boat or something but not a motorboat because a motorboat is associated with with petrol and vibrations are noisy and sweating when you’re going a little bit faster. So we We try to find the right IE boat or a motor boat or something but it’s, it’s I think it’s gonna be a completely new experience if you if you are sailing on this boat and you have no noise you just hear the the water spicing at the bow which is gonna be it’s and that’s certainly with the engine we chose and the drive it has no reduction so it’s one on one on the on the propeller. So that’s why we did it and also because of the of the approach there’s also a sailboat builders first he approached us because he came up to us and he said like I know everything below the waterline I can I know which Hill shaped we need for an efficient and and fast electrical boat. And the technology of the engine batteries. That’s my thing. And noise noise also noise because it’s it’s it’s really amazing. We have now more noise coming from a water pump. of the cooling system of the batteries or the battery management system. And we have more noise from the small pump than from the main engine. So it’s a new challenge to isolate all these noises and vibration on these small items. And but that’s, that’s, that’s how it started because you need a sandwich construction, which we use them vacuum infused, which is even now used more and more in, in aviation and even in, in, in rockets to try and composite building. So it’s the lightest we can go on, on a manageable cost. But it’s a sailboat mentality about about weight, sandwich construction, stiffness, so it’s not easy for for multiple builders. If I see what they do today they have deep fees, planing holes, full polyester, no sandwich so it’s not easy for them to Go into electrical boating and have have the range due to the low weight and construction of the boat, which requires completely different skills in a ship.
Klaus Reichert 44:08
You’re talking about the mentality I was always asking myself is an electrically powered powerboat. Let’s put it that way closer to a traditional power boat motor boat or closer to a sailboat, what do you think?
Michael Goddaert 44:30
I think it’s gonna be like gliding if I compare it to a variation on like a glider compared to a to a single engine Cessna or Piper or something. So it’s gonna have the same experience and the same freedom but no noise and it’s terrible noise and vibration and pollution. So it’s it’s it’s I’m very curious I experienced this experience electrical sailing on the ESP 30 experiences on small scale Which is already a lot of conversion is done in certainly in the Netherlands. But on the 32 it’s, it’s going to be special in Ico there is we are not the only ones doing electrical boats or some foiling boats there’s some slow moving mostly in the that’s the problem and why we started also developing the overdrive system is because of the RPM of the engine mostly or our slow moving boats now electrical and we have an engine oboes up for fast moving unit more, let’s say slow moving you go to 1400 RPM Max, but the propeller needs to turn faster so we know system we can go up to 2,800%. And then we have but it’s it’s it’s really unique because it’s on the market does the challenge on the 32 was a drive system. The components are there but it’s about integrating them and they have this engine which is really impressive. It’s giving you 70 kilowatts, we just use it at 52 kilowatts because of the lower voltage we use 385 volts, but it’s it’s the first time it’s installed in a in a boat. It’s it’s a small engine, it’s 37 kilos, only 452 kilowatts, which is comparable to a petrol engine, we would be having maybe 400 500 kilos of engine in the boat via a block or something. So it’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s exciting. It’s I’m really looking forward to the, to the experience on board because that’s where we’re starting to see conventional AI. So it was interesting about this older to see potential buyers and mostly it’s it’s people who are active in in this new technology or electrification or in automobile, certainly in Germany with a few contacts there. And they know that technology just like you said, They know what it is electrical and what the advantages are and, and but it’s it’s a high tech environment where the interest is coming from. And yeah, it’s a new audience, some somewhere. Also, it’s not really people are selling now on a very powerful motorboat or something. But they are just excited that the questions are completely different than 10 years ago. It’s now going about it’s how questions about the engine and the batteries and the technology and the charging rather than questions about speed and wave handling and it’s more technically interested audience that’s for sure.
Klaus Reichert 47:42
So the E32 is basically also a product of good timing. You were ready with the skills of lightweight yacht building. You have to demand the brand positioned in the market. You had a product, the sailboat, the S 30. With some variations also, and then you met with somebody who knew about the whole of them of the new chase boat that he knew about the electrical propulsion system that was an expert in that. And so you combine these skills and it’s just possible only at this certain point of time.
Michael Goddaert 48:21
Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s certainly, that’s certainly it seems to be coming together. And that’s what we hear from electrical drive developers, they, they some of them very successful today in in outboard systems or, but in the higher power range. They also admit they started a little bit too early, like six, seven years ago. And now the engines have improved the batteries and it’s going very fast as technology and that’s I think the hardest thing for a big manufacturer they have long term contracts for for purchasing engines or batteries and and the technology is changing which gives us an advantage Being small. On the other hand, we also need to think economic, economically because now we see it on yesterday as well you have early early believers, early adapted adopters, and they are very convinced to be one of the first ones to have the technology or the sailboat or, and then you have to go wider. And so we have to think about pricing as well and, and, and see there were how we get the more democratic as well because it’s very nice to have a very technical high tech product well built and everything but it’s, it’s, of course, the audience is limited due to the due to the cost of building this kind of boats. So the that’s my main challenge because I always had in mind like making affordable boats because I started on it when I was 30 years old, and I just looked at my own budget as a co pilot flying around. I think everybody should be able to Be sailing on the water maybe know a big difference, which is in a lot of markets going on is certainly a difference in ownership versions versus usage, which is also a big challenge in nautical business. Certainly smaller boats. But, you know, everybody should be able to be sailing on electrical boats. That’s that’s the main challenge. But we’ll see where it where it leads us. First we have to develop the technology, find a few early adopters, and then I’m sure the next step will follow as well.
Klaus Reichert 50:36
Are you thinking of offering a business model that allows people to rent your boats also?
Michael Goddaert 50:41
Yeah, I would like to, I would like to, but the problem is, how do you how do you manage it? Because we are based we are both developers and builders. And how do you build out this platform where people can use and I once had a meeting in in a very nice harbor in the south of Holland. And they saw the rental of the of the harbor spots I know it’s maybe different in kimsey emboldens here but certainly in Atlanta where a lot of farmers they were waiting lists 20 years ago and you have to be on a waiting list, different harbors to get a spot and now they are really trying to attract people with different you know, an eye sitting restaurant in harbor service, opportunity, a boat shop, etc. So you need to have the whole package today. And they had an open meeting which was nice about how to attract the next generation. And one of my suggestion was that the they are the best ones to operate a fleet of boats. Yes, I think they should change from from from renting out harbor spots to renting out the experience. And there will be probably fewer boats in a harbor because now most of them are are unused a lot of the time in the year. Which is also an opportunity on the electrical side, because you will have big, big power bank in the boats as well, which offers opportunity in grids and sharing of energy. But that’s, that’s an even another model. So plenty of ideas. But the main thing is how do we how do we combine as a small company, the rental, for instance, if we would have a location in Holland, where we finish or build the boats and deliver them to clients, they would have the opportunity to manage a fleet, but let’s say limited to 1020 volts or something. So I think it’s difficult for other parties to to manage it. But we of course, we are very interested in we should we should do pilot projects, at least with some kind of harbours, which we are thinking about and talking to people. But this is my step. First, we need to have the effects and the money has 30s turns out certainly to be Very, very useful, very useful product for four day sailing and the recreational part one of my motivations was also that I didn’t want to be the boat to be too sporty, because there’s always you are sailing with a party or four or five people. And two of them are very kind, very, very into the sailing part and the three others are there to enjoy the day and like to swim and, and some and that’s that’s the nice offering. That’s this I know I spoke with beneteau they acquired seascape which were very sporty boats. But I yeah, I see around I look around in the market and I think a lot of boats or are the same for 40 years 50 years. It’s also very hard to distinguish them in the harbor like is this from brand a or brand B or brand C and it’s it’s how do you differentiate and it’s really about thinking about the The user and so I think the authority is a big opportunity in this kind of, of water recreational concept. But it’s, it’s you also need to adapt the boat a little bit for for for sturdiness and protection that it’s a bit stronger in the maneuvers when you dock the boat in hardware. But that’s quickly that’s quickly solved. But it’s certainly a nice boat for for for sharing or a rental or share of shared ownership, etc. That’s certainly the future for them. Absolutely.
Klaus Reichert 54:35
In the yachting industry to people think as flexible as you do. Because when I listen to you, I get the impression that you have a lot of passion for what you do. You have a lot of ideas you have a lot of knowledge you have a lot of friends and people to cooperate with. You will look very much into the future you kind of dislike like again gasoline engine in a in a boat. You like that new propulsion system that is coming up electric systems and you think ahead of just selling a boat you think of an experience, which you built a nice experience into these boats are people in the yachting industry thinking like you?
Michael Goddaert 55:23
When I look at our size of boats we’re not into we’re into small boat in recreational day sailing weekend sailing, although we have owners on the US 30 or sailing or staying 4050 nights on board, because they like the minimalism so it’s apparently it’s very wide usage from from the sailing to cruising as a couple and going back to basics. We have owners coming from a 40 foot big cruising boat and the daughters were older and they didn’t come along anymore and they had this dream of also being able to sail in the North Sea and then going to Croatia in the next year to Scandinavia. Those those 30 is also very, very Well in the transport behind okay you need some kind of an SUV but it’s it’s very comfortable we drive around with boats from north to south to the boat shows ourselves and it’s very manageable. You need to get used to it one time and then the sailing horizon is unlimited you can go anywhere with the boat. So that’s that’s that’s the widest scope and what I see in the business is I see a lot of for my limited look on the on the production yards which are doing bigger boats but if I look at what they are trying to do in smaller boats, you see that they are trying to connect with the next generation which is very difficult because then you have what yours like seascape thing Bavaria in Germany, right which is the the one small small from good sailing. They sail or sporty boat but also very sporty I must say And you see them the big yards they need to do something to to attract these next generation sellers. And the problem is, I think everybody looks also like in the past, and in the past it was like Mercedes or BMW or Audi, you had this this range of cars. And in the boats, you had the same you started with an Eat up, for instance, a 20 footer. And then seven years later, you bought a 25, and then a 30. And then a 35. When you were 60, you you bought the top range model, if you if you could afford it to buy you would buy a 40 footer or even today a 50 footer. So it’s this this kind of there as a generation you grow with the brand and that’s, that’s not existing anymore these days. And I think a lot of brands are trying to connect with this tradition of having people entering the market and then staying with them. But these days you just see I have friends who never sell they did they sailed on dingus and then suddenly I hear they rent a 40 footer barrio in Croatia, for instance. So the the whole concept of having small boats and being every weekend on this, which is basically a second home or an investment, it’s it’s it’s not on anymore. Sometimes I’m in the harbors in Holland, even in summer, nice weather, the harvests are really the boats are not not very well used most of the boats. That’s also a big threat in the in the markets for the sailboats is the the the age of the boats, and they age well you have 25 year 30 year old boats who are well maintained. They are still competitive in speed or usage to new, bigger boats. So there’s a big second hand markets, of course which is, is becoming a problem now because the boats used to be 25 year old now they are 35 year 40 year old and still, you’re still Invest in a new set of sails or a new engine in a boat, which is basically worth zero. so that it’s it’s but it’s it’s it’s one of the challenges of the market. But it’s it’s Yeah. The other brands i don’t know i’m not so into it. The only threat for us I think is that we have to be careful that we don’t become a purely development company where we launch very good ideas I saw we were one of the first ones with the electrical engines, competitors were looking at us and they were a bit like you nobody wants to pure electric and how are they gonna charge it and today I see competitors launching boats, also uniquely with an electrical engine. So the so we are kind of leaders. It’s not our purpose, but it’s our you know, in our intention in our mind probably to do to use the newest things and see what’s practical and what’s what’s easier to use. But it’s a we have to be careful as a new brand to to not be just the leaders and develop new things and it has to turn into a into a profitable business as well.
Klaus Reichert 1:00:08
As sustainable, profitable business.
Michael Goddaert 1:00:10
Klaus Reichert 1:00:17
I really liked your booth at the boat trade fair and just hold off it was very elegant. It was towards the wall. So we had like a backdrop are possible. You lined up the two boats, the 32 and 30. And there was an entrance, some sort of entrance. It had sort of a maximum effect with a minimum of off of resources. You know how to build a brand. You use nice marketing material you have received, like the prestigious European Aacht of the Year Award, I think in 2019. How are you able to put so much class in such a small operation?
Michael Goddaert 1:01:08
Yeah it’s a good good question. We had the nomination for the European, I have to correct. I would like to have the award next year with the 32 but but it was already an honor as a new brand I must say apparently doesn’t happen so much just a brand that was at a time not even a year or so. So it’s good it’s good to people in the in the business you meet people and it’s it’s all good this this attention, but for the for the Bo Dusseldorf specific. They’re also a bit form follows function. So we have the budget, it’s amazing voters will always it’s really very expensive, operation, marketing wise, but it’s very interesting because both so Dorf is also an event where all the suppliers are where all the media comes. So it’s it’s it’s It’s a sales show but it’s also a networking show. So that’s it’s one of the best in maybe it’s just the best in the world for the moment to launch new new products. But in terms of design, yeah, we get confronted with the square meters first, you can obtain because it’s fully booked always the show so you have to work with the space you obtain as a, it’s really a if you come in last you get if you have experience of being 15 years on the tradeshow you get priority over a new brand, which is the first year so we’re very happy a lot of things changed or bought or sold of this year and we got another location moved from all 15 to 17. And was very, very nice. And we always wanted to stand on the side just like you would walk in into London and pass the haircuts or some would have this presentation like I don’t know the exact name in English, but it allows We call it in French or in Belgium but and then you walk past it like we are used to in the shopping streets. There was like a boutique kind of effect, but it’s mostly based on the on the on the space we have and then we try to see how can we locate the boats we want to keep the standard open which a lot of brands are closing off if they want to pretend the luxury luxury impression or something and we just try to present about as close as possible to the to the walkways and you can see the product and feel it and and keep the standard open was it was a bit different than last year with the stairs on the side. But yeah, I don’t know we we just have this idea and we have a graphics guy doing the catalogs and the logo also came from the Belgian interior architect. We were working on our house renovation, just draw the kitchen and the plan of the house and cheese She knew I was in this boat building and she knew the brand name and she was like I can I maybe do a tryout I have an idea that I did some some logos or some some even small private things for birthday card or something and she came up with a logo so it’s it’s all very it’s like a big family and everybody’s giving his input and even your return as a designer gives the input on the boats and the kinds of safeguards the brand image and and it’s but it’s something we do together and we all have this combination of minimalism and and focus on the product that leads to what we do.
Klaus Reichert 1:04:42
Do you think something is better possible in that close knit situation. You are living in Belgium and the Netherlands, where people are possibly closer connected to each other or closer to each other? Then in other areas of the world where then there might not be such a dense population or a dense network of shipbuilders and and and experts.
Michael Goddaert 1:05:12
It’s certainly the location where we are in Western Europe. There’s a lot of shipbuilding in the Netherlands. It used to be around Antwerp was known in the medieval times for shipbuilding as well, but it’s kind of fifth now to certainly Holland, the Netherlands, and which, which makes it easy because a lot of the suppliers are there beat for the master or the engine or batteries or composites or new materials. We have the big trade fairs. If you go into a circle 200 kilometers around and where it is true that we have London Dusseldorf Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam. So so it’s an advantage. You can have meetings about new new technologies, new engines, and it’s mostly Driver 4050 minutes away. So face to face, I’m still a believer in, in face to face meetings and we try to do of course now we do the construction of the 32 employees lounge, which is three hours drive. So up and down four days is a bit too much. It’s too much time. But so but still, we try to do it face to face and that’s why I see a lot of the difficulty these days these days is with different generations. We have Peter Basra, who is with over 50 and if you’re not my age, and we have younger people and who works with Watson sometimes it’s it’s not so easy to work on on WhatsApp for for put some emotion in it and have you do that anymore. A few letters and stuff so I will try to combine it but it’s it certainly helps. We’re looking into into cooperation for the sailboat We see some nice technologies developing and people are on the other side of the world and and that’s my major concern if we want to continue that on might be a demand from a customer potential customer for a large sailboat, for instance. But how do you manage the communication because it’s all about it’s all about communication and sitting together and and taking decisions and if you stay into these emails and sometimes you go into circles and and you cannot get out of it and decisions are not made or people get frustrated or and then you sit shoulder to shoulder and I see this in meetings, that the atmosphere can be completely different and what happens in an hour There is is amazing. So it’s it certainly helps to have everybody around in close distance now.
Klaus Reichert 1:07:51
Michael, you are an airline pilot, and you build yachts. So flying and sailing, the business of sailing is normal to you. Was that a like a long journey for you? Or did it come naturally?
Michael Goddaert 1:08:13
I think I think things came naturally and if I if I maybe I would ask myself the question Would I follow the same bar today I wouldn’t change a thing because I like to be in between all these creative people and commercial management and sales and just being the glue between people and connecting each other and doing different things every day. That’s that’s, that’s it’s sometimes a bit complex, but it’s it’s the the different challenges and that’s that’s what drives you every day. If I would be drawing on the only boats I think it wouldn’t be my my if there would be enough Lions everyday doing something different that I would like maybe that would be, that would be nice. But as an architect was one one of my ambitions was architect. And if I see it today, I think like, good that I didn’t do that. And the deviation we’ll see on the long term. It’s, it’s a difficult business as well. And we’ll see where that takes me but for the moment, it’s the combination is good, I fly around. That’s the advantage of being in the aviation business, we still have our advantages to be able to fly on a jumpsuit, if it’s necessary to Japan or to the US. So it saves us money as well for the moment to connect with the customers and dealers and so that’s the that’s the combination is good for the moment, but no if I wouldn’t change the thing that’s for sure.
Klaus Reichert 1:09:49
What is next for you or what is next for Domani?
Michael Goddaert 1:09:53
What I mentioned before is the development we see is getting out of purely which we needed to build up, we were certainly not patient. From the start, we saw the money always as a development, marketing and a sales company rather than a boat building company. But we saw the complexity of both building and you need to be very close to the, to the building side as well. And I think we have a very good chain in the production there. So that’s that’s running and I think we we should be able to take the next step now we launch the 32. Let’s see how the technology goes there. And I think we should start to think more in a business to business environment and see how do we get the boats the experience to the users, like we discussed with the harbours, maybe the dry system, do conversions of existing boats or but see the technology, the technology on the on the boats evolve to the usage and another thing is what I try to do All these reverse thinking and if I see the problem in Amsterdam with for instance by 2025 they one of them all the petrol boats or change it to two alternative systems then then I see opportunity as well for the where I see now the big discussion like there is no charging charging points etc let’s find the opportunity there and see what these boats can offer to the city for instance, and I hope we can get more involved in in a bigger picture and, and and do better because that’s where where there’s a lot of work to be done there’s a lot of all boats and all diesel engines and pollution on the lakes and on the on the rivers and that’s the main drive of course is to go to zero emission and also from the we can we don’t call the boat zero emission today because the electricity has to come from from zero application and that’s all So where we want to go further, we have some interest from clients. So how do we charge about and find solutions there? So that’s, that’s the next step. I think more more innovation even but certainly more a technology company than than purely about building. That’s the ambition.
Klaus Reichert 1:12:19
Michael Goddaert, thank you very much for being on the show.
Michael Goddaert 1:12:24
Thank you for inviting me. Thank you so much.
Klaus Reichert 1:12:32
That was my conversation with Michael Godard, the founder of the money yachts. In the show notes, you’ll find a link to the episode on the 2.5 website, where I have compiled a list of links and videos about Domani yachts. You’ll also find a transcript of this conversation. I’m grateful to Michael, for taking the time for this conversation. Thank you also to music producer Immex for creating the music of this show. Creating this podcast is also an adventure for me. It is a labor of love, lots of work and great fun. Hosting and producing the podcast is broadening my own horizon and helps me to grow as an innovator. If you enjoy listening to these episodes, please show your support. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app and rate the show on podchaser.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. That way you help others to discover the show. And while you’re at it, please follow the podcast on social media and tell your friends. You find the links at the show’s website at the2pt5.net My name is Klaus. The podcast is brought to you from Baden-Württemberg in the Southwest of Germany. Thank you for listening to The 2pt5 – conversations, connecting innovators.