Swell Advantage, the Halifax company that made software for marinas, quietly exited in the last year and a half with the sale to the American company Oasis Marinas Management.
Iaian Archibald said in an interview last week that he and Co-Founder Craig Sheppard sold their business to Annapolis, Md.-based Oasis in November, 2020. He was employed by the new owner for a period of time and recently left the operation.
Archibald and Sheppard, both ocean sports enthusiasts, founded Swell in 2014 and, after a pivot, developed software that helped marina operators assign slips to boaters. Archibald said that Swell had “thousands of slips under management” at the time of the sale and linked up with Oasis because the company was looking for a software provider for the marinas industry.
“We met them at different trade shows and industry events, and we got along really well,” said Archibald in an interview at a Halifax coffee shop. “They were looking to acquire a software piece to go along with their operations.”
Archibald and Sheppard talked with Oasis for about six months before signing a letter of intent and closed the deal in November 2020. The price was not disclosed but Archibald said the price included some equity so he retains an interest in the company and is on hand to assist the management team when needed.
Private equity-backed Oasis, one of the world’s leading marine management companies, has recently bundled Swell in with two other properties it owns to form a unit providing services to boaters and marina-operators. The new entity, which is called MarinaLife, incudes content-provider MarineLife, slip reservation system Snag-a-Slip, as well as the Swell software.
The Swell system was designed to help marinas tell boat owners about available slips that suit their boats’ dimensions and arrange bookings. And it provides data analytics that help to improve a marina’s revenues and operations.
In 2017, the company raised US$100,000 in equity financing from the Port of San Diego, and its investors included the Nova Scotia venture capital agency Innovacorp.
“All our investors made money off their investment and Craig and I both had a life-changing event when we exited,” said Archibald. He added, however, that Swell Advantage always faced a challenge when dealing with investors because its market wasn’t large enough to generate the billion-dollar company so many VCs are looking for.
“We didn’t hit a home run but it was a good outcome,” he said.
For now, Archibald is pondering his next move. Having recently returned from a surfing trip in Indonesia, he has purchased and is restoring a Victorian duplex in Dartmouth. He is still in contact with the MarinaLife team and is thinking about another venture, probably a non-tech business with more traditional income streams than a startup.
Asked if MarinaLife was his focus for now, he said: “I’m a fan of the people running it, and I have a vested interest in it, but there will be other businesses.”