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The Wanderlust Group raises $14.2M to double-down on getting folks outdoors

Alex Wilhelm
·3-min read

The Wanderlust Group, a Rhode Island-based startup focused on building software for the boating world, announced that it has closed a $14.2 million Series B round of capital this week. The new funds were provided by Allen & Company and the Alaris family office. (Post updated to amend investor list after publication.)

Wanderlust had raised $13.1 million prior to this round of funding, making its new Series B larger than all the capital the startup had raised previously.

According to Wanderlust's CEO, Mike Melillo, a large percentage of the company's early team were formerly senior denizens at HubSpot, allowing the startup to raise money in smaller, $2 and $3 million rounds before its Series B. The CEO added that his company had been looking to raise just $7 million, and had been on a path to profitability.

Demand embiggened the round, putting more capital into the Newport startup's coffers.

The Wanderlust Group has two main halves today: Dockwa, a software suite for marinas that allows them to manage their businesses, from customer acquisition through to operations. And Wanderlust bought Marinas.com back in 2017, a classifieds service for marinas that it claims is the "world’s #1 searchable marina directory."

Dockwa's marina software costs from a little over $1,000 yearly up to $30,000 for larger, more complex operations.

The startup has expansion plans, for which its boosted capital base may come in handy. The company wants to expand from the marina and boating worlds into the RV market, a space into which Dockwa customers are helping pull the company.

Melillo said the company noticed some of its customers essentially hacking the boating software to include RV rentals, something that some marinas feature. As far as customer signals regarding product direction go, that was a clear one. (Its About page hints that the future RV product could be called "Campouts.")

The Wanderlust Group is a vertical SaaS play, attacking a market that runs too frequently on old-school technologies, or a simple lack of tech. Software may make it easier for marinas to book more boats, and easier for boaters to lock in berths, allowing their owners to set out on more trips.

If so, that would match Wanderlust's goal, which Melillo described as getting folks outdoors more. That's something that the pandemic is assisting, notably, with the CEO telling TechCrunch that COVID-19 has helped get younger folks like millennials outside, and into boats. He also pointed to the average age of folks purchasing boats dropping recently, a reversal of prior trends.

Regardless, with plans to evolve from the sea to the land, and an eye on international markets -- Melillo told TechCrunch that Australia and New Zealand are prime RV countries -- The Wanderlust Group appears well set to get more folks out of their office chairs and out the door.

Closing, the fully remote-enabled startup has an interesting cultural setup in which it doesn't have formal Monday work days. Meetings are banned on Mondays, and employees can work or not, as they wish. Why? Because a lot of the staff live in coastal towns -- where there are marinas, we reckon -- where Mondays are the day when tourists aren't around, making it a good day to get around and enjoy the world. So Wanderlust has the day off, or at least sufficiently off so that its staff can catch up on real work, sans interruption.

According to Melillo, the setup has led to better Tuesday meetings, and, I would guess, pretty good personnel retention.