Written by Jack O'Rourke
Having imported hundreds of boats into Australia and New Zealand, the team of John Cowpe and Peter Hrones felt the time was right for an importer to offer high-end, equity-share ownership.
Launching COBLI in 2020, they developed a bespoke fractional-ownership model that offers sharing opportunities, high-end service, and the latest and best boats available on the market. The pair have been involved in the equity-ownership model for many years and have supported several businesses in their efforts.
The partnership of Cowpe and Hrones represents some of the world’s most prestigious on-water brands including Lagoon, Axopar and Pardo Yachts, and clients of COBLI will have access to a wide range of ownership opportunities.
COBLI’s product offerings are curated from the latest catamarans based between Sydney and the Whitsunday islands to high-end day boats for entertaining and enjoyment on Sydney harbour and beyond.
Cofounder John Cowpe takes Ocean through this new business model as it looks to provide boaters with more ownership opportunities in a rapidly changing market.
Our various businesses – TMG, YOTI, E-Yachts and VesselTEC – serve the needs of a broad section of the boating world, from the importation of leading brands in both sail and power to brokerage and a dedicated service company.
We have always held a strong belief that the sharing economy was an area of business we should be embracing, so we went about researching the various share models.
We listened to many of our past and current owners to get as much feedback as possible into their experiences. We wanted to understand what worked, what didn’t work, their frustrations and what attracted them to the different structures on offer.
In the end, we settled on an equity model, where the owners are the actual owners, the boats are only new boats, the syndicates are very limited in numbers and the term is three years. This ensures our owners have great access, are always in the latest models and that they receive a good amount of equity back in their pockets at the end of each term.
We actually launched the company during the pandemic. We had in mind to wait and launch when the world was in recovery, but what we found across all of our businesses was a huge number of people wanting to simply get on with having some fun on their own doorstep, so we moved to get it up and going and take advantage of this interesting moment in time.
There is certainly a place for a well-curated product for the share market in luxury boats. Time is of the essence for many of us in this world and access to a luxury walk-on walk-off product without the headaches of maintenance, insurance, registration, cleaning and berthage makes sense to a lot of people.
While the COBLI model makes ownership more achievable for more people, which we love, most of those looking at this can afford the full purchase and simply choose a different path. It’s somehow a quieter, more frictionless path to amazing times out on the water.
The share model does make sense to many people and for lots of different reasons. Therefore, there are lots of messages to communicate depending on our target audience and where the importance lies; it might be a chance to entertain friends and family, to have adventures, to take out your employees or workmates.
“Live your life” is a phrase we hear a lot, especially in tough times. In the end, spending as much of your valuable time as possible making memories and having fun with those who matter to you most is our core message.
We are a pretty fluid bunch and are building COBLI based on experience, feedback and our knowledge of the industry. We hope to build a core of proud owners who we can look after to ensure they get the very best out of their boating experience.
After that, and into the future, we can certainly see the model expanding. Everything is in place, from our custom online booking software to all of the necessary documentation and access to the best brands directly from us as importers. There are a number of paths to expansion and we will consider each one carefully.