Gary Druckenmiller ’95 has two loves: boating and creating websites. So when he began to consider possibilities for launching a business in 2007, inspiration struck quickly.
His venture – TheOpenSea.com – offers online social networking exclusively for the marine community, from weekend sailors to boat builders, suppliers and other industry professionals. Druckenmiller describes the web site as a hybrid of Facebook and LinkedIn, incorporating the best features of each.
“We call it a ‘SoPro’ network,” he says of the one-site stop for social and professional networking. “You don’t have to deal with the 300 million people who exist in Facebook and the social goofiness like games.”
Druckenmiller’s love of all things nautical began early, at his family’s summer home on the North Fork of Long Island. “We had power boats and sailboats, so I did it all,” says the alumnus, who also worked at several marinas as a teen. “I was basically surrounded by water and boats for my entire adolescence.”
TheOpenSea.com features social networking standards such as user profiles, photo galleries, event postings, and videos. Its marine-specific content comprises a search function for boaters to locate crew members, Q&A forum, ratings for concept boats and new designs, and – in a nod to captains’ parlance – “logs” rather than blogs. Mapping solutions – including interactive charts that pinpoint marinas, ports, retail stores, and more – are on tap for the future, as are apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices.
Current membership includes several thousand individuals and hundreds of businesses.
“Our goal is to be the marine site with one million users,” Druckenmiller says. “That would be considerable, because the largest community site in the industry right now has about 200,000 users.”
The former Marketing major took his first dip into cyber waters shortly before graduation. Checking grades from his off-campus apartment via an early Bentley network was a light bulb moment.
“As miniscule as that sounds today, it was huge – and it got me excited about the Internet and networks,” says Druckenmiller, who created his first website for the marine company Westerbeke and has been building sites ever since.
As for the future of TheOpenSea.com, sailing looks clear – although a bigger boat may be needed soon.
“We’re looking for investors to get us to the next level,” he says, citing goals that include development, software and integration projects, as well as new applications within the site. “Everything is all spelled out; it’s just a matter of having the funds to get there.”