Founded in 2013, Diviac has worked hard to transform the scuba diving industry. They started off with digitalising the traditional logbook before launching Diviac Travel this year to help divers research and book their ideal diving getaway.
Having recently partnered with Diviac, I jumped at the chance to speak to Diviac’s co-founder and CEO, Joel Perrenoud, to learn more about Diviac and what it is like introducing technology into a traditionally non-tech industry.
Despite it being a gloomy Monday morning in Zurich, Joel was pleasantly cheerful and incredibly articulate. If he was a lecturer for a class on a Monday morning, I’d make sure to attend that Monday morning lecture. On time.
Joel’s first dive
Naturally, I was more than curious about this CEO’s first dive, which took place some 20 years ago. It was 1993 or 1994, he can’t remember exactly when he jumped into the Great Barrier Reef and was gobsmacked by what he saw. The corals and the fishes, the marine life was simply stunning.
In a way, it’s like yoga under water. You’re not competing, there’s no one to beat. It’s not fast. I enjoyed observing life underwater, seeing a part of the planet we usually don’t.
He caught the diving bug and that was that. Joel spent the next few months working on diving boat and doing odd jobs with diving companies for free dives. He soon did an open water course and continued with an advanced course in Asia.
He has explored the sea beds of more than 15 different countries since then.
The problems Diviac aims to solve
His infectious passion for diving soon unearthed a few pain points within the scuba diving industry, which was how Diviac was incepted. He identified two problems that needed to be solved.
Firstly, there was the traditional pen and paper logbook. Being a non-diver myself, Joel patiently explained to me what a logbook was and why it was so important. After a dive, you’d get a stamp, reflect on the dive with your diving master, and then frantically scribble into your logbook to keep those memories alive forever.
This worked out well until Joel lost his logbook.
He also noticed that the world was becoming increasingly connected. Everyone travelling had a smartphone and everyone was online. Regardless of where they found themselves, WiFi was readily available, even in the most remote villages in Asia.
The second problem that was apparent from the get-go was the painfully inefficient and time consuming process of researching, comparing and booking a dive. Joel explained to me that information was scattered around the web, with many diving companies having poor quality websites with terrible booking processes. There were companies who would even ask customers to email them their credit card details to make a payment.
Simply put, there wasn’t the technological infrastructure to make the lives of divers easier.
These problems triggered a brainstorming session between Joel and his co-founder Thomas Achhorner, another diving enthusiast. The more they talked about how the industry could be transformed, the more they believed that they could be the ones to do it.
From talent management, to investment, to consulting, to technology, to Diviac
As both of them spent a large part of their careers in the consulting and IT industry, I asked Joel how it translated into his current role.
“You get to see the bigger picture”, said Joel. Having worked in different industries, they are able to take the best practices from other industries and translate that knowledge into practical solutions for the scuba diving industry.
“It is also what makes us different from other travel sites like Expedia or TripAdvisor."
We specialise in scuba diving and provide relevant information about dive sites like fish sighting, water temperature and unique marine life all over the world.
In 2015, Diviac acquired Scubadvisor, a 7-year old UK-based peer review site for dive companies all over the world. Joel explained that the main deciding factor for people to book a holiday was its reputation, which made Scubadvisor a huge hit with divers. Users of Scubadvisors submitted reviews and uploaded pictures, which gave Diviac insight into a few thousand dive centres through the acquisition.
With all this big data, they launched the Dive Destination Wizard on Diviac Travel, a fantastic tool for divers to discover where to go for their next diving vacation. I was fascinated by this use of big data and asked Joel more about it.
“It starts with a personal assumption”, he said, “you have an idea for what you want and then you talk to friends and other people to get an idea of what they want. From there, you get a picture of what you want. At the same time, the picture needs to be flexible so that changes can be made to improve the overall experience.” He told me that Diviac regularly gets users to test it out and their feedback is always used to improve the programme.
“It’s a process that never ends, this process of testing and improving, testing and improving.”
Diviac Travel also provides full customer support, with cell centres set up for those who have questions.
Transforming an industry with technology is no easy task
“So how has a traditionally non-tech scuba diving industry responded to Diviac?” I asked.
According to Joel, many scuba diving companies understand the need to get online and the benefits of signing up with Diviac - they get instant access to a global distribution channel at zero cost. Since it only takes 30 to 40 minutes to get their company signed up on Diviac, many are willing to embrace this change. They have also received wide spread interest from liveaboard companies and currently have 300 liveaboards listings on their platform.
As for individual dive centres, Diviac is focusing on getting businesses from destination markets like Thailand, the Caribbean and Mexico on board.
Although the suppliers in the industry have been relatively welcoming, Diviac found that divers were the unexpected hurdle.
When it came to getting people to use the digital logbook, the younger generation was quick to adopt it, whipping out their phones and typing away. For the older generation, it was difficult as many saw the logbook as part of their ritual. Replacing a pen and paper with a phone or a tablet disrupted this very personal process, and not everyone appreciated it.
“But we’re here for the long run”, said Joel.
There’s this saying when it comes to start ups, that everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much.
This is true.
“Driving deep transformation in an industry takes more time than you imagine. It involves changing habits. You need stamina and endurance, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
When I asked if he had any advice to give new entrepreneurs hoping to break into similar non-tech industries, his answer was simple: “Have patience.”
For 2016, Diviac is looking forward to growing their audience, aiming to emerge as the #1 platform for scuba divers and diving centres.
As for the partnership between TrekkSoft and Diviac, “We look forward to bringing an integrated one-stop solution to scuba diving businesses all around the world. TrekkSoft provides them the tools to build an individual platform, as they should, and we offer global distribution through Diviac Travel. It’s a strong value proposition that just makes sense.”
Would you like to learn more about our partnership with Diviac and how it can help you grow your business?
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.