You might think that spending two decades in megayacht management means your job gets easier as time goes on. Pascal Wiscour-Conter found quite the opposite, given how yachts are increasingly akin to small businesses. How do you manage and track the myriad daily administrative, financial, legal, technical, and operational issues, plus the social, planning, and communication issues? That’s why Wiscour-Conter left the yacht-management world to establish I.T. Moves It, an asset-management software firm that allows users to track all those aspects in one platform. That platform, LEADiNiUS is arguably the most comprehensive yet simplest-to-use program available. In fact, in the 20 years I’ve been covering the megayacht market, I have never seen anything like it. LEADiNiUS gives you and any users you designate—your captain, your financial and/or legal advisors, and more—at-a-glance views of documents and other information pertinent to your megayacht’s operations.
All of this is why we selected Wiscour-Conter for this Leadership Series interview. He explains how the company got started, why it’s so different, and how users like you can customize the modules.
Q: What inspired the creation of I.T. Moves It?
A: Well, it’s my background, and this obsession for watching at things from a different angle. I started 20 years ago in yachting with a rather financial background, asking myself why charter yachts did not have a dedicated status that would address various issues in their commercial operation. I ended up having registered about 200 large yachts, administratively and financially managing a large fleet with multiple daily issues and many different parties involved (owners, crew, suppliers, clients, accountants, lawyers, administrations…). Seeking a helicopter view, I later went for what I called a “yacht family office” approach. I realized how many more different aspects required handling in what appeared to be a fragmented, inefficient, and under-utilized environment. So the need came for the right tool. I could not find a suitable solution, so I ended up writing the specification of “my ideal tool.” Eventually, I was involved in designing and developing such a tool with an external software-development company. The result was frustration and hope. Frustration, because I realized how IT can generate high hopes and then not keep spoken and unspoken promises. Hope, because I saw an opportunity in a sustainably unsatisfied need, as I spoke to yacht managers, crew, owners, family offices, corporate structure providers, but also other people involved and in other luxury asset management. So I literally gave up everything and jumped into this new IT adventure, like you would jump out of a plane, not knowing if you are wearing a parachute or a backpack. I was, however, guided by this strong conviction that we “had something here” and that we could make it big. That is when I met my business partner Stéphane Boyeau, who is an absolute IT genius but still talks the language of “real life,” as he says. We launched I.T. MOVES IT and started designing an all-in-one software to speak the language of the user, not the other way around. LEADiNiUS was born and a first release presented at the end of 2012.
Q: Creating an all-in-one platform that addresses the needs of various people seems an impossibility. How did you and your team decide what “all in one” should include?
A: I learned that it can only work if you have full control over the whole process, from inspiration to drawing the specs and designing the architecture, then choosing the right technologies and coding the software, finally providing the maintenance and client service. All of this requires high and very broad skills, hence a perfect team of very qualified and visionary experts in multiple fields. After all, you do not build your own car or mobile phone. More important, you must always work for the people out there who are going to use your creations, not design “geeks’ stuff,” where people need adapt themselves to the software.
With new technologies enabling us to design a tool that can be structured the way we want, the next hurdle was to make sure we understood what multiple users need and how they work. Obviously my yachting background did help, but still we involved a number of insiders and external persons. Then we got some beta-testers who are yacht managers or captains. Some small and larger managers even opened their doors to show us how they work, their tools and processes, their expectations, too. This was quite inspiring…and motivating. So, in a way it was not us deciding what modules should compose LEADiNiUS and what these modules should do. We simply observed the “real life” of yachting and listened carefully to our first beta testers and clients, trying to figure out what could help them. The version 1.0 that was already launched, as well as the upcoming releases 1.1 and 1.2, are a smart assemblage of what users needed and of issues we identified when observing them at work. Each module composing LEADiNiUS corresponds to an activity, a task, a user, and his needs.
Q: How do you ensure the program is secure?
A: LEADiNiUS is a SaaS, or Software as a Service, meaning there is no installation required on your computer, nor any maintenance or manual updating. The software actually runs in your browser, literally behaving and feeling like a local program. It also means that all information and documents are stored and exchanged in a most secure manner. Data is sent in so-called SSL encryption, meaning that in the unlikely event data was to be intercepted, it could not be read. All data is stored in some of the most secured and modern data centers worldwide. No data is stored on the computer once LEADiNiUS, i.e. your browser, is closed. There are multiple backups in various highly secured locations, so that data remains available all times in case of major problem. In addition, each client can determine the number and types of user profiles in the system. These profiles—in a way, each user’s clearance level—can be defined in an extremely fine-graded manner for each type of action or item. It is hence possible to precisely determine, in a way never seen before, what each user can see or modify. Any access to LEADiNiUS is obviously password protected, and we are also very cautious when issuing them, as statistics show that the major cause of unauthorized access is a weak password.
Q: Why do you think that other software programs created prior to yours fell short?
A: Software is like a huge iceberg: As a user, you only see the smaller top part. Below the surface, there are very complex structures that you could very simplistically compare to a Lego construction. When you suddenly realize you needed a window or a door on the first level of the Lego house you built, and you are already building the third level, you may well have to unbuild and rebuild a large part of your structure, or go the less-elegant and less-efficient, though faster way to tweak in some sort of shortcut. This, however, will makes your structure weaker and less flexible. The result will inevitably create an IT construction that gets heavy, slow, and expensive to maintain. To the contrary, the latest online technologies enabled us to design a smart and flexible structure that can adapt now and later to any kind of new requested feature, user, asset, or item. LEADiNiUS is composed of modules that each accomplish one or several tasks, and they can be assembled according to each client’s needs.
Q: How did you find beta testers, and what was their feedback?
A: From early on, IT MOVES IT showed a mockup of LEADiNiUS to various yacht managers and captains, offering them to become a beta tester. Friends, former colleagues, and interested clients helped, too, by giving their feedback and input. Still, the challenges were numerous and the cutting-edge technologies used were very recent, which is probably also an explanation why such an all-in-one product had not been available earlier. What people see from a software is only the user interface, and that is not enough to make a cool app. The professionals we spoke with have been most helpful, in fact describing their ideal tools, but they made us also realize what we had in our hands. Their feedback was extremely interesting but also caused high expectations and generated quite some time pressure on IT MOVES IT. So, it motivated us even more to work harder and put more resources into delivering a product up to expectations. I have to say that we can count on a super team for that, as well as some high quality, very supportive shareholders.
Q: Can users customize a basic package by adding on more features?
A: LEADiNiUS is all about customization, which comes in several layers. First, the way to build up your very own LEADiNiUS is by choosing those modules you need: Cash-IT for cash-flow management, Report-IT for reporting, Contact-IT for contact management, and so on. In addition, you can set your own list of expense categories, workflows, and user privileges and define your own reporting and various other templates. Second, it will be possible to brand LEADiNiUS in your own colors and layout, as well as later on use different themes. Third, in the near future we will offer the possibility to develop your own private modules that will be running inside LEADiNiUS. Much more to come.
Q: Since you’re working on a version tailored to larger fleets, how will that vary from the version out now?
A: Actually, there is no difference from a technical point of view for us. The structure of the software and database, effectively the amount of data and the number of users that can be handled at the same time and in any location, has been designed for very large figures. Our theoretical limitation is the storage capacity of data centers, so in practice we do not have any. Also, let’s not forget LEADiNiUS was conceived to work with any kind of professional or asset. What changes is the functionalities and features larger fleet managers may need, hence the modules they require. Upcoming LEADiNiUS 1.1 is the first answer for such bigger companies, and it is right around the corner. Modules and features proposed will notably include interactive budgeting, ISM, enhanced logging, workflows and search filters, automatic document generation, as well as advanced management of documents, planning, schedules, and tasks.
We are also collaborating to address larger professionals, such as managers and builders, but let’s be clear here: Our business model is not about selling software for cheap money, then trying to hook up clients with things they do not like or that cost them a lot of money, as we have seen around. It is all about delivering what you pay for in a fair way and without any surprise.