Though the superyacht business is a relatively small industry, it is packed with international professionals from all walks of life, and it can certainly be easy to get lost in the sea of faces we're presented with at boat shows, yachting events and beyond. In this series of articles, we take a step back from rushed business meetings and hurried networking and sit down with professionals from across the wide spectrum of the superyacht business to learn more about who they are and what they do for the industry. This week, we get to know Stefano Tositti, CEO of the recently launched Acquera Group.
Photo: Acquera Group
Talk to me a bit about your background. How did you originally become involved in the yachting industry?
My background in the maritime industry started many years ago because I come from a family business in shipping. My involvement in yachting more specifically started with an operation in the early 2000s where we were assisting yachts coming to Venice and then moved to a global field, opening an international company with our partners which I managed for 10 years.
Over the last few months, I have been talking a lot with my advisors in order to create Acquera Group, starting from an idea on a piece of paper and developing a five-year business plan. We started with the brand which was not an easy step because we wanted to do something different. I realised that a true agency service is a good starting point but is not the end of the project, so we decided to build a company with two different business streams: one of which is B2B and provides agency services, 'Acquera Yachting', and the second one which is B2C, offering luxury lifestyle for owners, 'Acquera Experience.' This combination of B2B and B2C in a unique brand is what makes Acquera different. You recently launched Acquera Yachting in Naples: what is it that makes Acquera Yachting special compared to other superyacht agency services?
I believe that agency services can be renewed and we hope to bring a new position to the table. Of course, the basic job cannot be different: it always requires 24/7 dedication. However, we have been thinking about how to connect the expertise from across all of these different countries we will be working with. Paramount for us too are these major values which we are always hearing about in this industry which have not yet been achieved, ethics, transparency, compliance - all of these things are well-known terms to us and part of our plan is to help make this a common goal for others.
The launch of the yachting division in Naples was a great success for us and went beyond our expectations. Naples is not an easy place but it was very important for us to launch there because it is the biggest cruising destination in the Mediterranean. Although we are Venetians and have six offices open already around Italy, it is very important to give a signal to the industry that it is possible to operate in Naples: it is an open market and we are ready to assist any yacht willing to work with us.
For the Experience side of Acquera, you recently opened headquarters in London with a New York office to be added in the second quarter of this year. How do owners get involved with Acquera Experience?
We are going to offer this as a membership club by invitation only to a selected number of owners and our primary market is going to be the US. US owners are fascinated by Europe, by the Mediterranean and by Italy too. With all the relationships we have here and in the other countries where we plan to open offices, we can take this to a level where we can offer owners something unique, working according to their expectations and also going beyond them. It is also something which needs to be planned quite far ahead as it is difficult to create an amazing experience in 24 hours! We need to get to know the client, what he likes and dislikes, in order to anticipate these desires and bring something unique to the table.
Photo: Marco BaldassarreYou recently announced that Acquera Yachting will be acquiring 100% of the G&K Yachting’s agency division. Talk to me about the reasons behind this decision and the significance of the decision for Acquera Yachting.
The logic behind the decision for Acquera Yachting is, of course, for us to grow, first in the Mediterranean and then moving outwards. According to our strategy, there are several options for achieving growth: one is to open a new office and one is to buy an existing one. When we started talking with Kostas Skiathitis and Georgios Mourkakos from G&K Yachting, we immediately realised that our ultimate goal is much the same, so we said, why don’t we do something together? They will become Acquera Yachting from January 2019 and we will already start working together on marketing, communications, sales, as well as entering into their company more seriously. We also want to find out what they are the best at so we can also learn from them. The Acquera project will be successful if we have a united team - it is the most important thing.
What is planned for the Acquera Group in the future?
We have a lot of exciting challenges ahead but hard work has never made us afraid to do anything before. I have been able to build a serious plan for the company with my colleagues and advisors which is built on solid foundations, it is not something which just came out of my mind! Our business plan and strategy is a document of 100 pages, just to give you an idea, and we know that execution will come with its own set of challenges. We obviously want to monitor the reaction of the market and we have the feeling they are quite interested in us, both in the yachting and the luxury side. We will see how it goes over the next 12 months.