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Boating tech startup drops anchor in Annapolis

A startup company developing technology geared to boaters has picked Annapolis as its corporate home, a move officials with a new city economic development agency vow will be the first of many such business wins.

VesselVanguard will officially join the Annapolis business community July 1. The company produces software for maintaining the enormous volume of vital records for boats. The technology also alerts boat owners when maintenance is due.

The startup will open its office on First Street at the Yacht Haven complex in Eastport, which is one of the city’s better-known boating neighborhoods. VesselVanguard hopes to expand in Annapolis because of its deep roots in maritime history and culture, said VesselVanguard CEO Donald V. Hyde. When Annapolis Economic Development Corp. officials heard that the company was looking for a home, the two sides started to talk.

“There’s this long maritime tradition there,” said Hyde. “And the expectation is that I’ll be able to hire some folks who have knowledge of recreational boating and can bring that knowledge to the task to help us do our job.”

Hyde said that he is looking to eventually hire 15 to 20 employees; he currently has three staffers. Monday was the company’s first day of operation, with a temporary location in Annapolis already opened.

Hyde said he will look to hire local talent for technology and customer service representation roles. Hyde is also looking to lease up to 2,500 square feet of space at the Yacht Haven complex as the business grows.

A subscription for VesselVanguard’s services costs $979; the annual membership fee runs $150. What that gets boaters is a managed profile that contains a boat’s information, including maintenance dates and warranty expiration dates. The company then contacts the boat owner, marina or contractor via computer and mobile device to send alerts when those dates are near.

Annapolis Economic Development Corp., formed last July, had just hired its CEO, Lara Fritts, in January when the agency began talking with VesselVanguard. The nonprofit worked with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. on scouting space.

No incentives were used to lure VesselVanguard, but Annapolis Economic Development Corp. expects to tap those programs to land businesses in the future, said Michael C. Pachler, director of marketing and communications for AEDC.

“This is the first kind of many,” Pachler said.

AEDC is already in talks with another company that is deciding whether to lease in Annapolis..