Oliver Kormann was always a major water enthusiast. Since the age of 9, he loved to swim, snorkel, dive and sail on his parents’ ocean catamaran. As a member of the Austrian national team in the Olympic boat class Tornado, Kormann even participated in the World and European Championships, making life without water and the ocean unthinkable.
After earning a degree in physics at Stuttgart University, during which he studied hydrodynamics and synergetics, Kormann completed a Ph.D at the Max Planck Institute and went on to work in the automotive industry before founding a luxury yacht company called KORMARAN GmbH with his wife, Jutta Kormann. In this interview with Tharawat Magazine, KORMARAN founder and CEO Dr. Oliver Kormann shares his entrepreneurial journey in the world of luxury vessels.
What caused you, a physicist with a background in the auto industry, to start a boat company?
It all started in 2007. On a sailing trip on the Virgin Islands, we had to cross a strait and sail to a bay at the neighboring island in the dark on rough sea – in a dinghy. As you can imagine, it was a very bumpy ride, with the boat experiencing heavy water spillover and making back-aching jumps on the waves. As I was making the journey, I found myself wondering why it had to be this inconvenient. There had to be a more comfortable way. Couldn’t a watercraft be developed that combines all the advantages of the various classes of boats and eliminates the negative aspects? An adaptable boat that flies over the waves? As a physicist and water sports enthusiast, I was captivated by this conundrum.
It took me a while but by May 2009, I had developed the idea of an innovative new boat to the point where my wife and I were able to agree that it was time to start in earnest. We began searching for a suitable location for the business, bearing in mind the need to work under the best possible conditions. I come from the Austrian city of Salzburg and I always appreciated how it encouraged and supported innovative companies, which made it all the more wonderful that we were able to find perfect conditions for our project there. We began immediately – over the next year, we developed and registered patents, compiled business plans, and made market surveys. And finally, in 2010, we established the company KORMARAN.
What makes KORMARAN unique and how is it different from its competitors?
With our boat, the KORMARAN K7, we not only developed a new boat literally from scratch, but also invented a new class of boat – a boat that uses only the best high-end technology borrowed from a variety of quality sources including supercars, luxury boats, and private aviation. Much of this relies on what is called a hydrofoil system, which allows you to fly above the water, reduces water resistance by up to 80%, and avoids slamming and spray for a comfortable ride.
We also combined the best of breed of materials. My idea was to establish a stronger but also lighter boat that could perform at maximum potential, which means that innovative, lightweight materials are the key. As a result, our boats are made using the largest carbon-fiber monocoque (structural frame) ever built, which are made with supercar standards.
The defining uniqueness of our boat is its adaptability. While conventional boats cannot change their characteristics, the K7 can transform even while it is sailing. It can elegantly combine the agility of a smaller mono-hull for quick maneuvers while maintaining the stability of multi-hull boats like the catamaran or trimaran. My motivation was to emphasize all the advantages of the known classes of boats while avoiding the disadvantages, and we were able to accomplish this.
Take us behind-the-scenes of what it takes to make one of your boats. What does the process look like?
It all starts with a concept based on my outline of the technical requirements and features. At the same time, I articulate my vision, wants, and needs to my team of engineers and designers. Together, we then develop a number of prototypes for our proof of concept and then do trial rides. After further redesigns and technical enhancements, the boat comes to life.
But this is only half of the process. The most important part of our boats comes from the actual owner because he can give his input in order to tailor the vessel to his needs. As mentioned earlier, the K7 is extremely versatile – the standard version can transform and take on several different configurations, which includes engine upgrades and even a sunbathing platform. There are also optional add-ons such as cockpit details, instruments, docking systems, illumination and more. The client is able to choose from these and make a selection on the color of the leather from a list of over 600 standard colors. We can even produce custom colors if the client prefers.
This process is initiated in a meeting with our experts in which the owner can outline his personal preferences. Once the design has been chosen and the final budget is approved, we begin the production process.
The assembling of the watercraft takes place in our production hall in Salzburg and takes approximately 6 to 8 months. As soon as the vessel is ready, we do test-drives on the local lake Wolfgangsee to verify that it is operating properly.
Finally, the K7 is ready to be delivered to the new owner and launched in a celebratory event.
When you set out to develop the first boat, what were the difficulties that you encountered?
Our project was one big challenge – an accumulation of challenges in technology, engineering, design, quality, and materials at the highest level. For me, the most important resource that I had to overcome these difficulties was the brains – meaning the creativity and experience – of our team members. From day one, I have been fortunate to acquire a team of experienced developers, engineers, and prototype builders who shared my vision. The imagination and willingness to bring this idea alive was the driving force for me and the team that helped us to overcome all obstacles.
You founded KORMARAN with your wife. What has that journey been like?
When we started out together, my wife Jutta and I mapped out a business model in which I would be responsible for the technical part and she could operate with her experience as a businesswoman in the commercial aspects. From the very beginning we both had the same aims and beliefs, which are invaluable assets in running a company. Furthermore, we both have absolute trust and faith in each other, which gives us the courage and drive to move forward. This means that working together is quite easy – at least most of the times.
The KORMARAN K7 is making its debut at the 2017 Dubai International Boat Show. What does this presence signify for you and your brand?
We believe that the Dubai International Boat show (DIBS) is the most influential trade show in the GCC region and will further emerge as one of the world’s premier boat shows. We have chosen the show as a platform because it offers an elite and highly social setting, which in my view makes it the most suitable exhibition in terms of scale and quality.
We perceive ourselves among the most innovative technology companies especially in this sector and I am convinced that we can underline this with our presence and presentation at the Dubai International Boat Show.
As an entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business leaders who are looking to grow?
In my view and experience, a company grows when the staff grows. For me growth is all about change, and those changes are only possible when your employees take on new challenges, expand their capabilities, cultivate new behaviors and entertain new ideas. This is the definition of true talent and it is important to allow your employs to experience this when working in your company. It also means taking care of your employees and protecting their work-family life balance.
And last but not least, focusing your efforts on your potential and existing clients is fundamental for an entrepreneur.
Brought to you in partnership with the Dubai International Boat Show (DIBS), the MENA region’s number one marine luxury, leisure and lifestyle event.