On Board With: Jeff Foulk

Meet the Argo app developer who's also a viral TikTok sensation.

Jeff Foulk and his daughter
Foulk’s appearance on TikTok, thanks to his daughter, propelled his Argo app up the charts. Courtesy Jeff Foulk

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Jeff Foulk has had a crazy few months. Developer of the navigation app Argo, Foulk saw his creation go from modest success to viral sensation after daughter Megan posted a video of Dad trying to pitch the app to Chicago Boat Show attendees. That video now has an astonishing 28 million views—and Foulk’s Argo briefly ranked above heavyweights Google Maps and Waze on both app stores. But let’s let him tell it.

For those living as castaways the last few months, give us the Clif Notes version of how your app went from relative unknown to viral sensation.

My daughter Megan, on break from college, decided to tag along with me to the Chicago Boat Show in January and, bored, posted a 12-second TikTok video of me handing out flyers. The video had the words “help blow up my dad’s boating app, he has worked so hard on it and just wants people to try it out” and was set to the tune See You Again, by Alexandre Pachabezian.

The app was doing well with over 100,000 downloads, but things shot to a whole different level after the post. Our downloads increased to over 300,000 in just 10 days and the video now has over 28 million views. The story was picked up by local and national news outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. For a few days, Argo was ranked as the number one Navigation app on both app stores—sitting above Google Maps and Waze. The app now has a 5.0 rating on both stores with over 5,000 ratings.

Argo app interface
Argo’s interface is clean and intuitive. Courtesy Jeff Foulk

I hear other family members have chipped in as well?

Yes, it’s really been a family affair. My wife gave me a nudge to start building the app in 2018 after years of listening to me talk about it and has been with me helping at boat shows. My oldest daughter, Kelly, helped me with marketing and branding. My son, Matt, now a senior in college, developed a dashboard for me a few years ago to track data analytics. Even my younger son, Andrew (now a senior in high school) came up with the slogan we used early on, “See where the water takes you;” it’s still in the app when you sign on using email. Now Megan has jumped in and contributed—in a big way I might add.

My family has had to deal with me talking about the app all the time. A few years ago my kids gave me a t-shirt that showed up in a second TikTok video that says “Warning: I will tell you about my app.”

Why take on big established names? What’s different/unique about Argo?

I never looked at it as taking on the big established names, I just felt there could be an easier way of navigating the waters and take advantage of local boater knowledge as to where to go (and not go). I wanted to give boaters an alternative. Argo is easy to use, has a very clean, intuitive interface and the fastest auto-routing of any navigation app. It’s a great tool for planning trips, but can also be used as a backup to your chart plotter or, as many of our users are finding, be used in place of your chart plotter. It’s also unique in that it has a social or community aspect, allowing you to see other boaters on the water, including friends or other club members. You can message them, ahoy them or share posts of your routes, trips and experiences. Something else Argo offers that is unique is the personal support you get from a small company. If users have any questions or feedback on the app they typically hear back from Captain Jeff within a few hours.

Following your daughter’s video, you had a huge number of downloads. Please tell me some of them were actually boaters!

Yes, downloads increased significantly following the video but they have continued to be high compared to this time last year. And although many of the TikTok supporters may not have been boaters, many of them were or passed it along to relatives or friends who were. I’ve even heard from some who have since gone out and purchased a boat. For new boaters it’s a great tool not only because it’s so easy to use, but it costs you nothing. It’s a free app. Even longtime Navionics users are finding it to be their app of choice.

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So what’s next?

In September we came out with a Premium version for $19.99/year that gives you the ability to download offline charts, plus marine weather, wind and tides. This is being expanded this spring to include Custom Depth Shading, Captain’s Log Reports, GPX Import/Export, AIS Traffic, a Web Version and more! The Web version will be a unique addition allowing our users to plan routes at home from their desktop and immediately have access to them from their phone or tablet. It will also make it easier to add reviews of your favorite anchorages, dock bars, etc. as well as add/update report pins to help other boaters. Last year we integrated a Snag-A-Slip button into the app allowing our users to book slips with over 500 partner marinas. We will be expanding on app integrations like this giving our users a more complete boating experience all within a single app.

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