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November 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Nautilus Lifeline Finally Ships

and how a little openness can prevent PR headaches

from the November, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) is holding its annual convention November 2-5. If it's like previous shows, there will be a product or two that never make it to market, and several that clearly aren't ready for market.

That was exactly what happened last year, when the Nautilus Lifeline was touted as the next wave of diver safety. It's a pocket-sized, 10 oz., GPS VHF radio depth-rated to 120 meters that allows you to broadcast an alarm and your GPS location to every vessel within an eight-mile radius. Lights will flash, horns will go off and everyone's radio will autoswitch to channel 16, showing your GPS coordinates as you float away from your dive boat. The Nautilus Lifeline will put an end to "Open Water" stories.

Nautilus LifelineIt was to be available in late March. Magazines jumped on that bandwagon, promoting the Lifeline, resulting in more than 6,000 pre-orders. Then the ship date changed to May, then June, then the end of July. In fact, July was still listed as the ship date on the website ( www.nautiluslifeline.com ) until September 27, when we interviewed Nautilus Lifeline CEO Mike Lever and made him aware of the expired sell-by date. Now, a year after the PR blast at DEMA, it's finally being shipped.

Lever says its production woes and broken promises from his overseas suppliers. "We've been at the mercy of the contractors. We worked with a top productdesign company, and we believed what they told us in terms of deadlines." As a captain who has navigated liveaboards for 19 years, Lever came up with the idea for Nautilus Lifeline after nearly losing a diver in the Gulf of Alaska three years ago. After investing $2 million and having a working prototype, he thought the product was 95 percent complete, and decided to market it, starting with DEMA 2010. But then small issues were identified. "We didn't realize how challenging the last few pieces would be to put together," said Lever. He delayed shipping for three months last spring but continued the marketing push, believing the product would be ready by summer, and opened up the website, with payment options.

After receiving new prototypes, Lever still wasn't satisfied, and shipping was delayed another three months. "We started to slow down on our marketing push but were still obligated to attend all the tradeshows," says Nautilus Lifeline marketing director Jason Crabb. "And from the response, we were very excited about the acceptance of the industry." However, the Nautilus still wasn't ready.

Some customers complained online that their credit cards were charged after they clicked "purchase" on the Nautilus Lifeline website. Lever said that was accidental and Crabb said they straightened that out, but on August 18 they issued a statement saying, "When ordering the Nautilus Lifeline from our website, you can place either an order or a pre-order. An order will immediately charge your card for the amount shown when you check out. A pre-order will hold your information, and your card will not be charged until your unit has shipped . . . Due to heavy demand, we may not be fully caught up until the end of October." Some purchasers were not pleased.

Crabb tells us, "The request for your story came about due to a few people issuing concerns and rumours on online forums." Actually, an Undercurrent reader asked us to look into the shipping delays. Crabb told us "we are quite sure there is the possibility that some competitors are starting fake accounts to write incorrect information about our product." But most online gripes were about shipping delays; few dissed the product. In fact, it seems most people were waiting with baited breath to get their hands on it. Clearly, Nautilus' reputation would have benefited had they explained their delays on their website and to their customers, rather than surmise that competitors, not eager divers, were creating the flack.

Anyhow, Lever tells us, Nautilus Lifeline is shipping and that the backorders for 6,000 or so units should be filled by the first week of November. For what the Nautilus Lifeline expects to deliver, the $299 price tag is reasonable, indeed.

- - Vanessa Richardson

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