Going Viral: How One Havre De Grace Resident's App Achieved Nationwide Fame
HAVRE DE GRACE - Earlier this month, Havre de Grace resident Jeff Foulk was attending a boat show in Chicago. He was pitching his nautical navigation app, Argo, to a sea of apathetic boat lovers when a miracle happened - he went viral.
A born explorer and life-long Harford County resident, Foulk grew up boating on the Chesapeake Bay. As he delved deeper into the hobby, "Capitan Jeff," as he has become known on TikTok, realized many naval navigation services were not up to par with their land-based relatives.
"I sort of felt like my backyard was the Chesapeake Bay; I felt at home on the boat," Foulk said. "I started thinking about a better way of navigating the waters than what we currently had, and navigation in your car came to mind."
In November 2018, he set out to create an app that would allow boaters to plan a boat trip the same way one plans a road trip. Argo Navigation was developed by Foulk and an experienced development team in Baltimore to help boaters plan their next trip, plot a safe course, get tips from other boaters, and share adventures with friends.
Despite Foulk's altruistic goals for the app, growth was initially slow and steady. From 2018 to 2022, the app successfully achieved 100,000 downloads and a 4.8-star rating on the app store. It was clear to Jeff that his product was a hit - he just had to get more people to try it.
"It was pretty well received when it came out. It's been growing steadily. We had over 1000 reviews on the App Store," Foulk said.
He was attending boat shows to pitch the app, setting up a booth, and selling boaters on the advantages of Argo. In the now famous TikTok, Foulk stands in front of his booth handing out flyers while countless boaters pass by.
Jeff's Daughter, Megan Foulk, secretly took the video of her dad and added the caption, "please try out my dad's boating app, he has worked so hard on it and just wants people to try it out."
The TikTok has been viewed 21.3 million times as of the writing of this article and has a whopping 3.1 million likes. Internet fame does not always translate to business success, but in Argo's case, it certainly has.
After achieving 100,000 users over the Argo's first four years on the app store, the navigation tool has jumped to 300,000 users since the release of the TikTok. Megan Foulk says the moment was serendipitous and unexpected.
"I was just sitting there watching people stream by… and it was just a funny view," Megan Foulk said. "People in the comments kept saying he looks so sad, but he wasn't."
Foulk's daughter says he was used to the apathy and described pitching the app at boat shows as "rejection therapy."
According to Foulk, his daughter was not initially planning on going to the Chicago show.
"Chicago in January… I don't know if that's where you want to be, but she wanted to tag along. I'm sure glad she did because she hit a home run with that 10-12 second video."
Megan Foulk has since joined the company as a TikTok specialist making various videos highlighting the app and the now famous "Capitan Jeff." She said she was interested in working in the social media industry before the viral moment.
As the app continues to grow, Foulk plans to expand services to regions outside of North America.
"I'm getting email feedback from people all around the world. They want to know when it will be in Australia, Germany, or South America. The outpouring of interest has been incredible."
His viral moment has propelled Foulk to the forefront of the civilian marine navigation industry, but he says his focus is still on making the app the best it can be.
"My focus has always been on the product, ensuring it works well. That's why I don't charge anything for the base version of the app, and I don't plan to," Foulk said. "I feel like I've got a runway now, and I need to fly."
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