By the next morning, more than 1 million people had watched the video. In the next three days, the application, Argo — Boating Navigation, received more downloads than in three years and reached the top of Apple’s download charts in the navigation category.
“I just wanted to try something that would help blow him up and get him more followers and users,” 20-year-old Megan told The Washington Post. “I just didn’t expect it to work.”
After graduating from the University of Delaware, Jeff Foulk moved into an apartment in Joppatowne, Md., around 1984. With the Chesapeake Bay nearby, Jeff became enamored with boating on his Grady-White.
Although he ended up working as a defense contractor, Jeff said he often thought about building a marine navigation app. He wished there was a convenient way to find restaurants, marinas, and anchorages across the water. After years of talking about building his ideal app, his wife, Jean, told him, “Stop thinking about it or do it.”
In November 2018, Jeff partnered with software company ByteLion to create Argo. The name is inspired by the legendary ship in Greek mythology.
Jeff said he combined features from Waze, Yelp, and social media platforms for an application that suggests routes across any body of water in the United States. It provides updates on hazards, police and weather, and users can share their experiences and photos.
When the free application launched in September 2019, it cost Jeff’s life. He talked about his progress during family dinners and during car rides and walks. At one point, his family gave him a navy blue shirt that read, “WARNING! I’ll tell you about my app.” He said he answered every comment on the application under “Captain Jeff,” an alias suggested by his 24-year-old daughter Kelly.
Argo attracted 1,000 downloads after four months and 100,000 in November 2022. Still, the app had not become indispensable in the water sports community. Jeff said he hasn’t taken advantage of Argo yet.
“I didn’t focus so much on marketing,” he said. “It was really about the product being good.”
“We knew it could be so much bigger and have such a wider range,” added Megan.
Megan, who said she admires her father’s work ethic, helped her father get his first big break at a January 14 boat show at a Chicago convention center. She uploaded a 12 second video to her approximately 200 followers, accompanied by a piano arrangement of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again”.
When Megan noticed a few hours later that the TikTok had reached 1,000 likes, Jeff was not impressed. But that changed when downloads sped up.
About 93,000 people within 24 hours had downloaded Argo. In three days that grew to almost 152,000 downloads. The approximately 1,200 reviews in the Apple App Store exploded to 18,000.
At one point, online traffic was so intense that it caused the app to crash.
The next morning, Jeff said he woke up to about 4,000 emails, all of which he’s tried to answer. It was the last day of the Chicago Boat Show, and Jeff said several people who stopped by Argo’s booth said they’d seen his app on TikTok.
Argo remains one of the top seven most downloaded navigation apps on Apple, competing with popular apps like Google Maps, Waze and ParkMobile. The company’s TikTok page passed 210,000 followers over the weekend, and Jeff is brainstorming features for his app new users.
With another boat show in Fort Myers, Florida this week, Jeff and Megan are excited to meet more TikTok fans.
“No one expects anything to go viral,” said Jeff. “I think it happens when you don’t try too hard.”