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Funding the digital transformation

The digitalisation of shipping is rolling along at a great pace, but there still needs to be more funding for young promising start-ups, particularly in the digital space, according to Nir Gartzman, co-founder of maritime accelerator TheDock. Samantha Fisk reports.

For many in shipping the notion of an accelerator remains an enigma. Most of us are used to large, heavy, engineering projects, from newbuilding, repair yards, riding crews, ocean surveys.  Digitalization of data processes has been offering some shortcuts and new ways of doing business, and with it the start-up businesses (which in reality are not new, it just seems so) and the Accelerators. Startups and accelerators are, undoubtedly, here to stay and a part of the maritime and marine landscape. They are what so many of us call “the new normal’, a catchall phrase that covers how businesses are operating.

Bridging the gap

By bridging the gap between the new and the old  has seen a rise in accelerator hubs or start-up accelerator programmes – helping link start-ups with industry. Norway has seen a few of these hubs like Katapult Ocean and others, there are also programmes in France, Greece, UK, Denmark, Singapore, USA, Canada, China and elsewhere, focused on a range of sectors and industries within the ocean space. They offer the opportunity to link entrepreneurship, industry and importantly, finance.

“There is still a lack of funding in for solutions in the market. We are keeping close to others [accelerator hubs] such as Katapult from Norway, as we look to cooperate with these other hubs and not compete,” said Nir Gartzman, co-founder of Israeli maritime digital  accelerator theDock.

TheDock started three years ago with the view to help young companies and has so far interviewed 200, with 100 from outside Israel, and has begun to be able to take a funding position recently with selected startups.

So what is the biggest challenge? “The biggest challenge we have is exposing entrepreneurs to the outside world,” said Gartzman who sees change, particularly digital, inside the maritime and other spaces coming largely from outside it. “Most of the technology is already out there,” he said, “and it will help the sector to be more efficient.”

What is needed now he added is a platform that will enable trust, which will operate smoothly to build trust between customers. In addition, there will need to be greater transparency in the industry which these digital tools will bring.

Cargo owners are pushing for it

It will be the customers of the industry will be the ones who want increased transparency, and are actively pushing for it, argues Gartzman, which in turn creates greater competition.

The industries within the ocean space are all changing. Younger people are coming into it and wanting to have these solutions. There is starting to be a greater openness forming in the industry, where the younger people are familiar with the technology. Gartzman also adds that now this process has started that it will now only get faster.

To enable more digital solutions to enter the market there needs to be great adventure capital investment to enable the development of the solutions.

“Maybe there will be more competitive funding in the future to create a more competitive marketplace for these start-ups”, he said.

About Author

Craig Eason Stockholm
Craig Eason is the owner and editorial director of Fathom.World. He has a background in the shipping industry having started his career as a cadet on oil tankers and gas carriers before becoming a navigating officer on a range of vessel types. A change in career, with ensuing university studies, and he has now gained 20 years experience in written and broadcast journalism. He now is in demand as a knowledgeable and competent editor and event host and moderator, both for in-house events and ones for the public.