Jasper Smith, Founder of Arksen, reveals his future vision
The highly successful entrepreneur answers questions about his hopes and frustrations with the yachting industry…
If you google ‘Jasper Smith’ you’ll find a wealth of games, technology, finance and engineering companies attached to his name. However, it was only two years ago, at The Superyacht Forum Live event in Amsterdam, when he revealed a grand plan to introduce the market to a vessel which would redefine yachting altogether. He founded the company Arksen in a bid to create a product that would give potential buyers the ability to add a philanthropic element to their time at sea.
Just a few weeks ago, Arksen revealed that they had sold Project Pelagos, the second Arksen 85 hull. They also revealed that the third Arksen 85 hull is scheduled to start construction later this year, with a delivery available in Summer 2023. The apparent success of his company, which just a few years ago could have been described as a pipe dream, is a credit to his ability to forecast the market. That's why, ahead of the Superyacht Forum Live event this year, we got in contact with him to discuss his future vision...
The label of ‘superyacht owner’ has for many years brought about certain connotations. Does Arksen aim to redefine the very meaning of what it means to be a superyacht owner?
Yes, definitely. If someone is lucky enough to own a superyacht, we feel you have a responsibility to use at least part of its sea time to support scientific research. It is a relatively simple step which can have a large and long-lasting impact on the future of ocean health. The more owners sign up to this, the more it will become the social norm. This is why we design our vessels to enable a wide variety of research, encourage our owners to donate time and why we are a founding partner of the Yachts For Science platform.
You have had enormous success in the tech industry, a space where innovation is at the heart of everything, are you eager to implement some of those ideas and thought processes to yachting?
The marine industry traditionally has not been appealing to investors due to the lack of scale and so it has been hard to attract capital for innovation. To excite this kind of investment we are pushing the norms of the industry by embedding sustainable practices into our corporate structure and being more future focused, which can open additional investment opportunities. As greater investment leads to better innovations and generates the desire and energy to push for better materials and production processes to encourage wider adoption.
Aside from that, we have worked with various tech partners to produce a digital twin of our fleet, which not only creates a more immersive experience for our clients but also reduces the potential waste of unnecessary visits to the yard. It also removes the waste of materials from re-designs and can speed up decisions by using the real- time 3D model for design discussions.
Taking on the climate crisis is a noble and important cause, but why tackle the issue through yachting?
If you have the top one percent of income earners accounting for 15 percent of emissions and 10 percent of the world's population responsible for nearly half of the world's carbon pollution, it makes sense to start with the niche segments. Also, if you can change the minds and habits of a few influential and well-connected individuals, you can start to form a social shift.
Reducing waste is a big part of the solution. Reducing wasted assets, by providing sea time for scientists and designing vessels for multi-use. Reducing waste of materials, through careful design, better material selection and manufacturing processes. Increasing funding for ocean conservation projects through our ‘10% for the Ocean’ charity, provides an easy way for people to understand and engage with marine-focused projects which urgently need support.
The ocean covers more than 70 percent of earth’s surface, every second breath we take comes from the ocean, it supports more than 90 percent of all species on earth, yet it’s hardly understood at all. The yachting industry has the potential to collaborate and provide marine scientists a global platform upon which to conduct important and often vital research.
The marine sector seems a great place to start, and the ocean is so fundamental to climate change mitigation, it’s essential we start now.
The industry is notoriously insular and secretive, with many stakeholders voicing frustrations about the lack of collaboration and data sharing, is that a frustration you can relate to?
Yes, the marine industry is driven by a small market, few clients and lack of product differentiation. We have been very focused on changing this by A) creating exceptional go-anywhere vessels, B) initiating, supporting and running adventures and expeditions for our community, C) launching ‘10% for the Ocean’ to create a funding platform for ocean conservation, D) investing in creating new sustainability platforms for the industry with Future+ run by The Sustainability Group and E) working with venture capital companies to accelerate funding into the marine sector.
Regarding innovation and sustainability, one way to measure success would be to observe how a product inspires others and infects the rest of the market, do you feel that Arksen does this?
Most companies are about the product and its sale. At Arksen, we started with the concept of remarkable experiences. To deliver on that promise, you need to create remarkable products, build them with a circular economy in mind, and provide the expertise and narrative to enable the community to engage on their wildest adventures. Our model is not for everyone. It’s for the most adventurous of us - the one percent who want to go further, push the boundaries and live life to the full. We design everything around this core customer. When you bring all of these elements together it can inspire an industry - and I think we have done that. When we started the company, we were pioneering a completely new model. It’s great to see that many other companies are beginning to follow our lead.
Do you have a vision for what yachting looks like in 2030?
I believe that we will see a fundamental shift over the next few years. I meet hundreds of CEOs and founders each year, and I don’t recall meeting a single person under 30 who had any interest in owning a big white yacht for the Med. In my view that model is dead already - it’s just taking a while to die. As the audience trends younger, the model shifts to experiential, to shared ownership, to rental, to adventure and above all to supporting climate change mitigation.
In a world where four out of ten children are saying that they will not have children because of fears about climate change and where six out of ten kids say they are ‘very’ worried about climate change, it’s hard to see the status quo surviving much more than the time it takes for these kids to become adults. My vision is therefore to create boats whose purpose is to do good by providing a platform to better understand the world around us, by supporting research, by designing and building with a circular economy in mind and by offering new forms of ownership and engagement. We know that humans will always love the ocean - and our entire philosophy is about ensuring that the connection is as strong as possible and facilitated in a manner that supports ocean conservation.
To hear more interesting perspectives from the most interesting characters in the industry, be sure to take part in The Superyacht Forum Live event next month...
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