Startups to watch in 2024
With hundreds of millions invested in yachting startups over the course of 2023, Gabbi Richardson highlights the ones to watch in the new year…
Advancements in digital technology and sustainable solutions are the driving force behind the latest innovations poised to propel the industry forward. Following a year packed full of new entrants to the market and significant investments, we sit down with Gabbi Richardson, Founder of start-up support platform, Yachting Ventures, to discuss how the current economic climate is affecting startups and find out the ones to watch in 2024.
“While it may seem like there's a surge in new businesses compared to previous years, we believe this perception is partly due to startups being more visible than ever before. Our mission to help these startups thrive is proving successful,” she tells SuperyachtNews.
Startups in superyachting can be broadly categorised into two verticals: those dealing with digital solutions like apps and platforms (software) and those focusing on sustainable solutions like alternative propulsion systems and eco-friendly products (hardware). For Richardson, both digitalisation and sustainability are crucial for pushing superyachting and both areas have seen substantial growth in 2023.
“In terms of digitalisation, there's a lot of overlap and shared practices with commercial maritime, which tends to be more efficient and leads the way when it comes to operations and technology,” she says. “There are several commercial maritime funds specifically investing in shipping-focused startups, which in turn contributes to the quicker progress in that industry compared to superyachting.”
On the sustainability side, there's a strong connection between the blue economy and the imperative need to protect the oceans. Funds dedicated to ocean-related initiatives actively seek investments in startups working on sustainable solutions and some will look at opportunities in superyachting if there is a strong enough impact thesis.
“The Smart Yacht Rendezvous during Monaco Ocean Week is a good example of the cross-collaboration between the blue economy and superyachts,” adds Richardson. “We are working with the organisers, Monaco Marina Management, to help identify startups working on sustainable solutions and technologies for superyachts above 24m.”
According to Richardson, there has never been a better time to start a business in the superyacht industry, despite the turbulent global economic conditions. Key players are recognising the importance of backing new technologies and investors view the sector as a viable investment opportunity. “More and more corporates are approaching us asking for this kind of support. We collaborate with large corporations seeking to outsource their innovation efforts and we offer deal flow for potential investment and mergers and acquisitions,” she adds.
This is reflected in some of the notable success stories from 2023. This year has seen huge investments from the likes of Yamaha establishing a second Yamaha Motor Exploratory Fund with a total investment purse of $100m. Its target investments are cited as “startups with innovative technologies and ample business growth potential in the fields of transportation, robotics, data, AI, fintech, insurtech, and digital health and wellness”.
Prince Albert of Monaco, through his Foundation and Monaco Asset Management, has also launched a $100m fund. The ReOcean Fund is targeting private investment for innovative, high-impact solutions for the ocean, rather than relying on philanthropy. On the technology side, Los Angeles-based Arc raised $70m in a Series B funding round. The boat builder had been making and selling a limited number of $300,000 battery-electric boats called Arc One (pictured above) but sold out.
There are challenges on the horizon, however, as we head into the new year. The current economic landscape could pose some issues in securing funding, especially for early-stage founders in the pre-seed stage. “Given the inherent risk in early-stage startup investments, investors are opting for assets deemed less risky. There's a noticeable trend amongst investors shifting their focus towards startups with more traction and progress,” says Richardson.
“Before engaging in deals or progressing to due diligence, investors want to see that founding teams have been resourceful and have some of their own skin in the game. It’s now almost impossible to raise off the back of just an idea and valuations are also lower than they were six months ago.”
This difficult fundraising market will likely continue next year. To mitigate these challenges Richardson urges startups to begin building an audience and thinking about fundraising well in advance. “It always takes longer than expected to secure funding,” she says. “Spend time connecting with potential investors, have lots of conversations and keep interested parties updated as you progress.”
This should deter yachting entrepreneurs, however. As seen over the course of 2023, there have been significant investments in startups, particularly in fields that aim to address the climate crisis or streamline operations through digitalisation. “This space also has plenty of support from us at Yachting Ventures to help them kick off and we will soon be launching a closed deal flow for accredited investors to review and invest in opportunities from within our community,” adds Richardson.
Yachting Ventures’ startups to watch in 2024
Ankor Software: Ankor is the complete proposal, booking, charter, guest/preference and itinerary creation solution specifically built for the yachting industry.
Hullbot: Hullbot is designing, building and deploying autonomous underwater robots that keep hulls that are in the water clean.
AnchorGuardian: AnchorGuardian offers a new dimension of safety at sea by minimising the risk of anchor drag, providing predictions and triggering immediate alarms with sub-meter accuracy.
Metarina: Metarina is the booking platform to connect boaters directly to industry-leading marinas.
Sevenstar: Sevenstar is software that helps busy yacht crews better manage guest preference & provisioning.
Wolfgang Pro: Wolfgang.pro is the first collaborative platform for superyachts' commercial operations and luxury travel.
C.technology: c.technology designs, develops and delivers connected mobility solutions that transform data into scalable services for OEMs, their partners and end-customers.
Starboard Card: Starboard gives you and your crew full control, accountability and flexibility over your funds and is partnered with Visa.
Other notable investments in 2023:
Skipperi raised over €7M
ZEN Yachts raised more than €5M
Navia Yachts raised over €250k
Yamaha announced a $100M fund
Candela raised €20M
Prince Albert launched a €100M ocean fund
X-Shore raised €30M
ZPARQ raised €2.5M
Evoy raised €6.4M
Brunswick acquired Fliteboard
Arc Boats raised $70M
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