Accelerator program to help electric boat startups

Dozens of exciting electric boat startups have been covered by Plugboats over the past couple of years, and there are undoubtedly more on the way. Now there is a new service – Yachting Ventures – to help give them  the best chance of success in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Yachting Ventures was started by Gabriella Richardson, who combined her love of boating with her education and training as a lawyer and hands-on experience at tech start-up Seed Legals. “It came about because I saw there was a lot of opportunity for both founders and investors generally, but not a lot of support for startups in yachting.”

Seed Legals lets company founders and investors handle funding agreements and related documents without paying an arm and a leg for outside lawyers. Gabriella was the 11th employee to join the company in 2018 (it now has hundreds), and as a Board Member and Director of the UK branch of  Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY) she knew there was an opening for a similar service in boating – especially to help and guide young people who have new ideas for a changing world.

Six week program covers everything startup

For boating startups, Yachting Ventures offers services on more than just the legal end of things. It divides the early life of a business into three areas – Build, Grow,Raise – providing detailed information, guidance and connections along the way.

BUILD is about the Validation of the idea (seeing if it is something people might want); putting together an MVP (Minimum Viable Product – something sellable that works and proves the essence of the product or service without any extra bells and whistles); and Business Model (for example, are people going to buy this product outright, or rent it, or buy the basics and then pay for additions and upgrades?)

The next step for a new company is GROW – analyzing and working on the Branding, Marketing and Scaling. This includes how to figure out who would be most likely to pay for your product, how to price it, what to tell them about it – so you can go from a small number of sales to a large and more profitable number of sales.

RAISE is about Fundraising and preparing the best investor sales Pitch and presentation Materials. This is all provided in an online interactive 6 week session designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage ventures by compressing multiple years’ worth of learning into just a few months.

Electric boat startups have already ‘graduated’

The service is not focussed on only electric boat startups, it has helped over 45 ventures, ranging from online boat chartering platforms to navigational and weather assistants to apps that improve yacht sustainability to software that transforms 3D design into building packages for shipbuilding.

On the electric front, three companies taking advantage of Yachting Ventures so far are L’esprit Cruises,  Navier and ZeroJet.

L’esprit will build and operate six all-electric masted, super yachts for the day cruise market and offer one-of-a-kind excursion experiences in the Caribbean.

electric boat startup Navier's 27 foot hydrofoiling boat

Navier is building a long range self driving electric foiling boat. It was one of the finalists in the ‘In Development’ division of the Electric Boats Up To 8m / 26 feet in this year’s Gussies Awards and has just made arrangements to build its first year production quota with Lyman-Morse shipyards of Maine.

ZeroJet, of New Zealand, is building a lightweight electric jet propulsion system that promises 50% more propulsion than a conventional outboard motor of the same power level. Plugboats will be covering more details on Navier and ZeroJet in the coming weeks.

Network and innovation hub of experienced experts

One of the attractions of Yachting Ventures is the expertise available through its mentor network. “As we’ve built momentum and traction, we’ve gathered a lot of support from the yachting industry” says Gabriella. “Our mentors are quite diverse, but all centred around leisure marine and yachting, which is important because you want an industry specific accelerator.”

illustration of electric boat startup ZeroJet's electric jet motor systemThe mentors include everyone from executives at large yacht companies to people who have left those companies for their own startups, or serial entrepreneurs who have had experience starting, scaling and selling a company.

Bex Rempel, co-founder and CEO at ZeroJet, says “The network is incredibly valuable, the mentors and advisors approachable and helpful to provide advice and recommendations.”

Recent graduates of Yachting Ventures are also involved in the mentor program. It’s part of Richardson’s model of building an innovation hub centred around yachting startups.

She is especially keen on attracting electric boat startups to that hub. “We send out a lot of pitch decks to investors from a variety of yachting startups and we are seeing them come back more and more with comments like ‘our investment focus is moving more to sustainable technologies'”.

Investors moving from tech ventures to sustainability

She sees it as part of a movement away from the digitization / app / technology focus of investors in the past few years. There is no denying that carbon and climate issues are moving to the top of public concerns all over the world.

“We’re seeing that this is a great time for electric and other ‘green’ boat ideas, but it’s important for founders to know the kinds of questions potential investors are going to ask,” says Richardson. “People make such quick judgments nowadays, if you don’t capture their attention immediately it’s hard to bring them back.”

If you do have an exciting idea you think has merit or are wondering what the next steps could be for success in your existing electric boat startup, the deadline for applications for the next round is November 26, with the course beginning January 17. The cost is £995.

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