Maritime technology investor TecPier is neither a business incubator nor a traditional capital venture fund, according to managers Johannes Winkler and Konstantin Loebner. With a focus on digital innovation that addresses the needs of the maritime industry, the Hamburg-based group hopes to find and support new companies that have made it past the incubator stage.
TecPier’s investing partners are multi-purpose/heavy-lift (MPH/HL) carrier Zeaborn Group, Inno Real, and Bitstone Capital, a Germany-based investment firm focused on real estate and technology. The group plans to invest internationally in innovative maritime startups, exploring a range of potential openings for digitization within the maritime world, including energy efficiency, online marketplaces, and optimized processing.
“We are not sourcing for Zeaborn, and they have no controlling stake in the system,” Winkler said in an interview with JOC.com. “They are not signing themselves as strategic investor. We want to provide as much freedom as possible to the founders [of the startup companies]. … They should be in the driver’s seat.”
Services, investment size
TecPier plans to complement existing maritime incubator programs such as PortXL at the port of Rotterdam. “If [the startup] has already gone through an acceleration program, we might be the next step,” Winkler said. The TecPier team anticipates investing approximately 200,000 to 250,000 euro ($227,273 to $284,091) in a given startup, depending on the company and circumstances. TecPier will offer the companies it supports early-stage funding, global industry access, technology, company-building expertise, industry mentoring, and access to a Hamburg co-working space. The new companies could be based anywhere, although if not in Hamburg they would be expected to come to Germany periodically to work and network. TecPier will take a position in the young firms that it sponsors. Because it is not a traditional venture capital firm, it will not be obligated to sell its stake after the asset period.
In addition to Winkler — who has worked with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Rickmers Reederei — and Loebner, the TecPier management team includes Mehdi Afridi, who with Loebner founded the legal tech company WeBuyYourFlight.de, according to a statement from TecPier.
TecPier is looking for solutions to existing maritime industry problems. An enormous amount of data is generated in the shipping sector by various activities and operations without being synthesized and put to good use, Loebner said, and “there is a huge potential to build new solutions.”
Digitization could also affect middlemen like bunker and cargo brokers, Winkler said. Some of them would disappear as direct trading and transparency grows. This will not happen overnight, but “digital paths can provide transparency. It’s important to add that shipping is a complex business and our mission is not to erase chartering brokers or bunker brokers. On the logistics side, you see to a certain extent this sort of efficiency happening now with forwarding.”
In its statement, TecPier said that it's identified more than 150 startups that might be appropriate and interviewed several company founders. Since publicizing the concept, it's received another 10 to 20 applications, Winkler said.
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