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Port of Seattle Backs New Maritime Tech Accelerator

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File image courtesy Port of Seattle

By The Maritime Executive 2019-10-17 18:23:39

Washington State, the Port of Seattle and the coworking company WeWork are teaming up to start the state's first "maritime accelerator."

Beginning in January, WeWork's tech incubator division will house 10 selected maritime startups at its 4th Avenue site in downtown Seattle. Application is open to "all startups and new ventures who are passionate about finding innovative solutions to benefit the maritime and ocean economies." In addition to office space, the beneficiaries will receive four months of "intensive programming" and ongoing support from WeWork Labs. At the conclusion of the program in April, the startups will have the opportunity to pitch their concepts at a forum for investors, corporate partners and government officials. The program is funded by the Port of Seattle and by a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

“Support for tech innovation and commercialization is vital to the future of our maritime sector. The new maritime accelerator has great potential to launch new business opportunities and create jobs that will strengthen communities all over Washington state," said Dr. Lisa Brown, the director of Washington's Department of Commerce, which is providing financing for the program.

Accelerators are designed to connect budding new companies with investors, peers and mentors early on, providing them with a launch pad for starting a successful business. The concept has been widely adopted by the maritime tech sector, with multiple sites like the New York Maritime Innovation Center in Manhattan, the BlueTech Incubator in San Diego, theDOCK in Tel Aviv, AIMS in Athens, and PortXL in Rotterdam and Antwerp all starting operations in recent years. 

Washington's investment in a comparable accelerator program is part of its broader Maritime Blue initiative, which  is intended to promote the development of a sustainable ocean economy. A study conducted for Maritime Blue identified the limited availability of early-stage funding as a key obstacle for maritime startups in Washington, and the incubator - which provides office space and connections to potential investors - is one way to address this problem. 

“By supporting innovators and entrepreneurs we tap into whole ecosystems of expertise and capital that we have not yet accessed. We are recruiting for new and growing markets as a global innovation hub for the Blue Economy," said Joshua Berger, the maritime sector lead for Gov. Jay Inslee and the chairman of Maritime Blue.