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Investment for disruptive marine start-ups gains traction

Gabbi Richardson began her career as charter broker with Camper & Nicholsons, however after a few years, her desire for a faster-paced and more thrilling profession led her to leave the industry.

Initially joining tech start-up SeedLegals, Gabbi then qualified as a solicitor and her journey to founding Yachting Ventures (YV) began.

“At SeedLegals, I was speaking with dozens of start-up founders raising investment every week, and I was inspired by their journeys,” says Gabbi. “My passion for entrepreneurship grew and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I’d start my own venture.”

Initially Yachting Ventures, a company that works with disruptive start-ups helping them scale-up, was begun as a passion project Gabbi ran in the evenings and weekends during lockdown.

Funding rounds

“At SeedLegals, I had been working with start-up accelerators across Europe, organising workshops on how to raise finance, how to find investors and encouraging founders to use our platform for their funding rounds.

“It was during this time that I started to notice an emergence of industry-specific accelerator programs that could tailor their content and network to add huge amounts of value for the start-ups participating.

“So, in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, I decided to launch an accelerator program aimed at the yachting industry.”

Gabbi Richardson, Yachting Ventures founder
Gabbi Richardson, Yachting Ventures founder

She adds: “Little did I know that it would quickly snowball and eventually turn into what it has become today.”

And with a community of more than 140 members, the company’s mission is to provide networking, support, and opportunities to start-ups and scaleups in the leisure marine industry.

Part of this is collaborating with boat shows and industry events organising innovation hubs together with coordinating pitching competitions and other workshops.

“It’s important to note that we don’t work with ‘traditional businesses’ but instead YV focuses on supporting start-ups and scaleups that challenge existing business models, leveraging technology or refining existing models to enhance the user experience,” emphasises Gabbi. “We primarily seek highly scalable companies that develop IP/tech in-house (both hardware and software, as this is where the value lies) and plan to raise funds in the next six to 12 months.”

So far YV has collaborated with Palma International Boat Show, the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show and METSTRADE.

Media attention

“Aside from helping boat shows align with tech and innovation, our collaborations with industry events typically attract a lot of media attention and also help the shows build relationships with young businesses that will likely return in the future as full exhibitors,” explains Gabbi. “It’s a win/win for everybody involved.”

And the momentum shows no sign of slowing down with plans to eventually raise a fund for YV to directly invest in some of the businesses within its network.

“We have unparalleled inbound deal flow (we see pretty much every opportunity) and we could add a ton of value above and beyond the actual cash we were to invest into a business,” she says. “Everybody raising in the leisure marine space wants ‘smart money’ – industry players who offer sector-specific insights and connections as you expand – and this is what we could provide.”

METSTRADE innovation corner with Yachting Ventures
METSTRADE innovation corner with Yachting Ventures

And despite the downturn in the world’s economy, Gabbi is confident the investment market is improving, particularly in the Blue Economy.

“It was very bad six months’ ago but it’s starting to gain traction again,” she says.

“The direction it’s going is a less risk appetite. Investors did get stung, so now the direction of travel is going to later stage companies. Companies have to be realistic about their valuation.”

And Gabbi adds: “Funds sometimes struggle with deal flow; we open doors for them. We make the introduction and review the start-up’s business plan. We know the market.”

And this approach is paying off with several of the YV community companies raising millions in funding including Arc Boats, Pascal Technologies, Evoy, ZPARQ and RAD Propulsion.

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