Entrepreneurs make waves at University of Plymouth marine startup weekend

Plymouth Startup Weekend Marine Edition took place between 12th-14th November. The event was led by the University of Plymouth and supported by the local business community as part of the iMayflower project.

From an ‘AirBnB of the sea’ to using seagrass to improve the quality of the oceans, some of Plymouth's brightest entrepreneurs have joined together to create innovative marine-based business ideas of the future.

Across tourism, marine conservation, and education, teams at the Plymouth Startup Weekend were given just 48 hours to formulate a plan to impress the judges.

Staged at Real Ideas Organisation’s Market Hall in the heart of Devonport, itself home to centuries of maritime tradition, the special marine-themed version of the event did not disappoint when it came to blue sky thinking for the blue environment.

In just three days, each of the teams took a business idea from initial concept to complete business model with the help of experienced mentors and pitched to a panel of judges consisting of four successful business owners and prominent industry figures: Richard May, Head of Oceansgate and Marine Investment at Plymouth City Council; CEO and founder of Common Seas, Jo Royle; Crowdfunder UK founder and director, Dawn Bebe, and Richard Thompson, Professor of Marine Biology and Director of the University’s Marine Institute.

Each of the five teams showed strong entrepreneurial spirit throughout the weekend, which culminated with two teams Yachtee and Sea Grass Solutions – sharing first place, and Makers Wear Capes picking up the award for Best Product Design. Each were awarded a bespoke package from a selection of prizes designed to support them in taking the next steps on their entrepreneurial journey. These included a consultation in Plymouth College of Arts Fab Lab, membership with Devon and Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, Real Ideas Organisation membership, co-working space and mentoring, co-working space and support from Plymouth Science Park and a consultation session with Smart Sound Plymouth. 

Pitched as ‘the AirBnB of the sea’, Yachtee’s business model combined agency support for local yacht owners and customer facing sales to fulfil a gap in the boat rental market for a transparent, all-inclusive service provider connecting clients with consumers looking to charter a yacht.

The premise of the Sea Grass Solutions pitch was built around using seagrass as a filter to help remove microplastics from the ocean, improve water quality and absorb CO2 to mitigate climate change.

Makers Wear Capes pitched a combination of educational workshops to schools and businesses to improve knowledge and skills needed to combat climate and sustainability issues within Plymouth and surrounding areas.

Professor Chris Bennewith, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, said “The Marine industry has been a prominent topic in Glasgow recently at COP 26, and we at the University of Plymouth want the conversation to continue. The inspiration and innovation present at this year’s Startup Weekend leaves us feeling positive about the future of our oceans and marine ecosystem, with a range of ideas brought to the table - including incorporating microalgae into the urban infrastructure, and using creativity and making to educate and build awareness in order to tackle the climate crisis”

Louise White, Team Lead, Makers Wear Capes, added “The Plymouth StartUp weekend was an absolute game-changer for us. It was a melting pot where our ideas came together to be so much stronger. It was a framework with all the ingredients to build a business and then the challenge just to get on and do it. Personally, it gave me confidence that so many people wanted to contribute to my idea and see it succeed.

“I now have a great network of collaborators and advisors, enriching the process and moving it forward. To win best product design was the cherry on the cake. I wasn’t even going to pitch my idea...and I’ve come away with a business!”