Next Ocean Buccaneer Delft Interview

How Next Ocean turned a PhD research project into an award winning scale-up

In News by Jet Hendrich

After winning the Offshore Energy Best Innovation Award 2017, it seems like nothing can stop Next Ocean. With the Wave Predictor, Next Ocean offers an alternative to the statistical approach normally used for determining offshore operation workability limits. Their wave predicting technology uses raw radar data to predict a ship’s motions minutes in advance, resulting in lower cost, better use of assets and improved safety during offshore operations.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Karel Roozen, Business Developer of Next Ocean, to talk about the first year of their business. They moved into their first office at Buccaneer Delft, slam bang in the middle of everything offshore and energy related, succesfully applied for several subsidies, hired their first employee and signed a contract with their launching customer.

Next Ocean’s Wave Predictor is based on the PhD research project of your business partner Peter Naaijen, how did you and Peter turn the research project into a startup and how did you get involved?
Peter and I have known each other for quite some time. During my studies at TU Delft I followed a course taught by Peter and he was part of my thesis committee when I was writing my thesis at Royal HaskoningDHV & Deltares. During the graduation party of a fellow student, Peter and I bumped into each other and got to talking about his research and his plans to use the results for a startup. I had just taken part in the YES!Delft program ‘Ready to startup’ with another startup. After completing this program the startup virus caught me and together with Peter I founded Next Ocean. We enrolled in the YES!Delft LaunchLab – Port Innovation Lab program, where we learned the importance of getting out of the building, talk to your customer and learn to listen. This was especially important for Next Ocean, since our technology is more a technology push than technology pull, we needed to learn how to present our predictions to our end-users in such a way that they get the most value out of this information. Since safety and risk factors are such a big part of the offshore industry, a certain amount of risk is normally seen as part of the deal and pre-calculated into project projections and preparations. People find it hard to believe that there are actual solutions to make offshore operations safer, quicker and cheaper.

How did you end up at Buccaneer Delft?
When we were doing LaunchLab, we were working from home and in cafe’s. Following the ‘get out of the building’ advice, one of our priorities was talking to potential clients. One of the people we approached for a meeting was Joop Roodenburg as CEO of Huisman Equipment. At the time, Joop was looking for innovative start-ups and scale-ups to join his new offshore and energy accelerator located in the newly renovated former artillery buildings at the Paardenmarkt in Delft. We had the meeting and not long after, we moved into our office at Buccaneer Delft.

Offshore and energy are very specific sectors, was the fact that Buccaneer Delft focusses on offshore and energy part of your decision to locate your office at Buccaneer Delft?
Well, yes, we found other incubators and accelerators focus more on consumer products, ways to approach potential customers and we somehow always felt like the odd one out. We felt we needed something more focussed on our own industry. It is nice for example to share experiences and tips for industry specific problems such as safety on ships and what kind of hardware to use when you’re testing your product on a ship. It’s also fun to discuss industry news during lunch with other companies.

The past few months have been particularly successful for Next Ocean, congratulations on signing a contract with your launching customer.
Thanks, it’s a very exciting time for Next Ocean. At the moment we have three interns and our first employee started in September, several subsidies we applied for were granted, we’re collaborating with BMO Offshore and we signed the contract with our launching customer, Allseas. It’s very exciting.

Has being part of the Buccaneer Delft community been helpful for growing Next Ocean?
Certainly, being here makes it easier to grow our industry network and get access to experts in a variety of fields. For example, we were working on the application for the MIT subsidy and right around that time Innofunding presented during the Energy Talks&Drinks and a TNO expert joined the Meet the expert lunch, on both occasions we got ample time to discuss our application and got some great advice. We also met one of the members of our advisory board during the Women in Energy event at Buccaneer Delft last year and when we needed twelve letters of intent for another subsidy application, four letters of intent came from the Buccaneer network.

You’re teaming up with the Buccaneers of BMO Offshore, could you tell a bit more about what you’re doing together and how the collaboration came to be?
We met BMO Offshore for the first time last year when we were doing our first tests at Damen and BMO was still located in Rotterdam. They had experience testing new technologies on ships and gave us some useful tips. We enjoyed having them as a critical sounding board and discussing ideas, so we immediately knew we wanted to keep in touch. BMO has since moved into an office at Buccaneer Delft and as we’re working on similar technologies we decided to join forces and work on an overlapping part of our technologies together.

Where would you like Next Ocean to be in ten years?
Right now, we’re focusing on our core product, the ‘standard’ variant of the Next Ocean Wave Predictor, by which I mean, not specified to one type of use. For the next phase we want to focus on niche markets, for example helicopter platforms and cranes, and team up with market leaders to create more specialized Wave Predictors. In ten years we would like to offer a whole product line of Wave and Ship motion Predictors each for specific parts of the offshore industry.
And as radar data contains more information than about waves only, think of information on wind, bird swarms, oil spills and icebergs, the possibilities to expand our information output are ample.

One last question, if you could give one piece of advice to other startups, what would it be?
Test your idea or product often and check with the market as much as possible. Starters or startups often have the tendency to focus on one idea and to start working towards the realization of said idea without getting (enough) feedback.

Want to learn even more about Next Ocean, visit www.nextocean.nl.

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