Seward is the first Alaska community to work with the Alaska Ocean Cluster to jump start ocean based businesses. A first cohort of four early-stage businesses signed up with AOC’s Blue Pipeline Incubator last October and has attracted $1.6 million from investors so far, ten times more than anticipated.
“Different ocean based industries, including seafood manufacturing, ocean energy, mariculture and coastal tourism.”
Justin Sternberg is Director of the Blue Pipeline Incubator in Seward which is a partnership between the Cluster, the City and local Chamber of Commerce, the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Science, and the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Their goal is to cultivate and grow scalable, new ocean related businesses in Alaska.
Through April, one business also filed a provisional patent on a new technology that won the Invention of the Year award at UAF
“The ocean invention is a technology that pulls hydrogen out of ocean water that can then be stored as a battery for use later. It also de-acidifies the ocean water, so it’s pulling carbon out of the water as well. If it proves to be commercially viable it would allow for a mass scale way to produce energy and at the same time reduce the carbon that is in the water creating acidification.”
Another company was a semi-finalist at the first Alaska Angel Conference last month in Anchorage which brings investors and business startups together.
Sternberg says the cohorts receive mentoring and MBA level training that helps them grow a business from the bottom up.
“The cohort we had was four businesses and we give them an MBA level curriculum – we partnered with the business accelerator out of Seattle called Fledge that covers everything from how to write a business plan, how to get financing, develop sales and marketing, how to divide equity – the whole suite of starting a business from the idea all the way to the implementation of selling it down the road.”
The Incubator also offered Alaska Small Business Development Center support to 18 Seward businesses, including 2 new ones, with 8 new jobs created as a result. Sternberg says Cluster collaborators are refining the Blue Pipeline to make sure it is in synch with Alaska communities.
“We’ve been looking at different ways where we might be able to refine what a business incubator is and ways to modify it so it might actually fit the dynamics of how entrepreneurship is happening within Alaska communities.”
The Alaska Ocean Cluster is a project of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.