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Interview: with Steven Jones – a mentor on Waypoint 4: Nearshore


Waypoint is our programme where we accelerate cutting edge technology companies into the maritime market. Through expert mentoring, equity-free pilot funding, and carefully selected introductions, Waypoint assists some of the most innovative and promising maritime startups to strengthen their foothold in maritime.

Our latest programme is Waypoint 4: Nearshore, where we have selected 3 startups whose tech can solve important problems in nearshore operations.

In this interview we spoke to one of our mentors, Steven Jones, Founder at Seafarers Happiness Index about his participation in the programme.

What are you getting out of being a mentor for Waypoint?

Being a mentor in the Waypoint scheme has been a really fulfilling experience. It has allowed me to bring ideas and experiences forward, which have hopefully make a positive impact on the company, helping guide their ultimate growth and success.

By sharing my knowledge and experience, I have the opportunity to help shape the future of an innovative business that I really respect, and help refine product lines and communications to help sharpen and hone their focus.

As a mentor, this has also been a chance to expand my own skills and expertise. Interacting with the startup founders and team has helped me to think about emerging technologies, market trends, old problems that need fixing and fresh ideas too. All of which helps to keep me at the forefront of my own industry challenges.

Through the process I also have the chance to engage and connect with like-minded professionals, entrepreneurs, and potential collaborators. So it has very much been a positive upward spiral, which has challenged me to refine my communication, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.

Being a mentor allows me to give back to the maritime community and contribute to the growth of the startup ecosystem…and hopefully saving seafarer lives too! By supporting and guiding aspiring entrepreneurs and companies, this has been a chance to play a role in creating a supportive environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and success. I would highly recommend the experience.

Which company/s are you working with, what is interesting about the tech and what have you been impressed with?

The company I have been working with is LifeFinder is a Swedish company that develops IoT solutions for workplaces in harsh and hazardous environments. The company’s flagship product is the LifeFinder Intelligent Alert System, uses sensors and software to detect and alert to danger and life-threatening situations.

I spend much of my professional life dealing with seafarer related issues, most of which are about trying to make life better at sea. A massively important part of this is to make life safer at sea too – so that is why I wanted to work with LifeFinder.

LifeFinder enables the identification of risks in real-time, so proactive safety measures can be implemented. Seafarers are given early warnings and alerts, and lives will undoubtedly be saved where this equipment is used.

Anything that helps the take-up and development of on board safety culture is a hugely significant development. Their system can be integrated into seafarers’ everyday safety routines and can help to prevent injuries and death even on board, so taking the fundamentals of their offering and refining for a maritime dimension has been a great challenge. One which can bring massive benefits for seafarers, companies and for the company too.

What is the added value of Waypoint in your opinion?

Waypoint provides invaluable support and resources to entrepreneurs, bringing a range of value-adds to their ventures. It brings access to a network of experienced mentors and industry experts and their guidance, advice, and insights can really help start-ups navigate challenges, to refine strategies, and make informed decisions. From everything to show attendance, to marketing and industry engagement.

Participating companies gain credibility immediately, and it is a chance for their business models to be validated and reputation enhanced. These programs also facilitate networking and connections with investors, partners, potential customers, and fellow entrepreneurs.

The biggest value-add of a scheme such as Waypoint is the fact that it opens doors to collaborations, introductions, and funding opportunities. It truly does accelerate the growth curve, with hard fought experience on tap, and with a chance to learn from the successes and failures of others.

What you hope the outcome of this process will be?

The basic concept is to help LifeFinder to grow, to access opportunities and to have their business development accelerated. That is what we signed up for. So, acting as a positive catalyst to drive them forward, or to even be the one that asks difficult questions.

There were stages at which mentors might seem negative, but actually that was a wonderful part of the process. The mentors, with their decades of experience could tell if something needed to be refined. They helped to refine and improve, and that felt like a real boost. Sometimes mentors have to act as the “grit in the oyster”, and they prompt the company to deal with issues…and hopefully a business “pearl” is produced.

Have you noticed any emerging trends or opportunities in the industry through your involvement with Waypoint and its startups? 

It is very hard to get past the zeitgeist of decarbonisation currently, so at the moment it seems that emerging trends and opportunities are caught in a little bit of a logjam. There is desperation in the market to know the answers to questions of what fuel, what impact and what to do…everything seems to fall a little on stoney ground currently.

With that in mind, it has been refreshing to see that humans are still to the fore, and that the safety of seafarers remains a fundamental focus. There are obviously challenges within this, the old adage that safety seems expensive until you have an accident, then it seems amazing value for money. There has to be the trend of changing perceptions, and the opportunity to provide when companies understand that safety remains separate and distinct from the noise elsewhere in the maritime industry.

Catch up on a webinar to hear from industry experts on Nearshore challenges, and tech companies Awake.AI, Lifefinder and Seadronix. 

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