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Got a business idea that could positively impact the ocean? This startup accelerator wants to help

Photography By Caroline Grondin / Sonnie Hiles

In the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of living on Australia’s east coast along stretches of the most pristine and magnificent coastline in the world.

Tim Silverwood has spent the same decade advocating for the preservation of coastlines around the globe, co-founding Take 3 for the Sea in 2009 to fight plastic pollution, sailing 5000km across the North Pacific Ocean to study the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, appearing in documentaries and speaking publicly about the greatest issues facing the world’s oceans. His latest venture, Ocean Impact Organisation, will likely consume the next decade or two, though he’s taking a slightly different tack to ocean sustainability than his previous vocations.

“I was prepared to just start another traditional non-profit and do more environmental advocacy and campaigning,” Silverwood begins, detailing his transition from Take 3 into OIO. “Then Nick came into my world and he had a really refreshing perspective on a new type of change and that was through business for good.”

Nick Chiarelli is the other half of OIO, a chartered accountant by trade with far more experience in business than in environmental activism. Silverwood and Chiarelli’s contrasting professions are a perfect fusion of expertise, coupled with a shared desire to be catalysts for positive environmental change.

Chiarelli’s initial idea centred around forging a generation of businesses and entrepreneurs looking for novel ways of doing business that would help the ocean.

“Nick was disillusioned with his traditional business setting…he wanted to find conscious capitalism and give back. Find a new way of doing things, break the mould a little bit. He’s a real disrupter. So, it didn’t take long for us both to realise that we met in the middle.”

Ocean Impact Organisation launched in February 2020 as a service to help people start, grow and invest in businesses that positively impact the ocean. It’s Australia’s first ocean impact ecosystem and start-up accelerator for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to harness the untapped business potential of this landscape.

“’Ocean impact’ is an emerging terminology which essentially says that we live on planet ocean, [a planet] governed by the sea whether we like it or not,” Silverwood explains. “So, we’re looking at all the challenges the ocean faces [divided] into six key themes.”

There’s no shortage of inspiration to be found as Silverwood describes each theme. The first is Ocean Health, exploring opportunities for the protection of ocean ecosystems and restoration; Ocean Energy, examining the potential for renewable energy from the ocean; Transportation and Security, decarbonising vessels and the future of lower impact maritime operations; Ocean Harvesting, encompassing initiatives like regenerative aquaculture and improved ocean farming; Inspiration and Leisure, improving ocean literacy and enhancing eco-tourism; and New Frontiers, the “big, crazy, wild ideas” like large scale seaweed farming, offshore floating cities and underwater research laboratories.

A Befendo

Ishan Gupta

NICK CHIARELLI AND TIM SILVERWOOD / NATASHA WAKEFIELD

The ocean holds vast untapped innovative potential, according to Silverwood. “There’s just so many new ideas and innovations. Everything from satellite monitoring to help ships navigate storms and currents more efficiently saving carbon pollution, robotics, incredible ocean energy solutions, looking at new biomaterials for plastics, new ways of monitoring…so many incredible ideas.”

“We really want to be part of this galvanising of the new ocean economy and all these incredible opportunities.”

In a change from Silverwood’s experience running non-profits, OIO is profit-based, whether that is for an entrepreneur putting forth a business idea or an investor looking for a return. As the desire to make profit isn’t going away, OIO asks how we can ensure that profit is made in a purpose-led and impactful way. “That’s definitely what a growing class of people, particularly in investment communities, are after,” Silverwood explains.

“If in five years’ time, OIO has created massive investment around positive, new generation business that’s good for the ocean, then we’ve just given the bird to the other guys and said ‘we told you, you’ve gotta be more conscious in business because people won’t support you if you’re not’. We can actually advocate for the future we want, and we can be quite radical by doing good business.”

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