Over 70% of the planet is made up of water. And, as a global society we have – objectively speaking – wreaked havoc on it. Among other issues, sea levels are rising; pesticides, sewage, runoff and oil spills are all are flowing into the oceans; around 31% of global fish stocks are overfished; and World Animal Protection reports that some 640,000 tonnes of fishing equipment is abandoned in the ocean each year.
As Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson once put it: “If the oceans die, we die.”
Thankfully, there are a few entrepreneurial souls out there who are hell-bent on finding ways to combine business with activism to save the ocean. Nick Chiarelli and Tim Silverwood are two such souls. They’re the co-founders of Ocean Impact Organisation, Australia’s first ocean impact ecosystem and startup accelerator for businesses and entrepreneurs making a positive impact on the ocean.
Tim, a long-time environmentalist (and previous CEO of Take 3 for the Sea), and Nick, a chartered accountant by trade, struggled to understand why more businesses weren’t focused on doing good things with capital, so decided to take matters into their own hands. Both have a love for the ocean, growing up swimming and surfing on New South Wales’ Central Coast and Northern Beaches. “Whenever I’m close to the ocean, I’m happy,” Tim says. “The ocean just has this incredible draw.”
When Nick began looking into the startup space, he quickly saw a gap in the market. There were software start-ups, real estate accelerators, startups for agribusiness and renewable energy. “I thought, ‘Why not for the ocean?’” he says.
OIO have teamed up with a variety of experts in the field, as well as business mentors, industry partners, research institutions and investors to inspire and educate others on just how essential healthy oceans are for our existence, all through innovation, positive leadership, and good business.
“We’re incredibly passionate about helping people increase their ocean literacy and understanding of the importance of the ocean,” Tim explains. “And, of course, preventing the abysmal destruction of ocean ecosystems and wildlife.”
This year, OIO have launched Pitchfest 2020, a virtual competition and event aiming to showcase and celebrate new ideas that will have a positive impact on our oceans. Applicants are invited to pitch their ideas around ocean health, ocean harvesting, ocean energy, transport, inspiration and new frontiers.
Pitchfest 2020 is being presented by Bank Australia, and we’re extremely proud to be providing a $15,000 cash prize to the winner to help them accelerate their idea. The winner will also receive up to $60,000 worth of support from the OIO Partner Network and access to business and science mentors. Applications are open to all startups and scalable businesses that are making a positive impact on the ocean.
“Pitchfest will be an annual event, and this is the first one,” Tim says. “It’s open globally, but we’re looking forward to seeing some fantastic local initiatives.”
A number of applications have come through already, from Australia, Indonesia, Europe and the USA, and the OIO team are excited about the breadth of applicants. “We’re seeing a broad range of applications including: agricultural runoff, coral reef restoration, ocean energy, fisheries bycatch, plastic alternatives just to name a few… We’re really happy with the quality and breadth so far,” says Nick.
Both Tim and Nick posit that it’s time to change our relationship with the ocean, and start doing things differently. “Business as usual has failed us,” Tim says. “We need business as unusual to show us another way.”
Find out more about Ocean Impact Organisation and Pitchfest 2020 on their website. Applications to Pitchfest 2020 close on 5th October 2020 with the winner announced on 4th November 2020.