Startup for 10: Marble

Startup for 10 is a new TechSPARK feature to showcase all the great startups in the region. One startup, 10 questions - all you need to know.
12th June 2019

Marble is the maritime data collection company based in Chippenham. Founded in 2016 with a team of 4, Marble is doing pioneering things in the art of intelligence.

Answering 10 questions about the company for us is Marble CEO, Mathieu Johnsson.

1. In your own words – what do you do?

We’re building a maritime intelligence system that provides a live aerial view of what is happening at sea, using fleets of drones that fly 24/7. This enables NGOs, coast guard agencies or research organisations to access dramatically better data for their decision-making, be it to catch illegal fishing, protect borders or survey environments.

2. What’s the most exciting thing about what you’re doing?

With as little as one fully deployed system, we’ll be flying more than all the other drones combined worldwide. So the scale of what we’re building is enormous – and that’s not even considering applications outside of the maritime space!

We actually believe we can grow into “AWS for drones”: an infrastructure of unmanned electric aircraft flying 24/7 that anyone can tap into to perform tasks ranging from logistics to data collection, 100 times cheaper than today. That massive potential is getting us excited.

3. What are you most proud of so far?

The fact we quickly proved to large institutions that we are a dependable partner makes me proud. It is hard to do so as an early stage company competing to sell multi-million pounds contracts.

We’ve been able to do so because of the potential of our solution, but as well thanks to some great mentors. We’ve now worked with the British Military, and are about to deliver trials to Caribbean Islands and NGOs.

4. What have you found most difficult about being a startup?

It would have to be finding the right people, especially at the earliest stage. Aerospace and the general maritime industry are not entrepreneurship minded and so do not produce people aspiring to start a business. We’ve been fortunate to go through the Entrepreneur First accelerator which really helped to get our amazing founding team together.

5. What would you do differently if you started now?

I’d use the hindsight to focus exclusively on the most important objectives for the company, to get to where we are now faster. But to be fair, it’s almost impossible to know upfront what’s going to be really important at an early stage, so exploring technical and business opportunities (even if some turn out to not matter) is part of the journey.

Plus, we have to be in sync with the development of the overall industry as we’re not yet at the stage where we’d set the pace at which regulations change!

6. Where do you think you’ll be in 12 months?

We’ll have converted some of our incoming trials in contracts and will be operating our system on a reduced scale for customers.

7. What tools/people/services/organisations from the cluster have helped you most?

When I first got curious about entrepreneurship, the South West Founders meetup really helped to learn the basics. That’s actually where I got the chance to meet Joel and Sammy when they were starting Open Bionics, and they’ve been very helpful throughout the journey. TechSPARK has been great too, with an article you wrote a few years back still leading potential partners to us today!

More recently, we joined the SETsquared scaleup program which, only a few months in, has helped us significantly with grants applications.

8. What’s the best thing about the Bristol & Bath tech cluster?

The Bristol & Bath cluster is a fantastic place to build a business: there is a growing startup scene providing a great sense of community and support when needed, and easy access to some of the best capital in Europe through the proximity to London.

For Marble in particular, Bristol is the obvious place to find the best talent: it is the aerospace capital of the UK and the host to some of the best robotics research in Europe. I’m very much looking forward to growing the company here.

9. Who will you be nominating for a SPARKie next year?

Open Bionics! Like I said earlier, the founders there have been really supportive. They are solving an important problem and considering how difficult their space is (B2C+hardware+healthcare) I think they always deserve a shout out for awards.

10. Where can we find out more about you?

You can access our Marble website.

Thanks to Mat for taking the time to talk to us.

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