Marine Edge is an Israeli innovation company focused on sustainability on the seas. There are over 90,000 merchant ships transporting goods across the globe, and the fossil fuels they burn have a bigger impact on the environment than all the cars in the world combined. Led by Amichay Gross and his co-founders Nevo Dotan and Mark Moran, Marine Edge is on a mission to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption for marine transport vessels.
Amichay is well-suited to spearhead this effort, having accumulated decades of experience in aerospace energy, mobility, and MedTech in large and small companies alike. He brings a unique background and plenty of entrepreneurial spirit, which was on full display when he recently sat down with Start-Up Nation Central for an interview.
“Every company should find a balance to benefit the 3 P’s: People, Planet and Profit”
Start-Up Nation Central: How did you get to where you are today, and what problem is your company trying to solve?
Amichay: I started my career in the field of aerospace and defense and worked in that industry for a decade. After that, I worked another 10 years across rehabilitation, Medtech, and transportation. Then I realized that what I really wanted was to make a meaningful impact on an industry that would have long-lasting significance. I started brainstorming with my partner Nevo, who spent 20 years in the Navy, and we initially landed on the automotive industry.
We analyzed how efficient the automotive industry is compared to other industries and realized that there has been a real improvement in the last few decades with regard to clean fuel and electric vehicles.
But one sector that has not seen much improvement is the maritime transport industry. I was surprised to learn that even though there are a fraction of ships compared to cars in the world, these ships burn just as much fuel as cars do.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the fuel that ships use is much less refined and eco-friendly than automotive fuel and emits pollutants like sulfur oxide and other harmful chemicals that you don’t get from the fuel at your local gas station.
That’s why we decided that shipping is where we wanted to focus and try to make an impact.
Start-Up Nation Central: How did you meet your business partners?
Amichay: When we were 18, Nevo and I both enrolled in a pre-military academic program to study aerospace engineering at the Technion. Nevo decided to serve in the navy as chief engineer and ship captain, and I stayed at the Technion to complete a master’s in aerospace engineering with a focus on combustion and propulsion before serving as an officer in air force intelligence.
Twenty years after parting ways, Nevo and I reconnected on LinkedIn. We started discussing which industries we could impact the most, and within a week and a half, we decided to focus on the shipping industry. In our search for someone who can combine knowledge of physics with advanced software and system capabilities, we met Mark and he was just what we needed to complete our team.
Start-Up Nation Central: Have you always been interested in making an impact? Tell us a little bit about your backstory.
Amichay: I’ve always tried to work on projects that made an impact on other people’s lives as well as my own. In the army, my main goal was to defend Israel, and after that, I worked at Rafael on defense systems that saved many lives. Later on, a friend and I started a company called SoftWheels, to give wheelchair users more freedom and better mobility.
“When I achieved some of my goals helping people in Israel – and in general – my next goal was to focus on the planet.”
I come from a religious background, and until I was 17, I was a practicing religious Jew. During my childhood, I learned a lot of moral lessons which shaped my career path. I have a 10-year-old son, and I think about what type of world I would like him to grow up in. This is why, aside from the financial motivation to succeed in my career, I want my company to succeed so that everyone on Earth can reap the benefits.
Start-Up Nation Central: How did you attack the problems in the marine industry to make the improvements you wanted to see?
Amichay: We first examined the solution of using cleaner fuel for ships. But the problem with that is that cleaner fuel is substantially more expensive than what is commonly used. Fuel is 70% of a ship’s total operational cost. Therefore, we had to come up with a solution that is good for the environment as well as for business. We call this balance the three P’s: People, Planet, and Profit. We want to make improvements that will help people breathe cleaner air and use up less of the earth’s natural resources, all while helping shipping companies generate more revenue so they can stay afloat.
We developed a system that attaches to the ship’s drivetrain and hybridizes it so it can work more efficiently. The system utilizes supercapacitor technology as well as machine learning algorithms to provide the right amount of energy (or load) to the shaft, at precisely the right time, in order to deal with variable-size waves that would otherwise increase fuel burn by a huge amount. These waves increase the engine’s fuel burn by up to 30% more than in flat sea conditions. Because of our technology, we will be able to minimize the wasted fuel and regenerate power to put back into propelling the ship forward.
Start-Up Nation Central: What kind of performance improvements are you getting because of this added technology?
Amichay: After installing our system on a cargo ship, we will be able to optimize the engine to perform in close to flat sea conditions, which can amount to a 15% improvement in the fuel-burning economy. As a result, we can minimize the cost of running these ships and maximize profits, enabling companies to switch to cleaner fuel, and further reduce pollution.
Start-Up Nation Central: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Amichay: I already felt like I was running a startup while I was working in a company with 10,000 employees – I was involved with research, sales, marketing, and everything in between – but I wanted to use my skills to make an impact on different fields. The impact I can make in the maritime industry is much more substantial because of how new the conversation is around making it more sustainable.
Start-Up Nation Central: What does success look like for you? What would you like your legacy to be?
Amichay: Success for me would be tens of thousands of ships all around the world using our technology to burn less fuel, and cleaner fuel, dramatically reducing pollution in our world. As far as legacy, I want to be seen as a person who took action to induce the change he wants to see in the world.
Start-Up Nation Central: Are you looking for investors, partners, or talent?
Amichay: We did get initial funding from TechStars EPS in Singapore and InvenTech in Haifa, partnered with Haifa Marine for our first installation, and recently raised a funding round led by Good Company, a mission-driven VC, investing in startups that are leveraging deep technologies to solve big world problems. We have great partners that share our values and goals, both in Israel and abroad, but we are always looking for more partners to add to the team. We will also be looking for new talent in a few months to advance our operations even further.
Start-Up Nation Central: What do you think investors and executives worldwide should know about Israel?
Amichay: Israel was built out of necessity. Everything we have today was created because we had no other choice. Striving to meet our needs through technology is ingrained in Israeli DNA. Israel doesn’t have oil, we don’t have much land or other natural resources, and from that struggle came all the innovations we see around us now.
Start-Up Nation Central: Can you recommend to our global audience a fun activity to do when they visit Israel?
Amichay: In my opinion, Israel is a hiking country: we have snow-capped Mount Hermon in the north and a wide range of different topographies stretching from the lushness of the Golan Heights all the way through the Judean and Negev Deserts down south to Eilat on the Red Sea. You can’t get bored with the interesting hikes we have in this country.
Start-Up Nation Central: For other entrepreneurs who want to get into a resource-heavy sector and make an impact, do you have any advice for them?
Amichay: Nothing worth doing is easy. If you see a goal that you want to achieve and you think is worthwhile, go for it. And if you fail, it’s okay – get back up and try again.