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Impact Innovators: Navia

This month, we spoke to Guglielmo La Via, CEO of Navia, the Italian startup producing and distributing electric yachts from scratch. Here, Guglielmo shares how a love for the sea propelled him to start Navia and some of the challenges the company has faced when introducing their product to the market.

What motivated you to start an impact business in the leisure marine industry? 

Two things motivated me to establish Navia more than anything else. The first was my love for the sea and its ecosystem, which I believe we must preserve. Additionally, I am firmly convinced that electric boats are a far better solution for certain usages compared to combustion engine boats. For instance, this applies to small-sized boats, tenders, or those involved in the boat rental sector. The second reason is my passion for boats since I was little. I have always enjoyed studying, drawing, testing, and understanding the differences between various hulls. This, combined with the belief that life is too short to engage in work that we don't enjoy or are not passionate about, led me to persevere and start Navia. 

Are there specific metrics you use to measure your impact?

Yes, we employ a diverse set of metrics to measure the positive impact of our electric boats. This includes measuring reduced greenhouse gas emissions, evaluating energy efficiency, and assessing diminished air pollutants.

We also examine the impact on marine biodiversity by minimising the risk of oil pollution and consider noise reduction, operational costs versus traditional vessels, electric boat range, and charging infrastructure availability. Sustainability of materials, stakeholder engagement, and tracking technological innovations are all integral.

Do you see gaps in current regulations that could further support impact startups? 

In Italy, where Navia is based and actively entering the market, there is a general lack of support. Currently, there are limited incentives for both manufacturers and consumers. The absence of such incentives hampers the growth potential of the electric boating sector.

Nevertheless, when these incentives are implemented, they are expected to provide a significant boost to the entire electric boating industry, promoting sustainability and fostering a more supportive regulatory environment.

In fact, as of today, it is primarily private initiatives and innovations that are driving advancements in the sector, underscoring the need for more comprehensive governmental support and regulatory measures to fully unlock the potential of electric boating. 

What challenges or opportunities arose when introducing your product to the market? 

Introducing our product to the market posed challenges and opportunities, especially in the nautical industry, predominantly in Italy. The sector has traditionally shown resistance to innovation, clinging to established practices with a reluctance to change. This conservative mindset has led to scepticism within the industry towards disruptive ideas.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge those forward-thinking individuals who recognised the significant potential in Navia, breaking away from the status quo. While facing scepticism, we have also encountered opportunities as early adopters who believe in the transformative potential of our product have enthusiastically embraced Navia's innovative approach.

How have you navigated the fundraising environment? 

Navigating our first fundraising round brought challenges, but securing an industry-connected anchor investor proved pivotal. Their support instilled trust, easing participation from friends and family. This strategic move facilitated success in the initial phase.

Now, we've launched a larger second funding round, targeting institutional investors. This expansion signifies our commitment to scale, seeking not just capital but expertise and networks. Involving institutional investors reflects our ambition to elevate the project to new industry heights. 

Looking ahead, what are your business plans and goals for 2024? 

In 2024, we will validate our rental-based business model. Our inflatable boat will be deployed to Cagliari, Sardinia, for the entire summer season, offering guided excursions to tourists. Additionally, we plan to conclude our investment round by summer's end to commence production of our new project, Navia N7. This vessel features a semi-planing hull and a cruising range of 50 nautical miles at 11 knots. 


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