We sat down with Thomas Frizlen, founder of Swiss Ocean Tech, to talk about the journey to date and plans for the future of the business.
How did you come up with the idea for the business?
I studied Industrial Economics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. As an engineer, I never really understood why there wasn’t a solution to support me in my anchoring process. When it comes to navigation for instance, there are so many tools at our disposal. There is GPS, radar, depth sounders and others, but as far as anchoring is concerned, we really do not have anything that monitors the anchor.
At the beginning, some of my ideas were kind of wild and to be honest, not very realistic. Over the years, however, my ideas became more sophisticated and AnchorGuardian began to take shape. I spent my weekends and evenings refining my idea and discussing it with experts within my ever-growing network. It developed over time, it did not come to me overnight.
Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?
As one of the captains we spoke with said; "Anchoring is one of the most dangerous conditions for a ship". Despite advanced navigation equipment, it is currently not possible for a ship's crew to know in real time whether, by how much and how fast an anchor is dragging. Even the most careful laying of an anchor can be devastating, posing a significant threat to sailor, ship and sea.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?
I have a corporate background. When I finished my master’s degree in Sweden, I started working for ABB in Switzerland. It was global, it was complex, it was quick-paced, and I loved it. I remained in that environment for most of my professional life but the call to create something of my own nevertheless was always in the back of my mind.
To your question, starting my own company gives me all the things I loved about the corporate world - but now I am also developing, building and nurturing my own idea in an industry where I feel at home. I get to work with equally passionate and enthusiastic experts bringing a much-needed solution to the market and leaving a lasting positive impact on the health of the ocean. That is how I describe enjoyment around AnchorGuardian.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
I have been asked many times why no one has come up with the idea of AnchorGuardian before - because it is obviously addressing a very real pain. First you need someone with the imagination and vision to make it happen. Second you need to find those specialists interested in the topic willing to come along on the journey. Third you need to have the funding. Fourth you need to solve the problem within a given time frame successfully. Fifth the necessary fundamental technology has to be available. There are so many conditions which need to be fulfilled, so many factors which must come together at the same time.
Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?
I am not so sure if it makes a difference what industry you are in. Being an entrepreneur means having passion for a vision, an idea. It means being able to weather all the highs and lows without losing your focus on what is important. Being persistent when things begin to stall and patient when doubt arises. Building a strong team because no one does it on their own. And realising that you have to take it one day at a time, change doesn't happen overnight.
What's the plan for the future of the business? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?
We have many plans but, in the end, it all comes down to our vision for the future. Our vision is to make anchoring safe, for sailor, ship and sea. It is that simple.