Building blue businesses in Alaska

Seward is the first Alaska community to work with the Alaska Ocean Cluster to jump and grow ocean-based businesses. A first cohort of four early-stage businesses that signed up with the cluster’s Blue Pipeline Incubator last October has so far attracted $1.6 million on an investment goal of $2.3 million, ten times more than anticipated.
“They include seafood manufacturing, ocean energy, mariculture and coastal tourism,” said Justin Sternberg, director of the Blue Pipeline Incubator in Seward, which is a partnership with the cluster, the city and local Chamber of Commerce, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ College of Fisheries and Ocean Science, and the Alaska Small Business Development Center.
One business also filed a provisional patent on a new technology that won the Invention of the Year award at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“It’s a technology that pulls hydrogen out of ocean water that can then be stored as a battery for use later. It also deacidifies the water,” Sternberg said. “If it proves to be commercially viable, it would allow for a mass scale way to produce energy and at the same time reduce the carbon that is in the water creating acidification.”
Another Blue Pipeline company was a semi-finalist at the first Alaska Angel Conference last month in Anchorage, which brings investors and business startups together.
Sternberg said the cohorts receive mentoring and “MBA-level training” that helps them “with the whole suite of starting a business, from the idea all the way to the implementation to selling it down the road.”
The incubator also offered Alaska Small Business Development Center support to 18 Seward businesses, including two new ones, with eight new jobs created as a result.
Sternberg, who also helped launch Alaska’s kelp industry in Kodiak, said cluster collaborators are refining the Blue Pipeline to make sure it “fits the dynamics of entrepreneurship in Alaska communities” as they expand to more regions.
The Alaska Ocean Cluster is a project of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

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Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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