The modern workforce is adapting, and with this comes a slew of self-made entrepreneurs and startups vying for investor attention. Understandably if your idea delves into any sort of niche the struggle to get a leg up becomes even more difficult.
Leonardo Zangrando, founder of Startup Wharf Ltd, recognised this problem concerning an interest of his, which remains close to the heart: Ocean Sustainability. In this interview, we discuss Zangrando’s entrepreneurial journey and the challenges and triumphs that he has achieved.
What strategies have driven your company’s sustained growth and success?
Leonardo Zangrando: We have been serving an unsatisfied need in a specific niche, supplying exposure to startup-driven innovation in the Maritime and Shipping space since 2017. In 5 years, we built a community of over 350 startups and an audience of 1000+ industry professionals, innovators, investors, and accelerators.
How do you predict and adapt to industry changes and technological advancements?
Leonardo Zangrando: In those five years, we saw an increase in the demand for innovation in ocean sustainability, both from within the maritime industry and more importantly, from society, which we addressed by changing our focus and goals toward Ocean Sustainability.
We created a map of over 500 startups in Ocean Sustainability and I have personally initiated a series of activities to increase awareness of Ocean Sustainability issues in society and inspire people to action for the ocean, including the production of a series of TEDx events on Ocean Sustainability since 2021.
Can you discuss your leadership approach and its impact on company culture?
Leonardo Zangrando: I have always believed in and trusted the people who work for my company. Giving them room for decision-making puts them in charge of their role and allows them to develop their skills faster (what in psychology is called the zone of proximal development). The occasional mistakes are a learning opportunity.
What steps has your company taken to promote diversity and inclusion, and how do they affect business outcomes?
Leonardo Zangrando: We focus on Ocean Sustainability and support projects in this sector globally. Many of the innovative startups we help are based in developing countries and are led or employ women.
Could you share a challenging decision you have made, and the lessons learned?
Leonardo Zangrando: Moving away from the Maritime and Shipping sector to the Ocean Sustainability sector at a time when it was not clear that a financially sustainable business with a positive environmental impact was even possible, I took the chance as I was driven by a powerful ethical drive to foster a positive impact on Ocean Sustainability and to exponentially multiply that impact.
How does your company integrate sustainability and social responsibility into its strategy?
Leonardo Zangrando: My company’s main objective is to have a positive impact on Ocean Sustainability along three pillars:
1. supporting TEDx events on Ocean Sustainability to inspire people to action (tedxcowes.com),
2. supporting the One & Ocean project to connect local communities which are acting across the globe with a year-long oceanic sail and other activities to raise awareness and inspire 100 million people to action (oneandocean.com)
3. supporting and connecting investors interested in financially sustainable businesses in Ocean Sustainability through the Oceanic Wealth private community (oceanicwealth.org) I passionately believe that a financially sustainable business that has a net positive impact on sustainability and particularly Ocean Sustainability, is possible and it is a social duty for me to do it with my business.
What are your key priorities and goals for the company in the next five years, considering emerging opportunities and challenges?
Leonardo Zangrando: We want to become a leader of change for Ocean Sustainability. We want to inspire people to action and guide investors and industry leaders to develop financially sustainable businesses for Ocean Sustainability.
We will keep supporting the TEDx events on Ocean Sustainability and the global scale project One & Ocean to inspire 100 million people to action. We are launching Oceanic Wealth, a private community of investors and entrepreneurs in this field.
To learn more about Startup Wharf and Leonardo, or to sign up as a startup, accelerator, or investor, head to the website and make your mark on the journey toward Oceanic Sustainability.