This week, we had an oar-some chat with Ami Daniel, Co-founder & CEO of Israeli startup Windward. At the beginning of July, the company secured a $16.5m Series C funding round led by XL Catlin’s innovation arm, XL Innovate.
As well as talking about their recent funding success, we discuss how they’re helping marine insurers, intelligence agencies and governments predict and manage maritime risk.
Hi Ami, could you tell us a little about yourself and Windward?
I’m Ami Daniel, the Co-founder and CEO of Windward. We’re in the business of helping people understand maritime risk, enabling them to take better actions to mitigate it. At first, we focused on the public sector – governments, intelligence agencies, organisations like the UN – but, for the past 18 months, we’ve also been working with marine insurers.
Where did the idea for Windward come from and what makes it unique?
I set up the company with Matan Peled in 2010. The initial idea was to help companies and ship captains identify which vessels might be involved in piracy, and therefore, represent a threat. What makes Windward unique is our deep domain expertise and the way we combine it with data science and artificial intelligence to model maritime risk.
How has your journey as a startup been to date? Are there any key lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
Like any voyage, there are calm waters and choppy ones. Overall, though, it’s been a great journey. Notable successes include tipping off governments about the biggest drug smuggling shipment of 2017; enabling West African countries to reduce illegal fishing; and helping the UN Security Council discover vessels that were helping North Korea evade sanctions.
But, we’re now fully focused on our main two industries. Windward Intelligence is generating record revenues; as a company, we’re on track to double our income in 2018 versus 2017. Lessons learned? The best part of the voyage is the journey, not the destination, which should always be moving.
What do you think are most important qualities to have in a startup team?
Leadership, advisors, passion, willingness to learn and funding.
If you could give one piece of advice for aspiring startups looking to disrupt the industry, what would it be?
First, let me just be clear: we don’t view ourselves as disruptors in the marine insurance industry. Our technology is here to help people do their jobs better and profitably. But, in general, I would say that if you’re going to do something, do it properly or don’t do it at all. Shortcuts often end up delaying your journey, rather than getting you there any faster.
You recently received $16.5M and announced XL Innovate’s Managing Partner, Tom Hutton, as a board director – how do you think these factors will effect change over the coming year?
The fundraising and Tom’s joining the board will change a number of things, all of them for the better. First, we plan to triple our spending on marine insurance. At the same time, we’ll be expanding our London office, hiring key people, and opening new offices in other markets.
Regarding Tom, I’ve been speaking with him for the best part of two years. Indeed, he helped convince me there was an excellent opportunity for us to adapt our existing risk analytics to the marine insurance market. As the world’s leading Insurtech investor, he and his team know what it takes to build and scale a successful company in the insurance space. We’re thrilled to have him on board.