We sat down with Shipnet CEO & Volaris Group Manager Aden Hopkins to discuss the key opportunities for growth in 2023
"Hello, I’m both CEO for Shipnet and a Group Manager (or Group CEO) for the Volaris Group.
I have quite a varied background. Most of my working life has been spent in the technology sector, holding various global leadership positions across numerous verticals, mainly in Security and Defence, Oil and Gas, Asset Performance Management and Marine. I have also been a business owner of two small businesses (a ‘Coaching’ business working with professional sports and businesspeople; and a Fitness company in Dubai) and a Primary school teacher (many years ago!).
As CEO of Shipnet, my time is spent working with the management team on developing our strategic and operational objectives and vision, I make sure our customers are happy with our software and consultancy services and I also oversee our Group and portfolio leadership teams. At the same time, I’m responsible for the continued success and growth of two other global tech businesses (Helm and IDEA) and spend my time coaching and supporting the CEOs of those businesses. Both businesses (like Shipnet) are growth SaaS businesses, so our focus is on business growth initiatives, talent management and M&A opportunities. It’s a great role.
I’m very lucky that my work has allowed me to travel the world. I genuinely believe my current success is attributable to having these different experiences and being willing to work as hard (if not harder) than anyone else."
"From a Shipnet perspective, we provide software and consultancy services to support revenue generation, financial management and asset maintenance for our shipping customers. So I would say there are four strategic areas we are currently focusing on:
- Alongside continual improvements to our services, we’re releasing new and higher quality SaaS products to better support and grow current and new customers.
- We want to work with and support new partners so that we’re able to provide more solutions to current customers as well as developing access to potential new markets.
- We’d like to acquire and ‘tuck’ a technology business into Shipnet. This ideally would be a smaller company that offers new or complimentary products to strengthen our existing solutions.
- We’re exhibiting at several industry shows, starting with Nor Shipping in June this year, as we’re keen to capitalise on Shipnet’s 2022 rebrand that delivered strong brand momentum and growth.
In relation to Volaris, we are a buy-and-hold acquirer of software businesses. Our focus is on the long-term success of their companies and the people who join them. So really the opportunity is huge for any business or Founder CEO who would like be part of something ‘Bigger’ for the long-term."
"Our customers have a wealth of operational and financial data in their solutions and there’s real value and competitive advantage to be found in accessing and using this data. We’ve been having this conversation with them for a couple of years and we’re seeing it resonate more now.
Shipping is traditionally a conservative market, however there is a new generation of shipowners for whom technology is becoming more important. Many of these new start-up tech companies focus on very niche areas, so I believe it’s critical these companies are asking themselves two vital questions:
- What key industry challenges are they solving now and for the next 10 years?
- Are they delivering technology that will support continual industry change due to environmental requirements (not only impacting existing fleets but also new ships that will be built in the future)?"
"Like most senior business leaders, it’s not easy to keep the execution of our strategic goals away from Business As Usual (BAU). Our Strategic Council has worked hard on our main strategic themes for the coming 5 years and how BAU support this. An area we need to continue developing is how we better communicate this to all of our teams, so that everyone is engaged and inspired to embed our values and deliver our goals.
The other learning is in relation to our industry. Most shipping companies tend to be late adopters of new technologies, preferring to wait for the value in a particular innovation to be proven, before investing. Many of our customers prefer to expand existing relationships rather than seek out and find new partners for innovation. This is great for Shipnet, as it gives us the discovery opportunity ourselves and enables us to offer additional value to our customers. This approach started to bear fruit in 2022 and we are forecasting it to pick up pace in 2023 and beyond."
"I would describe Shipnet’s culture as fair, honest and respectful. Our culture centres around transparency and trust, where the latter informs the former.
As part of the brand work we did with your team at Bray St in June 2022, we developed our brand purpose and company values which has helped us to develop a positive and productive company culture. Approachability is key, not only in the way we are perceived externally but also how we treat each other within the business. For us, we want everyone to feel they can openly discuss any issues at any level, and that they can learn from mistakes (we all make them!) Understanding and engaging with the brand internally is vital to creating a positive company culture and defining a clear brand purpose with values that people can connect with is a big part of this. No one person is better than the other, regardless of job title. We are one team.
We have really focused on “Do what you say you are going to do”. It’s great to say I am going to do something and how much I care about something, but if the business isn’t seeing me delivering on my promises, then trust will be eroded. Trust is critical - it’s the foundation for all that follows."
"From an industry perspective, we are seeing a lot of acquisitions and consolidation of shipping companies and I think this will only continue. The smaller private owners will see larger groups starting to acquire smaller companies and they will find it hard to survive among this competition. A welcome mitigation for all is the end to the situation in Ukraine and some normalisation of trade, following a turbulent year or so.
From a technology perspective, I believe 2024 will be the year that ‘Large Language Models’ - AIs like Chat GPT and Bard - start to become integrated into vendor solutions. The efficiency gains that arise from these integrations may drive more companies in the shipping industry to digitise.
In today's competitive landscape, consumers are looking for more than just products and services; they want to do business with brands they can trust and believe in. So now, more than ever, developing an authentic brand is essential for building trust, differentiating from competitors, attracting like-minded customers, and increasing brand value. I think the demand for authenticity will continue into 2024 and beyond, and so we’ll see more brands reflect this."
"The best of the companies we see out there are using new tech to solve problems. Seaber, a Finnish company working on reducing emissions through better scheduling of vessels, is genuinely exciting, and we’ve worked on a number of great projects with them. Equally, Navidium use their super-scalable platform to start helping our customers better account for their carbon emissions.
Both companies are bringing real benefits to customers by using virtual data centres while exploiting the vast amount of operations and performance data that was previously locked away in siloed systems."