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Blue technology startups presented at the inaugural Gulf Blue Navigator Demo Day in Gulfport, MS

Wed, 05/17/2023 - 01:32pm | By: Gabriela Shinskie

USM Sea Ahead

The Gulf Blue Navigator program supports later-stage companies innovating in uncrewed systems, smart ports and shipping, ocean-friendly plastics, marine aquaculture, sea and space systems, and coastal ocean data and analytics.

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), the USM Research Foundation and SeaAhead sponsored the inaugural Demo Day of the Gulf Blue Navigator program on Wednesday, May 3rd. Demo Day included presentations by the six participating blue technology start-up companies. This event celebrated the success of the pilot program and first-ever blue technology accelerator program focused on the Gulf of Mexico.

This program provides startups with workshops, mentoring, site visits, and testing in South Mississippi and coastal waters to develop scaleup strategies and learn about the market potential of the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Blue Navigator is an example of Mississippi’s growing knowledge-based economy and efforts to increase high paying jobs on the MS Gulf Coast. 

Cohort 1 participants

The Gulf Blue Navigator program brings SeaAhead’s domain expertise, network, and company-building skillset to the Gulf Coast, mixing with the University of Southern Mississippi’s core facilities, faculty and staff expertise, and ecosystem of local partners.  “The Gulf Coast is the next blue tech economic cluster in the US. Through the Gulf Blue Navigator program, we are supporting entrepreneurs as they take their innovations ‘out-to-sea' and enable them to leverage the region’s unique infrastructure and ocean-related stakeholders. The program is the embodiment of a new narrative for the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the growth of the coastal New Economy,” said Mark Huang, Managing Director of SeaAhead.

“We have enjoyed our longstanding partnership with SeaAhead Inc. on promoting the blue economy and showcasing why Mississippi is the Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. With the financial support from the Builders Initiative Foundation, we were excited to provide this opportunity for the inaugural cohort of the Navigator program to demonstrate and promote their companies”, Kelly Lucas VP of Research, USM. 

“We are so happy to be able to support the Gulf Blue Navigator Program at the University of Southern Mississippi”, said Peter Bryant, Program Director for Builders Initiative.  “The combination of strong business development assistance with on-the-water testing makes it a unique platform for companies looking to further develop their blue economy businesses.”

Dennis Yancey, CEO of Marauder Robotics based in Atlanta, when asked about the value the program brings to his growth: “Gulfport makes a lot of sense: it’s right on the water so you have access and there's a streamlined permitting process to get in the water to test functionality. Then you have talent from the shipyards, the Navy, and Universities along the coast. It just makes sense to have a presence in Gulfport and along the Gulf Coast to augment what we do on the West Coast as well as in Atlanta.”

Dr. Jason McKenna, Director of RDT&E and Training commented, “The Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise has had the privilege to work with these 6 blue tech startups for the past 6 months. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to showcase how our engineers and scientists can support their on-water testing and provide data-driven insights to help make their technology better under extremely compressed timelines. We look forward to many more years of supporting these innovators, learning from them, and helping bring high-paying jobs to Mississippi.”

The Gulf Blue Navigator program kicked off in November of 2022 where their innovations focus on ocean monitoring and economic sustainability, with solutions that support working waterfront communities in the face of a changing economy and global competition.

About the Partners


The USM Research Foundation is a Mississippi non-profit corporation formed in 1998 and is administered and operated exclusively for the benefit of The University of Southern Mississippi. The foundation supports and enhances the research mission of the University by promoting the increase of useful knowledge and encourages the development of intellectual property owned by the University. The foundation also provides support to the University by managing research contracts, coworking space and entrepreneurial programs.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s support for the Gulf Blue Navigator program is anchored by the Marine Research Center with its ability to support autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) development ranging from prototyping to over the horizon at sea testing, the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center which conducts research in algae, fin and shell-based aquaculture as well as RAS based regenerative farming and the Mississippi Polymer Institute.


Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, SeaAhead Inc. specializes in high potential ocean-focused technology startups, building global networks, and venture financing. Now also co-located in the Gulf & Ship Island building in Gulfport, SeaAhead’s platform, in tandem with USM’s infrastructure and mission of fostering a culture of innovation, will connect promising global blue technology startups to the Mississippi Gulf Coast blue economy.