Ten years after promising to drag ship valuations into the 21st century, VesselsValue founder and chief executive Richard Rivlin can look back with satisfaction at the progress made.
The London-headquartered organisation has grown its team from 10 people to 170 in seven offices worldwide, while revenue grew 25% in its latest financial year.
But what principles have guided Rivlin and what gives him pride after building up the algorithm-driven business?
VesselsValue got underway in May 2011 with Rivlin, chief executive of shipbroker Seasure Shipping, at the helm.
Transparency in shipping
He told TradeWinds that the ambition was to "bring vital transparency, objectivity and innovation to the valuation and information markets".
Back in 2011, Rivlin highlighted to TradeWinds the way pressure can be brought to bear from "one side or the other" in influencing a valuation.
He believed everyone knew it happened but it was rarely talked about.
Rivlin, one of the founding members of Braemar Shipbrokers before he left to set up Seasure in 1993, said the idea for the company originated during the financial crash of 2008 when major valuation providers stopped this service.
"At the time, values were produced manually on request and were heavily reliant on the individual producing them," he said. "We wanted to automate this process, make it daily — as you never know when the market may change — and bring in proper data science techniques to help the process."
Over time, the company added real time and historical market information, including vessel and commercial data, eight tiers of ownership analysis and AIS information, vessel activity and trade flows.
Don't think of the bottom line at first
As for other shipping entrepreneurs thinking of launching a new business, Rivlin said: "If you’re determined enough and have an appetite for risk, then absolutely go for it.
"Focus on creating a business that solves a problem and will substantially help people and companies. Don’t focus on making money as that will soon follow if you get the product right."
Rivlin believes it is also vital to hire, retain and reward great people.
"Any company is a reflection of the people that work there," he said. "It’s easy to hire, but very challenging to hire well and a real skill to retain your best.
"Of the team that were here from the start across VesselsValue and our sister company Seasure, all are still here," Rivlin said.
"I believe this is rare and a testament to the opportunities and supportive culture we endeavour to promote."
Core team remains in place
The original core team includes chief technology officer Ben Durber, chief strategy officer Adrian Economakis, modellers Alex Adamou and Chris Rivlin, chief experience officer Georgina Gavin, chief operating officer Tom Evans and chief commercial officer Matthew Freeman.
Rivlin turns to a quote from US author Ken Blanchard at this point: "None of us is as smart as all of us."
Once clients are in place, Rivlin advises doing everything possible to help them. Never stop innovating and pushing boundaries is another key message.
VesselsValue recruits people of all ages and backgrounds from inside and outside shipping.
"We have learnt that the best people can come from unexpected places," Rivlin said.
He added that "exceptional people" are given the opportunity, freedom, tools and support to flourish.
New talent needed
"One of our biggest successes has been the rapid promotion and development of our star performers, many of whom now sit in top positions at the company," Rivlin said.
He added that VesselsValue continues to eye global expansion and is always seeking top talent in mathematical modelling, development, analysis, research and sales.
"The video-game industry has been a source for a number of talented intellectuals we’ve hired, with their ability to solve highly complex mathematical problems, manage multiple work streams across data, modelling and interface, and design intuitive user-friendly products," Rivlin revealed.
He said he is proud that VesselsValue has saved clients time and money, reduced risk and helped them identify opportunities.
"This is evident in our large and continually growing client base and high renewal rate," the boss said.
"I'm proud that we have made an ongoing commercial success of the company without any outside shareholders, investment or debt.
"Like all good technology companies, we reinvest our profits into further growth so that we can continue to improve and develop ever better services for our clients."
But does he have any regrets?
"Leaving it until I was 55 to start VesselsValue," Rivlin said.